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New Universities: decision 'ill timed'

13 January 2013, 09:01

Lagos - Stakeholders in the education sector have criticised the Federal Government’s plan to establish three additional universities, saying rather the existing ones should be strengthened.

The Federal Executive Council on Wednesday approved the establishment of three additional federal universities in the country. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the three new universities are to be sited in Kebbi, Zamfara and Yobe states.

Reacting, the President, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr Isa Fagge, said that the establishment of more universities was not the solution to the challenges in the sector. Fagge said that though the union was in support of more Nigerians having access to quality education, however, the proliferation of universities was an additional burden to personnel cost.

 According to him, what government needs to do is to provide adequate funds to take care of existing universities in order to achieve their goals.

"The position of the union regarding the proliferation of universities in the country is clear.

"In as much as we are interested in creating access to education for citizens, there is the need for us to also consider other factors that come with it.

"We should first take a survey of the needs of the existing ones, including the nine that were recently established,” he said.

The ASUU president said that government also needed a medium and long term plan to see to the growth of the universities over a period of years. He identified research funding as a critical area of the university system that over the years had been neglected by successive governments. Fagge said that when these challenges were addressed, it would boost the production of high level manpower needed for the advancement of the country. He said that the nine other universities recently established were ill equipped and lacked the required personnel to assist in ensuring that the institutions met their mandates.

"Most of our colleagues go there to serve as visiting or sabbatical staff, which according to him was negatively affecting the already existing ones," Prof. Ayodeji Olukoju, the Vice-Chancellor, Caleb University, Imota said that the establishment of the three new universities was ill time. He said that politically, government was right in giving every state a sense of belonging, but the action would put a lot of pressure on personnel in these universities as well as the already existing one.

"I do not think the establishment of these universities will raise the quality of education in the country. "I am not saying this because I belong to the academics, of course, the more the merrier. "But my argument is that we must not use the establishment of universities as a political tool.

"We must also try and get our priorities right in order not to put ourselves under some kind of pressure,” he said. Similarly, Dr Olubunmi Ajibade, a senior lecture, Mass Communication Department, University of Lagos, called for strengthening of existing universities by way of better funding. According to him, adequate funding of researches in universities is necessary for them to rank among the world’s best. Ajibade said that creating more universities was not what the sector needed at this time but rather government should focus on enhancing best practices.

- NAN

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