It was appropriate that President Goodluck Jonathan recently expressed regret over the declining position of Nigerian universities in global reckoning. In the latest ranking review, no Nigerian university is listed among the best 100 universities in the world. The president made the remark in a message the 40th Convocation Ceremony of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in Osun State, which incidentally made it to list of top 100 universities in Africa. In all, 12 Nigerian universities made the first 100 in Africa.
The Ranking Web or Webometrics is the largest academic ranking of higher education institutions. The ranking is published by Cybermetrics Lab, a research group of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) located in Madrid. The aim of the ranking is to improve the presence of academic and research institutions on the web as well as promote the open-access publication of scientific results. The ranking project, which started in 2004, is updated every January and July. It provides web indicators for more than 12,000 universities worldwide.
The main aim of this evaluation exercise is to assess universities in their core missions of teaching, research and worldwide. Calibrated performance indicators are used to provide comprehensive and balanced comparisons that may earn the confidence of students, academics, university authorities, industries and government.
The OAU Ife, according to the latest biannual Webometric Ranking of World Universities, occupies the 19th position in Africa and 1,655th in the world. It is followed by the Covenant University in Abeokuta, Ogun State, which ranks 26th in Africa and 2,0755th in the world. The University of Ibadan follows next by coming 35th in Africa and 2,355th in the world. The fourth Nigerian university on the list is the University of Lagos, which is 36th in Africa and 2,367th in the world. The University of Ilorin occupies the 42nd position in Africa and 2,723rd in the world.
Other Nigerian universities that made the first 100 in Africa include the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (60th in Africa and 3,359th in the world); Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (61st in Africa and 3,368th in the world); Landmark University, Omu-Aran in Kwara State (72nd in Africa and 3,685th in the world); Federal University of Technology, Akure in Ondo State (80th in Africa and 3,920th in the world); University of Nigeria, Nsukka (84th in Africa and 3,976th in the world).
While Egypt, whose Cairo University is adjudged second best among the top 100 in Africa, has 19 universities; South Africa whose University of Cape town is considered the best in Africa and 350th in the world, has just 18 universities; the second highest entry in the top 100 in Africa. While the foremost position of universities in Egypt and South Africa are a reflection of their economic stature on the African continent, Nigeria’s position in which the best university comes 19th among the top 100 in Africa does not only speak to the country’s chaotic education system but also a discredit to the African continent which sees Nigeria as its pride in nearly all forms of human endeavour.
The ranking reveals two issues that education planners should ponder upon. First, the overall performance of higher institutions is not determined by their number in individual countries. That probably explains why with over 90 universities, none in Nigeria is ranked among the top 10 universities in Africa. Second, a situation in which some private universities are ranked higher than public institutions says a lot of the lip-service that government pays to education in Nigeria.
The declining position of Nigeria in the global ranking of higher institutions indicates the extent of the problem in the sector, and the failure of Nigeria as a result of this to lead other countries in the continent in this sphere. It can only be self-deluding that with a troubled education system bedevilled by incessant strike actions, obsolete library materials, ill-equipped laboratories, dilapidated structures and dearth of qualified teachers, the government still claims to aspire to be one of the 20 world largest economies by 2015.
The president’s lamentation is not enough; in fact, the inevitable long list of what the administration has done to improve education in the country only regurgitates what has been heard often in the past. The result is not clear, but it shows in the abysmal position of Nigeria in global ranking. What the government needs to do is to take appropriate action and be committed to see it through in the sector for the country to regain its pride of place. -DailyTrust