Vice-Chancellor of Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, has said that inadequate funding was responsible for underperformance by the country’s universities.
Fagbohun also said that it was making it impossible for them to contribute their quotas to national development.
He said this while delivering the 6th Memorial Lecture in honour of the former Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos (UNILAG), late Prof. Adetokunbo Sofoluwe.
The lecture was titled: ‘Commodification of Education: What Imperatives for Transforming University Education in Nigeria’.
He said if the higher education system were to achieve its goals of contributing to national development, it should be adequately funded.
“There is a crisis of underfunding, which seriously threatens the provision of quality education in Nigeria and this is an issue that affects people’s lives with so much urgency.
“Not many will argue that higher education is currently at a crossroad in Nigeria. In order to mitigate the challenge, universities resort to increasing students’ fees. Antagonists of increase in tuition have christened this as ‘Education for sale.’
“While the protagonists stridently argue that any increase in tuition is a direct result of the fact that subsidy allocation to universities has been in decline with serious consequence on long term operations,” he said.
Fagbohun argued that the rot in tertiary institutions was largely a result of the failure to recognise education as a national priority.
He said that the society had also refused to see it as a tool of socio-economic development and a veritable weapon for social engineering.
“Our tertiary institutions, as a system and service provider, are not aligned to meet our domestic challenges or imperatives, including the needs of industry, labour and the private sector.
“Foreign experts are still imported to provide consultancies on subjects our institutions have several decades old departments and faculties.
“This is an indication of not just the problem of misaligned curricula, but it is symptomatic of more fundamental dislocation,” he said.
According to him, rather than be a buffer, universities are serving as magnets for unwholesome social tendencies.
He stressed that tertiary education should not only be allowed to flourish unfettered and unhindered, it should also be provided with the resources, infrastructure and facilities.
Fagbohun, however, recommended that government at federal and state levels should separate recurring expenditure of staff emoluments from capital expenditure and ensure they gave weighted premium to both.
He added that research and physical expansion of tertiary institutions needed to be addressed in the light of Nigeria as a developing country.
According to the Vice-Chancellor, government should not make the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) take over its statutory obligation to fund tertiary institutions.
“Government should also give grant-in-aid to deserving institutions, both at federal and state levels, using set criteria including excellence and distinction in research and innovation.
It should also include: “Diversity, inclusiveness, scholarship, protection of rights of minorities and needs,” he said.
The Vice -Chancellor of UNILAG, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, described the late Prof. Sofoluwe as a man who exhibited true love and honesty in his life time
“We cannot but keep remembering Prof. Sofoluwe and the best we can do is to immortalise a scholar who died in active service,” he said.
Speaking on the lecture, Prof Ogundipe said both the government and the people of Nigeria will have to decide if they want proper university system because proper funding is not only about salary payments but proper funding.
“Tell me of a country that is doing well economically then I will tell you of a country that is properly funding research. We should not depend only on government to fund research, it is the responsibility of government, companies and rich people in Nigeria to fund research”, he said.
The UNILAG VC, also said academic corruption is a global issue but added that UNILAG has a policy on ground to tackle issues of corruption among staff and students and anyone found culpable will be dealt with accordingly.
On the ongoing sex scandal allegation against one of the senior lecturers in the University, the VC said the accuser has to come out and testify in order for justice to prevail adding that judgment cannot be issued based on one sided story, but assured the public that the panel set up by the University management to investigate the matter consists of Professors that cannot be intimidated.