The renewed emphasis on post-graduate studies by universities has raised hope that the nation is coming to terms with the importance of research in the transformation of the socio-economic landscape as being championed by the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration.
Only recently, the University of Ibadan, an institution that prides itself as Nigeria’s premier university, graduated a total of 3,277 candidates with higher degree certificates. Of this number, 262 are PhD holders; 16 were awarded Masters’ in Philosophy; 43 bagged Masters’ in Public Health; 2,246 bagged Academic Masters’ Degrees; 494 received Professional Masters’ degrees, while 216 received post-graduate Diplomas.
With this number and others from universities across the country, the rank of researchers in the country has swelled and with the deployment of their knowledge to solve problems in public and private sectors of the economy, the nation is bound to gain optimally.
While this renewed emphasis on post-graduate education is commendable in view of the critical role that research plays in nation-building, not a few have decried poor funding of universities, insisting that this has to be reversed for these institutions to deliver on their mandate, including production of quality post-graduate candidates.
Recently, Federal Government disclosed that it has set aside N3 billion for research in Nigerian universities, but many insist that the amount is inadequate to enable universities improve on their records.
Decrying poor funding of universities, Chief Wole Olanipekun, Pro-Chancellor of University of Ibadan, said there is the need for better funding of all universities in the country if they were to be better players in the provision of tertiary education.
Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria spoke during the University of Ibadan 2012 Convocation and 64th Foundation Day ceremonies, held at the International Conference Centre of the institution recently.
“Nigerian Universities have been lagging behind for quite some time now; bluntly but respectfully put, the University of Ibadan is being under-funded. I align myself to the plea for adequate funding of our universities. It is also my passionate plea to government at various levels in this country to properly fund education”.
Also, admitting that funding for post-graduate education/research is poor, Chief Executive Officer/Managing Consultant, FM & T Consulting, Dr. Chris Asoluka, called on government as well as private sector organizations to upgrade their funding to enable universities produce better researchers.
“The present level of funding for post-graduate education/research by government is inadequate and this should be addressed in view of the critical role that research plays in nation-building. Also, the private sector should seek ways of funding research in varsities. Varsities on their own should also find ways of being more resourceful. That does not mean commercialization of university degrees. They don’t need to award degrees to attract support from individuals/corporate organizations,” he said.
On role of post-graduate education in national development, Asoluka who was among the 262 PhD holders recently graduated by University of Ibadan during the2012 Convocation and 64th Foundation Day ceremonies of the institution asserted that “there can’t be national development without thinking, without research. It is said that if a nation/individual fails to plan, such a nation or individual has already planned to fail. Things are not as easy as they appear and there are levels of interruption. This is the role that research, post-graduate education plays in national development. It provides the platform/basis for sustainable development”.
He noted that a country that will move forward must place emphasis on research, adding that post-graduate education is the platform for such forward movement.
In his words: “We must interrogate the old practice. New problems will arise and when they arise, they must be investigated. As the new problems arise, you also have contemporary experience which you can draw from. All these things require enormous research. So, research is extremely important. Without research, a nation suffers atrophy. Nation-building and research go hand in hand.
“So, in terms of nation-building, no country develops without research. How could the world have developed to the present level without research? So, if a nation does not place emphasis on research, it means that it is satisfied with decay. I don’t see any nation or even firm doing well without research; and the factory for research is the university.
However, Asoluka challenged university authorities across the country to find ways of encouraging academics who are in corporate world to join on their faculties to beef it up, admitting that it is the only panacea for students to get the best of theory and practice which will place them in better stead to compete in life.
“Academics who are knowledgeable in theory and practice but working in the private sector or outside the academia should be encouraged to come in from time to time to train students,” he counseled.
While agreeing that there have been some innovations to improve funding of university education by Federal Government through the Educational Trust Fund established in 1995 and the series of intervention fund by the Federal Government, Dr. Emmanuel Remi Aiyede, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan, insisted that the funds have remained inadequate. He said beside funds, there are other challenges that are yet to be addressed.
On relevance of Post-graduate education to nation-building, Dr. Aiyede, said it provides the skill levels and problem solving abilities that enables individual to be a productive in the contemporary knowledge economy.
He noted however that for Nigerian university and post-graduate education to be central to development, they must be tailored to the needs of society. “For Nigerian universities to play effective role in shoring up the country’s competitiveness and act as catalysts of development, they need to become centres of innovation and produce graduates with entrepreneurial mind-sets. They must move away from being degree certificate awarding institutions to become real centres of innovation and enterprise. They must be able to raise the students’ awareness and motivate students to identify and exploit opportunities, train students on how to set up a business and manage its growth. They must provide the innovative ideas and inventions that add value to production”.
Suggesting what can be done to enhance post-graduate education, Dr. Aiyede, who is also the Coordinator, Leadership and Governance Programme, Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Ibadan, urged the Ministry of Education to define the problems of post-graduate education in relation to the needs of the economy and society, and promote innovations and partnerships that will help fulfill these needs.
He called on universities to partner with private sector organizations in revising and refocusing their curricula.
“There is need for private sector support in upgrading the quality of teaching, learning and research in our universities. This can be done by forging and deepening partnership in teaching, funding of research projects, establishing endowments as well as making demands on universities to fill skills gap in industry,” he stated.
Contributing, Dr. Ayo Adetunji, a Microbiologist with a research institute in Oyo State, said that for the renewed emphasis on post-graduate studies to be sustained, greater funding from government is required to upgrade facilities in universities as well as attract requisite staff.
His words: “Emphasis on post-graduate education by institutions in the country is a step in the right direction as it provides foundation for transformation of the economy and can only be sustained to the extent that government supports these institutions by way of improved funding particularly for research purposes. The funding should be channeled towards upgrade of facilities as well as recruitment and remuneration of requisite academics”.
Though he lauded Federal Government for earmarking N3 billion for research in universities in the country, however insisted that the amount falls short of what is needed for universities to improve their capacity of producing researchers that will stand the test of time.
“I commended Federal Government for setting aside N3 billion for research in our universities but still this amount is grossly inadequate if these universities are to produce world class researchers. So, while one appreciates this gesture as it shows that the government has come to terms with the importance of research in nation-building which post-graduate education provides, I would still make case for increased funding,” he said.