Why Nigerian Universities are Ranked Low

NUC-house-300x225For Nigeria, a country with the 26th biggest economy in the world and the largest in Africa, why should only one Nigerian university appear at a dismal eight position out of the top 10 universities in Africa? Journal Consortium, which released its ranking for the year 2015, placed university of Ibadan at eight positions while six South African Universities made the top 10. The second Nigerian University, University of Nigeria managed to make the 13th position.

Embarrassing as that is to the country’s 170 million populations, it is worse when Nigerian universities are assessed with their counterparts in developed countries, because no single African university even appeared within the top 100 universities in the world. No Nigerian university even appear within the top 500.

In another assessment by University Web Ranking, which released its own 2015 raking of top 100 universities in Africa, no Nigerian university made even the top 10 despite having about 148 universities and close to 106 polytechnics and colleges of education spread all over the country. This means that our country’s quality of education has not improved in proportion to the increasing number of tertiary institutions springing up.

The fact that Universities from South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Kenya were all ahead of all Nigerian universities is a poignant testimony that our educational status has really dipped, but more telling is the fact that very small countries, in terms of population, resources and advancement are also ahead of several Nigerians university in the overall 100 ranking.

Future rankings will definitely not be helped by the N400 billion that the federal government has budget for education in its 2015 budget. This amount is way below the United Nation’s recommendation of 26 per cent of a country’s budget. The sad fact with the budgetary provision is that most of it will go toward servicing overheads rather researches and other endeavours that makes a tertiary institution to stand out.

The dismal ranking our country’s universities have been having hasn’t been helped either by the huge number of bright Nigerian students that flocked outside the country for their educational pursuits.

The Consular Chief of the United States Embassy in Nigeria, Stacie Hankins said some months ago that there are currently 7000 Nigerian students studying in the US. In Great Britain, there are about 35,000 Nigerian students, while thousands more students are studying in different countries of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Middle East. Its so huge that the international Nigerian student market in the UK is worth $17 billion dollars, making Nigeria the 3rd largest country after China and India that’s sending a large number of its students to the UK.

The U.S. Embassy Educational Advising Center also noted that Nigeria sends more students to the United States than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa and that Nigeria has students studying at over 733 institutions in all the 50 states of the United States and the District of Columbia.

Already, a forecasts compiled by the British Council says that Nigeria will soon overtake India to become the UK’s second biggest source of international postgraduate students. It’s so pervasive that there are Nigerians paying hard-earned money to study in Uganda, Chad, Sudan, Ghana Burkina Faso and Kenya among other countries.

Ghana, Nigeria’s neighbor has been receiving a larger number of Nigerians desirous of quality education. Currently, there are about 75,000 Nigerians studying there.

In June 3, 2014, while delivering a public lecture, the former governor of the central bank and present Emir of Kano, Dr Sanusi Lamido revealed that data have shown that the thousands of Nigerian students in Ghana are paying about US$1 billion annually as tuition fees and upkeep, as against the annual budget of US$751 million for all federal universities in Nigeria.

“In other words, the money spent by Nigerian students studying in Ghana with a better organised system is more than the annual budget of all federal universities in the country. Nigeria is today placed third on the list of countries with the highest number of students studying overseas,” he said. Sanusi’s extraordinary figures are considered reliable, since all requests for overseas remittances – including for student fee and upkeep payments – go through the bank.

All these are happening because Nigerians seems to have lost confidence in the quality of their educational institutes. And to corroborate that, most organizations and educational schools that carried out ranking of universities keep scoring the country low.

But why does South Africa continued to top the list of top universities in Africa. Why is it that universities in the United States and those in the United Kingdom are always at the top of world rank of universities in most of the ranking? Unknown to some, there are certain criteria or parameters that are used in ranking universities.

For example, Havard University in the US has consistently emerged as the best university in the world since 2003 when Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU) started putting together the list. For 2015, eight of the top 10 universities in the world are from the US, while the remaining two are in the United Kingdom.

An intend look at the criteria that researchers at the Center for World-Class Universities of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, who compiled the ranking for ARWU shows how they focused on certain areas as a base for the ranking and why Nigerian universities are ranked low. The areas include the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Field Medals, the number of highly cited researchers selected by Thomson Reuters, the number of articles published in the journals of Nature and Science, the number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index and per capita performance of a university.

Ibrahim Ado-Kurawa, an Independent Researcher from Kano who wrote on the same issue clarifies the criteria to include: “quality of education measured by number of alumni who have major awards such as Nobel Prize (25%), alumni employment measured by number of a universities alumni who have held CEO positions at world’s top companies (25%), quality of faculty measured by number of staff in the university faculty who have major awards and prizes such as Nobel Prize (25%) in these three requirements which make up 75%, Nigerian and indeed African universities stand little chance. The others that make up 25% (each 5%) are: Publications measured by number of research papers appearing in reputable journals, influence measured by the number of research papers appearing in highly influential journals (Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA and Science), Citations measured by the number of highly cited research papers, Broad impact measured by the university’s h-index and Patents measured by the number of international patent fillings.”

For each indicator or criteria listed above, the highest scoring institution is assigned a score of 100. The distribution of data for each indicator is examined for any significant distorting effect; standard statistical techniques are used to adjust the indicator if necessary. Scores for each indicator are weighted to arrive at a final overall score for an institution.

Also, no institution can be included in the overall World University Rankings unless it has published a minimum of 200 research papers a year over a five-year period it’s examined.

Narrowing it down to only the criteria of awarding top mark to a university with a Noble Prize and other medals, shows why Nigeria will lag behind. Nigeria has only one Noble Prize winner – Wole Soyinka who won in literature, currently is not listed in any Nigerian University as a staff. However, Havard University with 21 Noble Prize winners has more Noble Laureates than the entire African continent while Columbia University has 15, even more than the 11 in Africa, out of which eight are even on Peace and not academics.

Also, when it comes to citation of influential journals, it’s difficult to find any Nigerian academician or professor being featured, same with the quality of research being conducted in most of our universities. A visiting American professor visited a library in one of the Nigerian university in the north, it was reported later that he walked out shaking his head, muttering that the quality of the library is almost the same with that of a high school in the US.

A Nigerian university recently celebrated the production of a car, however, not begrudging them the success recorded, it should be noted that the pomp the production of the car elicited pales into insignificance when situated with the fact that kids, years back, in some developed countries have developed car engines from the back of their garage in their house.

However, the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okojie has noted that the standard of Nigerian universities was high in spite of their low global ranking.

Okojie, who said this at the opening of a two-day workshop on African Centres of Excellence (ACE) Project Post-Effectiveness in Abuja, said that the problem with Nigerian universities was low Internet presence.

According to Okojie, the Nigerian Research and Education Network (NgREN) is solving the problem of Internet connectivity in Nigerian universities, saying it will improve global presence of Nigerian universities.

“The people that do the ranking do not really visit universities; they go to the Internet and find out what you are doing.Whatever research we are doing should be sent to the Internet. Money is going into the system for research.

“I am not disturbed; my concern is whether Nigerian universities are meeting local and national needs; whether we are number one or not does not matter,” he said. We have made breakthrough whether they rank us or not; but let us concentrate; we have to rebrand our universities, they are good. Challenge our students with students from any part of the world and they will always prove themselves,’’ Okojie said.

Apart from all the known fact of increased funding to our schools, better, developed and modern facility for learning, Samuel Zalanga, Department of Anthropology, Sociology & Reconciliation Studies, Bethel University, USA advised that “Often there is no intellectual curiosity among many Nigerian academics. One suggestion I have is that recruitment to teach in Nigerian or African universities must factor in the question of scholarly passion in the tough but fruitful quest for knowledge. Without that kind of passion, how far can people go in the academy? And to that we must add the need for a moral and ethical compass, less we lose our bearing.” That and a strong and genuine commitment and support from those in government, would ensure that with time, we regain our educational pride in Africa and the world. -Leadership

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