Vice-chancellors of Nigerian universities at the weekend ended their conference in Akure, the Ondo State capital, with a disturbing verdict that institutions in the country may not meet up in an increasingly competitive global knowledge economy.
The position of the vice-chancellors was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting of the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU) held at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) which was attended by 60 members of the association and 70 other officers.
The verdict of the VCs, according to the communiqué, was sequel to the fact that teaching, learning and research take place in resource-poor contexts.
The VCs said the proliferation of universities without increased funding would pose challenges to the new public universities in Nigeria.
While noting that universities do not operate under the same circumstances having been established by various entities, they said inadequacy of funding by university proprietors was a major cause of declining educational quality in all universities.
“The availability of infrastructure such as energy and telecommunications is a critical need in Nigerian universities,” they stated.
They noted that funding from the private sector is inadequate because Nigerians do not know how to give to worthy causes.
In seeking alternative sources of funding, the VCs said philanthropy should be encouraged in order to have more advancement in the university system while differentiating between genuine advancement and ‘Cash and Carry Advancement’ that compromises on integrity.
They also stressed the need for universities to seek innovative sources of financing education, outside government and private proprietor funding through student loans and scholarships and private sector contributions.
Concerned by the frequent disruption in universities’ calendar, the VCs stressed the need to seek innovative and workable solutions to instability in the university occasioned by student and staff union issues.
“There is a need to put unionism in the right perspective to be responsive and responsible to nation building as it used to be,” the communiqué said.
While the VCs were at the conference, registrars of various universities met on the side to discuss the theme of the conference: 'The Nigerian University System and the Challenges and Prospects of Globalization' and resolved that the federal government should increase funding of public universities and extend financial support to private ones.
The registrars also recommended the review of curriculum of Nigerian university education to make it more entrepreneurial and need driven.
They also said vice-chancellors, as chief executive o fficers of the universities, should ensure the enforcement of desirable codes of conduct, including dress code, just as they said appointments of members of university governing council should be based on integrity and work experience in the university system and not only by political considerations.