Salvaging Nigerian Universities – by Prof. Ladipo Adamolekun

No Comments » April 28th, 2017 posted by // Categories: Higher Education in Nigeria




Professor Ladipo Adamolekun, NNOM

Independent Scholar

Text of “Special Convocation Lecture” delivered at Federal University of Oye-Ekiti, Thursday, April 27th 2017.



PART ONE:   What Is Quality University Education?

PART TWO:   Evidence and Causes of Decline

PART THREE: Remedial Measures Introduced Since 1999 with Modest Results

PART FOUR: Six Concluding Thoughts and Recommendations



  1. Tables
  2. “Rot in Nigerian Universities”: Academics’ Debunked “Scientific Research” Claims
  3. Uses and Abuses of TETFUND
  4. Corruption in Universities: A Blueprint for Reform
  5. Conditions for the Emergence of Elite Universities in Nigeria
  6. Establishing and Nurturing Elite Universities – British and German Experiences









I would like to thank the Vice-Chancellor for giving me the honour and privilege to deliver this “Special Convocation Lecture” on the occasion of the maiden Convocation ceremony of the Federal University of Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE). I rejoice with the Chancellor, the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council, all the principal officers, and all the staff and students, especially those in the first two sets who will be conferred with degrees and diplomas on Saturday. The giant strides recorded by FUOYE, in only its sixth academic session, is most impressive: degrees will be awarded to students from five Faculties (Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities, Science and Social Sciences) and the recent 2016/2017 matriculation cohort included students admitted to two additional Faculties (Education and Management Sciences). Congratulations.

In a succession of public lectures I delivered between 2011 and 2016, I lamented the weakness of what I call the strategic elite institutions in the country: civil services, the judiciary, the military, and the universities.  I am seizing the opportunity of the invitation to deliver this Convocation Lecture to focus sharply on the universities with which I am most familiar: I have spent about one-quarter century in universities in Nigeria, three African countries, a couple of European countries, and the United States. Above all, I strongly believe that the good health of our universities is crucial to ensuring that Nigeria realises its enormous potentials.

Borrowing from the idea of salvaging ships which are in distress or in danger of sinking, I use “Salvaging Nigerian universities” as the title of this Lecture to mean saving them from their widely-acknowledged state of decline.  But before the prevailing decline, there was an earlier era of quality university education in the country.  The highlights of that era are presented in Part One of this Lecture.  Part Two is focused on the evidence and causes of decline. In Part Three, the main remedial measures introduced and implemented, in varying degrees, since the return to civilian rule in 1999 are summarised and assessed.  Finally, in Part Four, I provide six concluding thoughts and recommendations.




I look back fondly on the world-class education that I benefitted from at the University of Ibadan in the 1960s

  • Adamolekun (2016:42).

In my considered opinion, quality university education at the highest level is provided in institutions that are today referred to as world-class.  And there is consistency between the universality that is implicit in the idea of a university and the recent practice of distinguishing between a small number of universities that are world-class and the rest that are not.  The criteria used in the widely-acknowledged university ranking leader, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (founded in 2004), sum up the true meaning of the idea of a university and they are used to determine whether or not a university is world-class (see Table 1).

The justification for the assertion that the University of Ibadan was world-class in the 1960s is provided below.

What were the factors that enabled Ibadan to provide quality education during that era? First, we had quality teachers, expatriates and Nigerians, with the former constituting the majority. Of the few Nigerians who taught me, Prof Ade Ajayi in history was an equal of his expatriate peers. The teachers who made the most impression on me in Political Science were expatriates and one of them, David Murray, became a mentor and a friend.  All my French teachers were expatriates and with one or two exceptions they were all first-rate.  I also had social interactions with a few Nigerian teachers across the other faculties (Social Sciences, Sciences and Agriculture) and they were all first-rate (for example, Akin Mabogunje, Ojetunji Aboyade, Hezekiah Oluwasanmi and Victor Oyenuga).

Next, the educational infrastructure on campus – libraries (central and departmental), bookstore, lecture theatres, science and language laboratories – were all adequately stocked and/or furnished, and they met the needs of students and staff.  Furthermore, municipal services (water, electricity and roads) were dependable just as the halls of residence were spacious and decent and food was of good quality. There was peace on campus at all times… All this created an enabling environment for learning.  And there were abundant opportunities for extra-curricular activities: sports, discipline-related associations/societies, political party associations, and social organisations such as dancing clubs. The Students’ Union (SU) was a vibrant centre of activities, ranging from initiation to competitive politics (annual elections of members of the SU Executive) and journalism (campus press) to inter-Hall competitions in various areas.

Although I did not study French at Oyemekun and Christ’s School, the quality of teaching in the University was such that at the end of the four-year programme, my competency in French was superior to that in English in some respects: my oral French was slightly better than my oral English and my translation from English to French was better than the reverse.  Evidence of the high quality of my French included co-authoring a book-length manuscript in French with a French lady I met in Guinea during field research in 1968. Although it was recommended for publication by Heinemann Nigeria, Heinemann UK’s reviewer wanted major re-writing. Sadly, I had to abandon the book project because I could not combine the required re-writing with the demands of my DPhil programme in Oxford…

I would add two other testimonies to the high quality of education at Ibadan in those days.  First, when my cohort of new students matriculated in November 1964, ten or more of us were male and female students who had completed their secondary education (“A” level) in the United Kingdom. Their parents (including one who later became the Vice-Chancellor at Ibadan before we graduated) had concluded that Ibadan was the equal of the top universities in the United Kingdom. Second, when I went up to Oxford to begin my graduate studies in October 1969, I felt that I was the equal of the other graduate students who matriculated that year.  And it was no surprise that I was among the group of postgraduate students in the 1969 cohort in St. Antony’s College that were awarded DPhil degrees within three years.

There are three crucial success factors in the above quote on quality university education in the University of Ibadan in the 1960s: “quality teachers”; “an enabling environment for learning”; and international competitiveness.  All three combined to ensure that Ibadan was indeed a world-class university. As indicated in Table 1, the quality of teachers is reflected in the criteria focused on citations per faculty member and staff research with emphasis on volume, reputation and influence. What I have called “an enabling learning environment” is also reflected in Table 1 as “Teaching (especially learning environment)”.

Regarding international competitiveness that is reflected in my narrative, the three dimensions of staff, students and research that are highlighted under “international outlook” in Table 1 also featured prominently at Ibadan in the 1960s: there was a significant number of foreign staff across all faculties as well as foreign students in several faculties.  In addition, international scholars from reputable universities in the United Kingdom and United States visited the university for varying periods (ranging from two weeks to a couple of months, and in a few cases, one or two academic years). I remember meeting two international scholars whose books/articles had been assigned readings in my political science class in the University Library in May/June 1965.




When standards fall, they fall and there is no art by which to make the rotten golden.

The Guardian, December 8th 2016.


Evidence of Decline

I agree fully with the above assertion.  Any suggestion that there is an iota of doubt about decline in the quality of university education in Nigeria for close to three decades is disingenuous. The fact that many employers of labour affirm that a significant majority of graduates produced by our universities since the 1990s are unemployable is strong evidence of the decline.  And Dr. Abubakar Momoh, a Lagos State University (LASU) lecturer, provided a strong corroboration in 2006: “Although I teach here, I don’t have confidence in the graduates I produce.  I am being honest” (Sunday Vanguard, February 26th 2006). Selected additional evidence of decline are summarised below.

A newspaper columnist recently cited the debunked “scientific research” claims of academics in some of our universities as evidence of “rot in Nigerian universities” (see Appendix 1).  One of the debunked “discoveries” was attributed to “divine revelation”! Both the columnist’s evidence and verdict are difficult to controvert: What ties all of these [four] academics and their debunked claims together is that they represent the rot in Nigerian universities” (bold and italics added). For me, a self-styled lifetime academic (Independent Scholar), the stories are most baffling: they expose an amazing ignorance of the meaning and methods of academic/scientific research and the established procedure for the validation of discoveries and findings at the level of senior academics, including a vice-chancellor and an entire Senate and Council of one of the universities concerned. Should the academics involved be sanctioned?  I would answer in the affirmative, at least, in respect of the main actors.

The following is another evidence of decline: “The most ridiculous indication of the rot in our universities (italics and bold added) was the recent reported dismissal of three graduates of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology from the National Youth Service Corps scheme for falling below the standard expected of graduates.” (See Punch Editorial, December 14th 2012). And according to Professor Peter Okebukola, a former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), 2001-2006): “Even the PhD degrees we award in our universities are doubtful degrees” (Punch, June 7th 2006).

Crucially, the “crisis in manpower” documented in the Federal Government-sponsored Committee on Needs Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities, Main Report –  henceforth referred to as the Needs Assessment Report (2012) – sheds light on a key area of decline that can also be validly cited as a cause of decline.

“…Nigeria’s university system is in crisis of manpower (italics and bold added). Instead of having no less than 80% of the academics with PhDs, only 43% are PhD holders while the remaining 57% are not.  And instead of 75% of the academics to be between Senior Lecturers and Professors, only about 44% are within the bracket while the remaining 56% are not.  The staff mix in some universities is alarming…Kano State University, Wudil [established in 2001] has only one professor and 25 PhDs… Almost all the universities are over-staffed with non-teaching staff: in many universities, the number of non-teaching staff doubles, triples or quadruples that of teaching staff; and in some, the number of senior administrative staff alone is more than the total number of teaching staff.

Without question, this shortage of qualified academic staff is a major explanation for the widely-acknowledged poor quality of graduates from the universities.  The explosion in the number of first class and upper second degrees in many universities since the mid-2000s is no more than a result of grade inflation in both the public and private universities, with the latter as the greater culprits.

Finally, there is the evidence of decline in respect of the character of staff and students: stories about varying forms of misconduct and unethical behaviour, rarely heard of in the era of quality university education, are reported from time to time in the print media. The list includes the following: cultism, sexual harassment, examination malpractices, and corruption.


Causes of Decline

There are periodic stories in the media that link poor quality secondary education (see Table 2) to the decline in the quality of education in the universities. The following is a sample:  “The single biggest problem [in Nigerian universities] is the abysmal quality of the intake; the vast majority of my students barely know their grammar, never mind the poor quality of their knowledge” (Mohammed Haruna, in reference to his part-time teaching experience in a first-generation university, The Nation, November 28th 2012). The consistently low scores in the university entrance examination organised by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) corroborate Haruna’s assertion: percentage of students who scored 200 and above (out of 400 total) in JAMB ranged between 36% in 2010 and 39% in 2015. In 2016, “very few candidates scored 200 and above. As at yesterday 2nd of March 2016 jamb (sic) upgraded many of the results by adding 40 marks…”.  (Information on 2016 was accessed online on January 6th 2017)

There are five other causes of decline that deserve to be highlighted: inadequate funding; inadequate and poor infrastructure; University staff unions; over-centralised policy regime and burdensome regulation; and politicization.


Inadequate funding

Average annual federal government budget for education from 1999 to 2016 was less than 10 percent of total and the share for universities over the years is widely regarded as grossly inadequate.  According to the Needs Assessment Report (2012), state governments also underfund education.  The situation in one state university was so pathetic that the Committee recommended “Declaration of state of emergency in the university”.  The internally generated revenues (IGR) of the universities can only cover a very small proportion of their huge financing gaps. Recent media reports that several public universities are in arrears in respect of staff salaries and wages constitute strong evidence that underfunding of the institutions is getting worse.


Inadequate and poor infrastructure

The following testimony to the inadequate and poor infrastructure in public universities provided in the Needs Assessment Report (2012) needs no further elaboration:

There is an average of 4 abandoned projects per university in Nigeria – with negative consequences for classrooms, laboratories, students’ hostels, and staff accommodation. Poor infrastructure adversely affects teaching, research, learning and students’ health and safety” (bold and italics added).

Since this damning verdict on inadequate infrastructure in 61 public universities was issued in July 2012, the needs of twenty-three (23) more public universities by December 2016 must be taken into account (see Table 3). Because there has been no significant increase in the education budgets at the federal and state levels, it follows that available resources are spread more thinly and the state of infrastructure in public universities in 2017 is almost certainly worse than it was in 2012. One is constrained to wonder if there is a desire to perpetuate the decline of public universities.

University Staff Unions


Although the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has contributed hugely to the search for solutions to some of the problems that have caused the progressive decline in university education since the 1980s, it is also the case that ASUU has contributed to some of the problems that have caused the decline.  Paradoxically, the use of the strike weapon – estimated to account for about 20% of total time in 13 years (1999-2013), that is, 30 months out of 156 months – that has been crucial in some of ASUU’s positive contributions has also resulted in an unstable academic calendar that is widely regarded as a signpost of decline. Concretely, unstable academic calendar drives away foreign students and scholars, and Nigerians who can afford it go outside the country for university education, including in sub-standard institutions in Ghana.

The second noteworthy contribution of ASUU to decline in the universities is inadvertent but real: the demonstration effect of ASUU’s “power” has resulted in the mushrooming of staff unions across the public universities. Today, the list includes the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), and Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU).  And they all, sometimes separately and sometimes in combination, use/abuse the strike weapon in respect of both their external and internal “struggles”: the former with Government and the latter with university management.  Indeed, the recent militancy of some of the non-academic staff unions is undermining the smooth functioning of some of the universities.


Over-centralised policy regime and burdensome regulation

Responsibility for the policy and regulatory regimes of Nigerian universities lie with the Federal Ministry of Education and its parastatals, the National Universities Commission (NUC), and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB). Our focus here is on the parastatals.

NUC: The buffer role assigned to the NUC at its establishment in 1962 (that is, to function as a neutral body managing the relationship between the government and the universities) was transformed beyond recognition under military rule: the Commission became an over-powerful and control-oriented government parastatal with very extensive powers that were more consistent with the centralism and uniformity of military culture than with the autonomous mind-set of academic culture. There is strong evidence that NUC’s centralized, domineering, and unified approach stifles experimentation and initiative at the level of individual universities (public and private). The inability of universities to determine their curricula, subject to oversight through accreditation, derogates from university autonomy.

JAMB: A critical aspect of university autonomy is the right of universities to admit their students.  That right was taken away from Nigerian universities by the military that wrongly decided to centralise admission to all universities through the establishment of JAMB in 1977.  At the time, there were only twelve (12) universities, all owned by the federal government. Although there are currently 152 universities of which 68 are privately-owned (see Table 3) the wrong-headed and disabling centralised admission policy is still in force



Although finance has been highlighted in the pure financial (naira and kobo) terms, there is a real sense in which the persistent refusal of federal and most state governments to support cost-sharing through charging of tuition fees is a political decision.  Similarly, government-initiated expansion that is based more on treating universities as amenities to be shared than institutions to be established based on a rigorous needs assessment qualify to be labelled as politicization of the university system.  Perhaps the most blatant politicization of public universities is the continued undermining of university autonomy through NUC and JAMB.

Furthermore, the assimilation of Vice Chancellors of federal universities as “political office holders” for remuneration purposes in early 2009 was gladly accepted by the incumbent vice-chancellors who saw only the personal financial benefits but paid no attention to the political implication. The assimilation means the effective direct subordination of VCs to the head of all federal political office holders (the president). This certainly undermines the argument of those who contend that the vice-chancellor of a public university should be an appointee of its governing council.  For example, the Public Service Review Commission (1974) and the Presidential Commission on Salary and Conditions of Service of University Staff (1982) had made this recommendation.




Of the remedial measures introduced since the return to civilian rule in 1999, four are summarised and assessed below: restoration of university autonomy; increased access for qualified students; improved financial support; and enhanced research capability cum centres of excellence.


Restoration of University Autonomy

The efforts focused on restoring university autonomy has recorded a very tortuous route and with limited concrete results. Restoration of university autonomy featured among the reform priorities in the Federal Ministry of Education in the early 2000s, culminating in a Universities Autonomy Act that was signed into law in July 2004.  But before it was implemented the Executive sent some amendments to the National Assembly which promptly put the matter on the back burner. The pending bill is yet to be finalized. So, the restoration of university autonomy is stalled: NUC is not pushing for it for reasons highlighted in Part Two; JAMB that owes its existence to the admission of students which is a key test of university autonomy is certain to put whatever weight it has against it; vice-chancellors who are “political office holders” lack the moral high ground to push for it; and there is the small but important matter of ASUU’s opposition to the restoration of management autonomy to each university campus because it will undermine its “national” clout.


Increased Access

To increase access of qualified students into universities, successive governments at the federal level have introduced remedial measures on two fronts since 1999: licensing of private universities and establishment of new federal universities. State governments have also joined in the establishment of new universities.  From 34 federal and state universities (23 and 11 respectively) in 1999, the number of public universities rose to 58 in 2009 and 84 (40 federal and 44 State-owned) in 2016. The first three private universities were licensed in 1999. Within a decade the number had jumped to 40, and by December 2016, there were 68 private universities (see Table 3).  There are also opportunities for qualified students to enrol in part-time degree programmes offered by 39 universities (13 federal, 18 state-owned and 8 private-owned). Each university can admit as many as 20% of its total students’ population to the programme. Furthermore, students can enrol for undergraduate degrees in one of the Distance Learning Centres that exist in eight public universities (University of Ibadan, Ibadan; Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; University of Lagos, Akoka; University of Maiduguri, Maiduguri; Modibo Adamawa University of Technology, Yola; University of Abuja, Abuja; Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso; and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria).    Finally, there has been a significant increase in the number of Colleges of Education that offer undergraduate degrees through affiliation to public universities.

Although these remedial measures have hugely increased access into universities, there is still pressure for the establishment of more universities.  Currently, two new federal universities and one state university are in the pipeline: ICT University of Nigeria and Maritime University by the Federal Government and the upgrade of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic into a University of Science and Technology by the Ogun State Government. And the NUC is reportedly open to the establishment of many more private universities:

“Executive Secretary, Nigeria Universities Commission, NUC, Prof Adamu Abubakar Rasheed, weekend disclosed that there will be 150 additional private universities in the next three years. According to him, anyone calling for the stoppage of issuance of license to more universities is ignorant because the 152 universities in Nigeria are not adequate for a population of over 150 million people…” – Vanguard, December 11th 2016.


However, incontrovertible evidence of very low enrolment in private universities means that there is limit to their usefulness in expanding access. Today, public universities account for over 90 percent of total students’ enrolment.

By 2009, total enrolment in all 30 private universities in the country was 41,884, about the same enrolment as in Ahmadu Bello University (39, 219) and University of Maiduguri (38,514) – see Tables 4 and 5.  Indeed, students’ enrolment in private universities has remained low:  a significant number of the existing 60 private universities (excluding 8 that were licensed in 2016) matriculated less than 500 students for the 2016/2017 academic year.  For example, Achievers University, Owo, Ondo State matriculated only 206 students for 2016/2017, almost 10 years after it was licensed (Punch, February 28th 2017).

The highest enrolment today is at the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN, with total students’ enrolment of 224,000 in 2016. Regarding the other public universities, the combined effect of the three problems highlighted in the Needs Assessment Report (2012) – crisis of manpower, inadequate funding, and inadequate infrastructure – constitutes serious constraint to expanding them to admit more students. And the option of increasing access through digital education can only be meaningfully tapped when there is improved broadband connection rate in the country. (Broadband penetration was only at 18% in 2016 and is projected to extend to 30% by 2018).


Taking together all the available evidence, it would appear that there is no serious problem of students’ access into undergraduate degree programmes in the country.  In addition to the high enrolment in NOUN, the combined enrolment in the eight Distance Learning Centres would be several tens of thousands.  Poor performance in WAEC and JAMB’s UTME is clear indication that it is only a small proportion of persons seeking admission into universities that have the requisite entry qualification for admission.


Improved Financial Support

While the explosion in the number of universities established by federal and state governments since 1999 has increased access to university education in the country, the lack of attention to financing strategy has resulted in poorly-financed universities producing poorly educated graduates.  As already pointed out, the number of public universities increased from 34 in 1999 to 84 by December 2016, that is, about 150% increase (see Table 3). The major intervention aimed at improving financial support to the universities was the Education Trust Fund (ETF), introduced in 1993/1994 and maintained by the civilian government in 1999. Following pressures from the academic community, championed by ASUU, ETF was refined and refocused in 2011 through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Establishment) Act 2011.  According to the Act, TETFUND was set up “for the rehabilitation, restoration, and consolidation of tertiary education in Nigeria”.  The Act provides for the distribution of the funds among the public tertiary institutions in the ratio of 2:1:1 as among universities, polytechnics and colleges of education respectively. Every company registered in Nigeria is charged by law to remit two per cent of its “assessable” profit to the Fund (The same sourcing was used for the ETF).

A summary of the uses and abuses of TETFUND by 2014 are provided in Appendix C. Strikingly, in the advertorial of TETFUND’s Executive Secretary (in Punch, May 29th 2014) the list of “major achievements” include the misuse of TETFUND for purposes that are outside the provisions of its Act: “The Almajiri Education System and the Boy Child Education Project”.  And there is the long list of abuses of TETFUND compiled by ASUU in 2013 and in respect of which Punch Editorial, August 28th 2013 called for a probe. (The Editorial contained the following insight into the TETFUND’s “pretty pot of money”: In December 2012, the Federal Inland Revenue Service claimed that since 1994 when TETFUND was established, it had remitted more than N591bn to the fund. In 2011 and 2012 alone, the Fund received N128bn and N183.9bn respectively).

Two additional financial support interventions were announced in 2013/2014: N1000 billion to improve infrastructure in public universities as a response to the Needs Assessment Report (2012) and a “plan to spend N1.3 trillion to develop and rehabilitate infrastructure in public universities” that was linked to the 2009/2012 “Agreement” between the Federal Government and ASUU. It is unclear what proportions of these funds had been released before the economy went into recession in 2016. (See, The Guardian, Editorial, January 7th 2015).


Because TETFUND helps public universities to close only a fraction of their huge financing gap, both the governments and the universities have continuously emphasized the need for the institutions to mobilize internally generated revenues (IGR). Notwithstanding the best efforts of many of the universities, total annual IGR hardly makes a dent on each university’s financing gap.  This is the major explanatory factor for the strong support in the public universities for the introduction of fees, an important avenue for generating revenue. This viewpoint has merit, taking into account developments in the university sector world-wide. The federal government’s “tuition free” policy in its universities that most state governments have adopted is unsustainable. (Currently, only two state universities have fully embraced a fee-paying policy: Edo University, Iyamho and University of Africa, Toru-Orua in Bayelsa State established in 2016 and 2017 respectively). However, introduction of tuition fees in public universities would need to be accompanied with an appropriate mix of scholarships, bursaries and loans that would ensure that no Nigerian who is qualified for university education in a public institution is denied the opportunity because of his/her inability to pay prescribed fees.


Enhancement of Research Capability cum Centres of Excellence

The centrality of research in universities lies in its strong linkage to the two other mandates of a university in the modern state: teaching and community service.  Academics draw on their research findings to enrich their teaching just as they enhance their community service through research results that are shared with both governments and industry with a view to enhancing the quality of goods and services delivered to the public. Given the huge finance gaps in public universities, the serious shortages in academic manpower, and the poor infrastructure (especially ill-equipped laboratories and libraries), complaints about the low level of research activities that feature in ASUU’s periodic advertorials since 1999 is unsurprising. For example, the University of Ibadan that featured among the world’s best 980 universities in the 2016 World University Rankings was outscored in the area of research by the University of Legon (Ghana) – the only other West African university that was ranked. (See Niyi Akinnaso, “What’s your university’s rank in the world?” Punch, December 13th 2016).

However, two achievements recorded by Nigerian universities in the 2010s in the area of research are indications that some of them are managing to demonstrate competitiveness with their counterparts across the African continent. First, in 2014, following open competition among African universities for the World Bank-sponsored African Centres of Excellence (ACE), ten (10) of the selected 22 African ACEs are in Nigeria. The ACE project aims at supporting the recipient universities to equip African researchers and scientists with cutting edge work in selected areas of medical, natural, physical, and social sciences to build research capacity linked to specific development issues.  The list of the ten ACEs are provided in Table 6: eight federal, one state and one private.

Second, earlier in 2010, the Institute of Life and Earth Sciences (including Health and Agriculture) of the Pan-African University was established at the University of Ibadan – selected as one of the continent’s “existing universities of excellence”.  The Institute at Ibadan is focused on one of five thematic areas to constitute a post-graduate training and research network across the five regions of the continent (Central, Eastern, Northern, Southern and Western). The network is supported by the African Union and Association of African Universities with financial assistance from the African Development Bank.

Another positive development in the area of research is the establishment of the Nigerian Research and Education Network (NgREN) funded with US $10 million from the World Bank.

NgREN seeks to provide broadband interconnectivity between Nigerian universities and will provide a high-performance national backbone among member universities, enable real-time data video and other connections among them, thereby reducing the need to travel and physically meet to exchange ideas… The network is expected to significantly enhance the ability of Nigerian researchers to be involved in global research collaborations which have increasingly become the norm.

– Source: The Nation,  Editorial July 20th 2014

The successful competition of some of our universities for research funding provided by external organisations is commendable and is consistent with good practice among universities world-wide.  However, continued poor funding for research through national budgets and research grants/awards from industries will prevent the universities from realising their full potentials. And the negative consequences will impact not only on the universities but also on governments, industries and the public.




My six concluding thoughts and recommendations are the following: (1) Improve internal governance; (2) Re-create enabling environment for teaching and learning; (3) End centralism and uniformity and reduce the burden of regulation; (4) Select and nurture six elite public universities; (5) Accommodate Nigeria degree mania through a unitary higher education system; and (6) Declare a ten-year emergency for the rescue of the education sector.


  1. Improve internal governance

There is a logical linkage of some of the evidence of decline in Nigerian universities summarised in Part Two to overall poor governance in the institutions.  Of course, the degree of poor governance varies among the universities.  For example, universities that have been successful in competing for external research funding (highlighted in Part Three) almost certainly have better governance in some respects than the rest that have not succeeded.

Strikingly, two issues that must feature on an agenda focused on improving internal governance in Nigerian universities today were of low or zero salience up to the 1980s: the problem of corruption and the threat of militant unionism by non-academic staff associations.  Reports of corrupt practices in the universities have featured regularly in the print media during the last decade. In December 2016, the President and Visitor to a Federal University highlighted the issue in his Convocation Address: “Our universities must be example [sic] in good governance and financial management.  So, no room for corruption in the academic sector” (The Nation, December 20th 2016).

An important dimension to internal governance of universities world-wide is the relationship between universities and students, a constituency that is crucial to their raison d’être.  In my considered opinion, adaptation and implementation of the contracts introduced at the University of Oxford in the 2000s is likely to prove helpful to our universities, public and private.

For the first time this term undergraduates at Oxford [2005/06] have signed contracts with their colleges and with the University before coming into residence. The new contracts ask for written commitments that students will abide by the University and college regulations, and will pursue their studies satisfactorily.  In turn the University and colleges undertake to provide teaching and libraries, information technology and other resources. A similar contract for graduate students is already in place.

Source: Oxford Today. The University Magazine, Vol. 19. 1, 2006, p. 5.

To achieve sustainable improvement in governance within our universities, I would recommend a broad-gauged reform agenda that draws on the key elements of a “University Integrity Ranking” which has resulted in better governance in Romanian universities that were riddled with corruption and low academic quality.  The ranking has four categories: transparency and responsiveness; academic integrity; governance quality; and financial management (see Appendix D).


  1. Re-create an enabling environment for teaching and learning in universities

The minimum standards for quality teaching and learning environments in both public and private universities in the Nigerian milieu are widely known.  Indeed, assuring teaching and learning environment similar to what existed in Ibadan in the 1960s is what the country’s contemporary universities need in order to move in the direction of restoring quality university education.

… educational infrastructure on campus – libraries (central and departmental), bookstore, lecture theatres, science and language laboratories – were all adequately stocked and/or furnished, and they met the needs of students and staff.  Furthermore, municipal services (water, electricity and roads) were dependable just as the halls of residence were spacious and decent and food was of good quality. There was peace on campus at all times… All this created an enabling environment for learning (italics and bold added).


  1. End centralism and uniformity and reduce the burden of regulation

To end the centralism and uniformity that NUC has imposed on universities since the 1970s – with heavier and heavier burden on the universities over the decades – measures aimed at reducing the powers of the NUC should include abrogating those that enable it to wrongly push for uniformity among all universities (public and private) in disregard of the obvious point that uniformity and excellence are antithetical. I would also recommend that NUC’s accreditation function be hived off (together with staff and resources) and assigned to a separate independent statutory body. The Accreditation Board/Council will be exclusively concerned with accrediting public and private universities.  This will be more consistent with a university education landscape where private universities constitute about 45 per cent of the current 152 total (see Table 3). Furthermore, there should be an immediate end to the operational subordination of universities to the NUC that results in key officers of the institutions spending a significant proportion of time in Abuja instead of working on their campuses. According to Dr Nasir Fagge, a former president of ASUU, “You will find out that circulars are emanating in most cases from the National Universities Commission, interfering in the day-to-day running of the universities” (The Nation, Nov. 30th 2012). This bad practice undermines university autonomy.

The case against JAMB on the ground that it takes away the freedom of universities to admit students, a widely-acknowledged dimension to university autonomy, has already been mentioned. I would add that JAMB’s recent prohibition of students from selecting two public universities in the 2017 UTME and its so-called option of a private university as a second choice constitutes an unnecessary burden on students and their parents.  In 1964, I was able to select two public universities; instead of more freedom, JAMB is imposing less over one-half century later!

Centralised admission should come to an end, that is, JAMB should wind up its operations at the end of 2018 cycle. This action will help to restore a crucial dimension of autonomy to Nigerian universities, both public and private.  All that is required is maintenance of the established basic university admission requirement: a minimum of five (5) credits, including English and Mathematics, in the West African Examination Council (WAEC) or the National Examination Council (NECO), accompanied by entrance test/interview that would vary from one university to another. Implementation of this recommendation will enable students to focus sharply on preparing for WAEC and NECO without the distraction and costs of preparing for JAMB examination.


  1. Select and nurture six elite public universities

The idea of selecting and nurturing a small number of elite public universities in the country has been raised in the media, by think tanks, and especially by the NUC since the early 2000s. (I have been an advocate of “a dose of elitism in the Nigerian University system” since 1990). Simultaneously, a significant number of universities (public and private) have expressed the desire and/or determination to join the ranks of world-class universities even when some of them, as well as the NUC, have expressed reservations about the criteria used in ranking universities across continents. For example,

The NUC Executive Secretary, Professor Abubakar Rasheed, had in October issued a statement to disagree with global ranking of Nigerian universities, saying such rankings were untrue and unfair. He had stated that the NUC would in 2017 conduct its own ranking of Nigerian universities… – The Guardian, December 3rd 2016.

As demonstrated in Part One, I do not share the reservations expressed in respect of the international ranking of universities, based on criteria that are consistent with the widely accepted triple mandate of universities world-wide: teaching, research and community service.  Professor Rasheed’s proposed home-grown ranking of Nigerian universities would, at best, enjoy credibility within the country’s borders. A summary of an alternative sensible approach (with some obvious limitations) prepared for one of his predecessors in 2008 is summarised in Appendix E.  How Britain and Germany embarked on establishing and nurturing elite universities in the 2000s is summarised in Appendix F.

I strongly recommend the selection of six public universities, one from each geopolitical zone, to be nurtured as elite universities with the following specific goal: to have one in the top 100, two others in the top 200 and the other 3 in the top 500 by 2030.  This is a realistic goal since by 2016, the University of Ibadan was already in the top 1000.  (As a comparator, I would cite South Africa that by 2016, had two universities in the top 200 and another in the top 500). It is to the elite universities that the country will look for the education that promotes the sort of creativity and skills required to successfully compete as a big player in the world economy from the 2030s onwards.

With Ibadan’s self-selection (see also Table 7 on its dominance in respect of distribution of Nigerian National Order of Merit laureates, NNOM, 1979-2016), the selection in each of the five other geopolitical zones should be through open competition among all the federal universities in each zone, coordinated by the NUC. The other universities can compete to win recognition for one or more Centres of Excellence in specific research areas (as is already the case in respect of some universities mentioned in Part Three of the Lecture). Furthermore, some Departments, Faculties and Institutes in different universities, drawing on their distinct capabilities as well as on advantages offered by their specific locations, could also strive for elite status at national, African and international levels. I would end by recommending to the Federal Government and the authorities of the six selected elite universities the viewpoint below on the making of a great university:

Three factors distinguish top international universities from their competitors. The first: a high concentration of talented teachers, researchers and students… The second factor that sets apart top universities are their sizable budgets… The third factor of success is a combination of freedom, autonomy and leadership.

Source: Jamil Salmi, “What Makes a University Great” (2009).


  1. Accommodate Nigeria’s degree mania through a unitary higher education system

Evidence of a degree mania in the country – notwithstanding the army of unemployed graduates – include the unending struggle to declare equivalence between a Higher National Diploma (HND) obtained from a Polytechnic and a university degree.  A former president and a significant number of legislators are among the agitators for this declaration. Next, most if not all Colleges of Education (public and private) would like to join those among them that are awarding degrees (of varying standards) through affiliation to universities. Furthermore, Kaduna Polytechnic and Yaba College of Technology award technology education degrees in affiliation to the Federal University of Technology, Minna and University of Nigeria, Nsukka respectively. Some enlightenment on this subject appears to lie buried in the “Report of the Committee to look into the modalities for mounting degree programmes in selected polytechnics and colleges of education” (produced in 1999 and cited in Ng’ethe et al, 2008:100).

Although I had questioned the idea of upgrading Polytechnics and Colleges of Education into campuses of existing universities when a former minister of education first made the suggestion in 2006/2007 (Adamolekun, 2007), I have now come round to support the idea as the answer to Nigeria’s degree mania. Nigeria is not a fertile land for a binary higher education system[i].  This conclusion appears to echo the case in England and Wales in 1992 when the UK Government converted all its thirty-five polytechnics into universities through the Further and Higher Education Act. All things considered, then, I would argue that the way forward is a unitary higher education system sanctioned with the award of degrees.  This means the abolition of Polytechnics and Colleges of Education. However, not all the existing Polytechnics and Colleges of Education should become campuses of universities or stand-alone universities.  Three other options should be considered: some Polytechnics to become Vocational and Technical Education Institutes/Centres and some Colleges of Education to become either Colleges of Further Education[ii] or elite secondary schools.

Federal and state governments would decide on appropriate options for their respective institutions, taking into account their resources. For example, the four Colleges of Education and one College of Medical Health Sciences that the Jonathan administration upgraded to universities in its twilight weeks in May 2015 were scrapped by the successor Buhari administration, apparently because of lean financial resources. Regarding private institutions, the federal government would be involved in determining the appropriate options within the context of its regulatory responsibility in respect of higher education.


  1. Declare a ten-year emergency for the rescue of the education sector

Inclusion of a thought and recommendation on the entire education sector is informed by the strong interconnection among the three sub-sectors: poor quality at primary and secondary education levels impact negatively on the universities just as rot in universities has serious negative consequences for the secondary and primary education levels. This is similar to the phenomenon of a fish getting rotten from the head. And the advocacy for arresting the rot in the education sector at the level of the universities is with the hope that the resultant positive results will cascade down to the secondary and primary education levels.

A national dialogue on “Nigeria and Education: the challenges ahead” held over two decades ago concluded that “The nation must now consider seriously the desirability of declaring a five-year emergency… for the rescue of our educational system” (Akinkugbe, 1994:329).  Sadly, the challenges have increased immensely since the recommendation was made as there is incontrovertible evidence of decay and decline at each of the three subsectors: primary, secondary and higher education. A striking corroboration was provided recently in a communique of the Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities that admitted there is “decay…from the primary to the tertiary level” (cited in The Nation, Editorial, March 22nd 2017).

Consequently, I recommend a ten-year emergency for tackling the crisis in the education sector, taking into account the increased dimensions of the crisis as well as the longer-term perspective required for tackling the challenges. I would like to stress that this recommendation is for both the federal and state governments and I am aware that any government (federal or state) that is keen to act can draw on competent and experienced experts from different parts of the federation to help develop a comprehensive and robust strategy together with an implementable action plan.


**********                                 **********                                             **********

A Word for the Graduating Students

My very warm congratulations to all the students who will receive their degrees during the Convocation Ceremony on Saturday. This is a major accomplishment and I know from personal experience that it will remain fresh in your memories for ever.

Although you will not be direct beneficiaries of my advocacy for the restoration of quality education in our universities, your younger siblings and younger fellow Nigerians stand to benefit. And there are three lessons from the Lecture that I would like to recommend to you as takeaways.

First, the point I made at the beginning of the Lecture about the need to rebuild our national elite institutions (universities, civil services, judiciary and the military) that were strong in the immediate pre- and post-independence years but declined/decayed from the 1980s and 1990s to the present. I would like to plead that those among you who would eventually join any of these institutions should be committed to ensuring their good health in every way possible. Second, you must have noticed my strong conviction about the importance of education, especially my sixth thought and recommendation on the need to rehabilitate the country’s entire education sector through the declaration of a ten-year state of emergency. I am assuming that you are all already aware of the importance of education and I plead that you resolve to make whatever contribution you can to the rehabilitation of the sector.

Third, the problem of corruption that I highlighted as undermining internal governance in our universities is widely acknowledged as systemic in the country: “…corruption in this country is wealthy, powerful, influential, and it is in practically all institutions including religious institutions” (bold and italics added) – Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, cited in The Nation, February 10th 2017.  So, you are certain to come face to face with the problem. My plea to each of you is to volunteer to be part of the solution to the problem of corruption: to be a Mr/Ms Clean that neither gives nor accepts bribes, and to be a whistle blower, if the occasion should arise.

Once again, hearty congratulations, and I wish you all every success in your future endeavours.

I thank you all for your attention.






 2004-5 AND 2016-17


2004-2005 2016-2017
Peer Review (50) Citations (per faculty member) (30)
Research Impact (Citations per faculty member) (20) Teaching (especially learning environment) (30)
Faculty-to-student-Ratio (20) Research (volume, income, reputation) (30)
International Orientation (Percentage of overseas students (05) Industry income (to measure research influence)  (05)
Percentage of international faculty (05) International outlook (of staff, students and research) (05)


Note: Percentage of total score (100) is provided in brackets (in bold).

Source: Author, accessed online.




POOR WAEC RESULTS, 2008 – 2016


Year % with 5 Credits, Including English and Mathematics
2008 22.76
2009 25.99
2010 23.36
2011 30.9
2012 38.81
2013 36.57
2014 31.28
2015 38.68
2016 52.97


Source: Author (accessed online)










(per row)

1948 -1960 1 1* 2
1961 -1974 1 3* 4*
1975- 1998 23 11 34 Four existing Regional/State Universities by 1974 were taken over by the Federal Government in 1975.
1999 – 2009 2 22 40 64 The first three (3) private universities were licensed in 1999 and fifteen were licensed in 2005.
2010 – 2016 13 11 28 52 Eight private universities were licensed in 2016
TOTAL 40 (48) 44 68 (156) 152




  • Four Regional/State Universities in existence by 1974 which the Federal Government took over in 1975 should be subtracted from the vertical Region/State and Total columns.


Source: Author (based on information available on the website of National Universities Commission).






Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria 39,219
University of Maiduguri 38,514
National Open University of Nigeria 36,487
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife 34,962
Bayero University, Kano 30,830
University of Jos 29,215
University of Benin 28,064
University of Nigeria, Nsukka 27,703
University of Lagos 27,130
University of Ibadan 24,473

Source: Obasi et al. 2010






Igbinedion 6071
Babcock 4468
Bowen 4185
Covenant 7282
ABTI-American University 955
Ajayi Crowther 2016
Al-Hikmah 586
Redeemers 1882
Lead City 1950
Bells 580
Crescent 469
Renaissance 30
Joseph Ayo Babalola 946
Western Delta University 149
Total for all private Universities 41,884


Source: Obasi et al. 2010






1 African University of Science and Technology, Abuja Pan-African Materials Institute
2 Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria Centre of Excellence on Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology
3 Bayero University, Kano Centre of Excellence in Dryland Agriculture
4 Benue State University Centre for Food Technology and Research
5 Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta Centre for Agricultural Development and Sustainable Environment
6 Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife Knowledge Park: A Model for National Science Technology and Knowledge Park Initiative
7 Redeemers University, Ede Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases
8 University of Benin Centre of Excellence in Reproductive Health and Innovation
9 University of Jos Phyto-medicine Research and Development
10 University of Port Harcourt Centre for Oil Field Chemicals


Source: World Bank (2014).







UNIVERSITIES 1979-1989 1990-1999 2000-2009 2010-2016 TOTAL
Ibadan (1948) 6 9 11 7 33
Nsukka (1960) 1 1
Lagos (1962 1 1 2
Zaria (1962) 1 2 3
Benin (1970) 1 1
Calabar (1975) 1 1
Overseas* 8 2 14 2 26
No Undergraduate degree 6 6
TOTAL 20 11 29 13 73


  • All but two of the 26 laureates obtained undergraduate degrees in the United Kingdom or United States of America. One obtained his degree from Makerere University, Uganda and the other from Cairo University, Egypt.

Source: Author (based on information available on the website of Nigerian National Merit Award, NNMA).





Two weeks ago, a Nigerian newspaper reported the fantastic news that a Nigerian professor, Maduike Ezeibe, of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, in Abia State, had discovered a drug for the treatment of HIV/AIDS… the Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Francis Otunta [claimed] the breakthrough was a culmination of years of “scientific research” by the university. The VC also said Prof. Ezeibe had presented the drug to the University Senate and Council, and explained his research process to them… The National Agency for Control of AIDS has of course dismissed Ezeibe and his university’s claims… Prof. Otunta should have known better – scientific breakthroughs are not presented before the University Senate and Council; they are “blind” peer-reviewed. Such an important discovery would not have ended in an unknown online journal where Ezeibe reportedly published it… In 2013, a professor of University of Benin, Isaiah Ibeh, called a press conference to announce that he might have found the drug that could possibly cure HIV/AIDS. His claims were of course debunked and Ibeh apologized saying he did not realize that there was a procedure to [sic] making such claims. In 2014, a Professor of Ophthalmology [Adebukola Ositelu, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH], claimed that Jews Mallow (ewedu) could cure/prevent Ebola. While both Professors Ibeh and Ezeibe claimed that they worked their way to their “discoveries” through science, Prof. Ositelu attributed hers to divine revelation. In 2015, Opeyemi Enoch, a lecturer of Mathematics at the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, claimed to have solved a 156-year-old mathematical problem, the Riemann Zeta Hypothesis, and was due for the $1 million prize. He too, like others before him, has been exposed as simply untrue. What ties all of these academics and their debunked claims together is that they represent the rot in Nigerian universities (bold and italics added).

  • Extract from Abimbola Adelakun, “The Senate wants to reap without sowing” Punch, February 16th 2017





  • Academic Staff Training and Development
  • Special High Impact Intervention Project (systematic upgrading of academic programmes and improvement of the teaching and learning environment in selected tertiary institutions on the equality of geopolitical zones – 23 universities had benefitted by May 2014)
  • National Research Fund (N2 billion focused on power, energy, health, security, employment and wealth creation. The Fund is domiciled in TETFUND).
  • National Book Development – resuscitation and sustenance of Journals of learned societies and associations nationwide and publication of PhD Theses – all distributed gratis to libraries of tertiary institutions.
  • Academic Publishing Centres – one in each geo-political zone and one in FCT
  • Conference Attendance Intervention Programme – financing attendance of academic and non-academic staff of public tertiary institutions to attend local and international conferences
  • Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovation and Development (PRESSID) – co-implementer of PRESSID with NUC
  • The Almajiri Education System and the Boy Child Education Project – construction of fully furnished and equipped model schools to cater for millions of out-of-school children predominantly in the Northern and South-Eastern parts of the country. Curriculum and Text Books aligned to the national curricula have been developed, produced and distributed to the schools gratis.

Source: “TETFUND: Major achievements of TETFUND Geared Towards National Development through the Support of President Jonathan” Advertisement by the Executive Secretary in Punch, May 29th 2014



The union [ASUU], in its paid advertisement, accused the Federal Government of drawing from TETFUND the N1.6 billion given to each of the 12 recently-established federal universities in the country. In addition, “another N2 billion (from TETFUND through the NUC) was allocated to each of them to finance the provision of ‘critical infrastructure in their permanent sites.’” Particularly worrisome is the alleged role of the NUC and NCCE in awards of contracts for the building of student hostels, Information and Communications Technologies Centres, administrative buildings and micro-teaching laboratories in the new universities and colleges of education. According to the university teachers, a contract of about N1.2 billion was awarded by the NUC for the construction of a 140-room hostel, with provision for about 560 bed spaces. “This puts the cost of each bed space at N2.143 million and each room at N8.571 million”…. In the case of the NCCE, the union alleged that contracts were awarded for the construction of a multi-media-aided teaching laboratory in each of 58 colleges of education at the cost of N200 million each. None of the colleges received any money directly. Why is the NUC awarding contract on behalf of universities and NCCE serving as Tenders Board for colleges? This certainly sounds odd. It is a confirmation that where graft culture is entrenched, money is not a silver bullet for improving university education standards.

Source: Excerpts from “Probing allegations of TETFUND abuse,” Punch Editorial, August 28th 2013





In 2007, the Romanian Academic Society, an education think tank, convened a group of students, education unions, journalists and others to form the Coalition for Clean Universities. The aim was to develop a university integrity ranking, both to name and shame those failing in their duties, and to celebrate and spread good practice. Under the coalition’s methodology, each public university is given a governance audit by an evaluation team composed of both faculty and students (all volunteers)… The assessment focuses on four categories. The first – transparency and responsiveness – looks at general information that should be freely available to all. The list is long but it includes universities’ ethics codes, sources of funding, recruitment procedures and a list of faculty, their CVs and the curriculum they teach…The second category assesses academic integrity, such as the rules for reporting fraud, addressing misconduct and dealing with whistle blowers. And the extent to which these rules are enforced is also considered… The third category, on governance quality, evaluates procedures for recruitment, teaching and decision-making. Are jobs and fellowships properly advertised? Are examinations fair? Is promotion merit-based or nepotistic? Are earnings higher for academics who have had a greater number of peer-reviewed papers published? This category also looks at whether the university is managed with the input of both faculty and students. The fourth examines financial management, looking at the risks of embezzlement or other financial irregularities. The evaluators check whether financial documents are accessible, look at procurement rules, and even assess whether the lifestyle of university managers is in line with their income…(bold and italics added)

Source: Times Higher Education Magazine, Nov 21, 2013 (Extracts).

Note: I thank my friend, Professor Niyi Akinnaso, for bringing this Romanian good practice to my attention.





“The imperatives for the Nigerian university system to assure a respectable and early placement in the elite list of universities are:

  1. Maintenance of a stable academic calendar: This will enhance the attraction of international staff and students to Nigerian universities.
  2. Stimulating a vibrant research culture: This will guarantee the conduct of scholarly research leading to publication of research outputs in international journals.
  3. Improvement of facilities for teaching and research: This will engender quality teaching and research and impact on two of the ranking variables- research impact and proportion of international students.
  4. Compliance with carrying capacity standards and avoidance of over-enrolment: This will ensure that the universities apply acceptable teacher/student ratios and able to score high on this measure.
  5. Extermination of cultism: This will also enhance the attraction of international staff and students. At present such would-be staff and students find our universities insecure.
  6. Encouraging universities to focus on programmes where they have strength and not duplicate courses offered elsewhere: This will lead to the evolution of centres of excellence that stand high chance of earning the university a good rank.
  7. Strong international linkage with foreign universities: To foster resource sharing and enhance joint teaching and research which in turn will bolster the standing of the university on most of the indicators in the global assessment.”

Source: Okebukola P. and O Ibidapo-Obe, “Report of the Visits to Centres of Excellence on Global Ranking of Universities” (submitted to the NUC), 2008.

Author’s Observation: Although the “Conditions” cover the criteria for the World University Rankings highlighted in Table 1, there is need to separate tackling peculiar Nigerian universities’ problems (1, 4 and 5) from conditions for identifying elite universities that would be readily understood by all in the international academic community.






In 2003, the European Commission published a ranking of the world’s best universities. All but 15 of the top 50 were American; from Europe, only Oxford and Cambridge made it into the top 10; from other EU countries, no university ranked higher than 40.

British reaction: Prime Minister Blair put his job on the line to defend “top up” fees for universities and he barely got the legislation pass through the House of Commons in February 2004: a 5-vote majority for a government with 160+ majority in the House!

German reaction: In 2006, the government selected three “elite universities” that would receive significant additional financial support. By 2016, Germany had a total of eleven “elite universities”.

Observation: In the 2016-2017 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Oxford was 1st, Cambridge was 4th and Imperial College was 8th.  And there were four other British universities in the top 50.  Germany had one university ranked 30th and two others in the top 50.  There were only four universities from other EU countries in the top 50. (France that delayed taking action until 2014 had zero in the top 100 and only three in the top 200).



Adamolekun, L. 1982. “University Education in Nigeria at the Crossroads,” Association of Commonwealth Universities, Bulletin of Current Documentation, No. 56, 15-22.

. 2007. Challenges of university governance in Nigeria: reflections of an old fogey. 1st Convocation Lecture, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Ondo State.

. 2016. The Autobiography of LADIPO ADAMOLEKUN. Ibadan: Safari Books.

Akinkugbe, O.1994. Nigeria and education. The challenges ahead.  Proceedings and policy recommendations of the 2nd Obafemi Awolowo Foundation Dialogue. Ibadan: Spectrum Books

Akinnaso, N. “What’s your university’s rank in the world?” Punch, December 13th 2016

Federal Republic of Nigeria.  2012. Committee on Needs Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities. Main Report.

Ng’ethe, N. G. Subotzky and G. Afeti. 2008. Differentiation and Articulation in Tertiary Education Systems.  A Study of Twelve Countries.  Washington DC: World Bank.

Obasi, I. R. Akuchie and S. Obasi. 2010. “Expansion of Higher Education Access through Private Universities in Nigeria (1999-2009): A Decade of Public Policy Failure?” Paper presented at a National Conference on Education for Nation Building and Global Competitiveness organized by NERDC, Abuja.

Okebukola P. and O Ibidapo-Obe, “Report of the Visits to Centres of Excellence on Global Ranking of Universities” (submitted to the National Universities Commission, NUC), 2008.

Salmi, J. 2009. “What Makes a University Great?”, August 10th 2009 –

Accessed online on January 12th 2017.

Times Higher Education (THE), “World University Rankings, 2016-2017”.  September 2016.

World Bank. 2014. “Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence Project. Project Appraisal Document – Report No. PAD 332”, processed.

[i] A binary higher education system is one where higher education is taught in two different types of institutions – in the Nigerian case, universities on the one hand and Polytechnics/Colleges of Education on the other. The unitary system is where higher education is taught in one type of institution, usually, universities.

[ii] Further education (United Kingdom and Ireland) or Continuing Education (USA) is a term used to refer to education that is distinct from the higher education offered in universities: “a means to attain an intermediate, advanced or follow-up qualification necessary to enter a university or begin a specific career path (e.g. accountant, engineer) for anyone over 16” (Wikipedia).  A Further Education institution can also provide work-based learning.

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