Nigerian varsities must be revitalized to unleash potential for socio-economic development –NUC boss

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BY ONYEKA AJUMOBI ONOCHIE

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For Nigerian universities to unleash its potentials as a catalyst for socio-economic development in the country there is absolute need for them to be greatly revitalized, the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, has observed.
He made the observation recently in Abuja when he played host to the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) which visited his commission for collaboration in the area of the review of the NUC blueprint on the rapid revitalization of university education in Nigeria.
Prof. Rasheed lauded the envisaged collaboration with the NESG, describing it as the first of its kind in the several attempt to reform university education in the country.
According to him, “there is a missing link between the university system and the industrial sector and this has, over time, affected the type of graduates we produce from our universities as most of them are not employable.”
He expressed the hope that the collaboration would bridge the gap by unraveling the skill needs of the industrial sector, thereby empowering the universities to adequately train their students to fit into the labour market upon graduation.
The Executive Secretary bemoaned the infrastructural decay in the universities which had widened the gap between the universities and the industrial sector, noting that the Nigeria University System (NUS) was not in shortage of interventions, as they have continued to receive funding in terms of grants and special interventions from Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), private individuals and philanthropists, the World Bank, as well as budgetary allocation from the federal government.
He, however, noted that such interventions were often not properly channeled to areas of need, leaving the universities in a state of infrastructural deficit, inadequate man-power training and learning resources.
Prof. Rasheed stressed that the NUS was capable of driving the proposed strategic goals of revitalization, which, he noted, covered specialised areas like Agriculture, Entrepreneurship and skill development, Engineering, Information Technology, amongst others. NUC, he said, would forward the recommendation to the government, while on its part, provide the necessary guidance and monitoring to ensure that the recommendations are well implemented.
According to him, the Student Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) programme had outlived its usefulness as most students hardly find placement due to over subscription to the programme as well as shrinking number of industries and lack of proper monitoring of SIWES students to ensure they acquired the relevant skills.
He called for a review of the scheme and for the industrial sector to fund researches in the NUS on areas beneficial to them, as a way of promoting academic excellence and meeting the aspirations of employers of labour.
Professor Rasheed informed the NESG delegation that the commission was making effort to solve the challenges of access to University Education in Nigeria, adding that the number of private universities has risen from zero in the last twenty years to 75 and still counting.
He hinted that plans were on ground to also provide “safety nets” in form of loan or grants for students who may secure admission into these private universities whose parents could not afford the fees. This, he said, would enable private universities meet their admission quota, which they hardly achieve.
The Executive Secretary beckoned on the NESG to bring on board the Executive Secretaries of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and Industrial Training Fund, to be part of the initiative.
Responding on behalf of the Chief Executive Officer, Head of Policy Intelligence, NESG, Mr. Seun Ojo, expressed gratitude to the Executive Secretary for providing the platform for Captains of Industries and the academics to meet. He stated that the initiative would enable the two parties synergize, identify challenges that had, over the years, led to graduate unemployment.
Ojo noted that the group was already collaborating with National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, to seek ways of advancing education in Nigeria. He assured the Executive Secretary that all critical stakeholders will be brought on board as they have found them critical in the pursuit of a productive and result oriented education system.
To build a knowledge and solution-driven university, he noted that the group had trained academics from 26 universities in South Africa on Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education.
He, however, lamented that NESG collaborated with General Electric to host similar training in Nigeria, but failed because of lack of enabling platform for the programme to take-off. He pledged that NESG was willing to collaborate with the NUC to ensure that the programme becomes a success.
In a vote of thanks, the Deputy Executive Secretary appreciated the group for making out time to be part of the epoch collaboration and hoped that the outcome of the review of the NUC blueprint on rapid revitalization of University Education in Nigeria would advance the cause of the NUS at large.
Other stakeholders at the meeting were representative of the NESG Policy Commission, Dr. Sani Sufi, Tope Toogun, and NIPPS’ Kemi O. Sijuwade, mni.
Present at the meeting were the NUC Directors of Research, Innovation, Information and Technology, Dr. Suleiman Ramon-Yusuf; Executive Secretary’s Office, Mr. Chris Maiyaki; International Cooperation and Liaison Services, Mrs. Constance Goddy-Nnadi; Open and Distance Education, Dr. Esther Adesina; Student Support Services, Dr. Mariam Sali.

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