How Nigerian universities can rank high

Over the years, a critical issue central to universities in the country is ranking. This forms the central focus of a recent paper titled, “Re-engineering Nigerian Universities Using Global Academic Ranking Models Through Effective Institutional Mandates”, delivered at the Faculty of Science Lecture by Professor Olusegun Folorunso of the Department of Computer Science, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun state.

According to Folorunso, the advent of university education in Nigeria was to encourage the efforts of government in producing high level manpower for the development and that till date, there are over 170 universities that are public and privately owned, as the number of universities licensed by regulatory body; National Universities Commission (NUC) yearly while the population of students seeking university admission also increases. He stated that when NUC intended to give university operating license, institutional mandates documents would be attached. The most common institutional mandates of any university system in Nigeria are teaching, research and community engagement also called the tripodal mandate.

On this he asked; why is it that most Nigerian universities are unable to feature on the league table of most academic ranking bodies? Can we say the ‘quality’ of the university system in Nigeria had dropped and cannot compete with other universities in the world? The professor x-rayed the causes of the problem by examining the existing teaching and learning strategies, research gaps and community engagement challenges in terms of town and gown relationships in building a synergy between academia, industries and government-known as triple helix. He added that global academic ranking models such as the Shangai Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), Times Higher Education (THE), World University Rankings, QS World University Ranking and Webometric Ranking of World Universities and their effects on most world class universities such as Harvard, Oxford, Yale and Princeton universities.

The don said indicators of the models were examined and harmonised to re-engineer the present state of Nigerian universities using the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) Faculty of Science as a case study and that rankings influence students in terms of making decisions on where to study, some governments allocates funds while universities struggle to improve on their positions on ranking tables, as most of the factors constitute to the attainment of world class status by universities.

Therefore, reengineering process involves “scientific mode of well-thought-out and properly-organised, restructuring, re-planning, redesigning, re-arranging or rebooting events or issues for better results, condition or improved performance while the ultimate expectation is to have best outcome on one’s investments”, he stated. The three longest established and most influential global rankings are those produced by Shanghai Ranking Consultancy (the Academic Ranking of World Universities; ARWU), Times Higher Education (THE) and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). Why reengineering in Nigerian universities? He gave reasons to include massification due to expansion in enrolment, involvement of private interests in university education, increased mobility due to globalisation and cross-border recognition of qualifications and graduate employability.

Folorunso stressed the need for good teachers in our educational institution. He asked: What are the attributes of a good teacher? Moving further, he said the knowledge-base, using appropriate instructional strategies and acceptance of those all who enter the classrooms. What should be done include planning for instructional (classroom) management, teach with a variety of strategies, using seen assessment to inform students of their achievements including grading policies, keeping the passion, technological advancement, innovative practices, student-centered learning, project-based learning, novel practices and multiple intelligences, mentorship, pedagogies, blended learning from face-to-face, online learning and others reaching methods. Why e-content? Due to active learning participation, instructor as facilitator, open access, collaboration and student engagement.

Developing 21st Century ICT skills for e-contents would involve elements to create, connect, communicate, collaborate and innovate, saying the bedrock of any national development rested on the level of research breakthroughs, as it had been established that our citadel of learning such as Nigerian universities were established with a view of balancing the tripodal mandate of teaching, research and community engagements. Researches with positive influence on national growth and development were carried by experts in different research fields in various universities yearly for the purposes of affecting societal development.

He noted that research always leads to development in any nation. Most industries and parastatal, ministries, departments and government normally have a unit called Research and Development (R&D) by advancing scientific knowledge through verification of hypotheses needed in testing theories, finding solutions to organisational problems or applications of theory to the solution of practical problem but due to immediate and pressing practical problems such as absence of quality assurance strategy, absence  of coordination strategy, mismanagement of grants/funds, absence of repository for research data, community engagement, collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities such as local, regional, state, national and global, for the mutually-beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in the context of collaboration and reciprocity.

In conclusion, Folorunso recommended that ranking high requires adequate teaching, adopting technology research, using more of applied research, community engagement, collaboration, global academic ranking, development of e-content and publishing in reputable journals in the universities, among others.

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