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The Committee of Pro-Chancellors of State-owned Universities of Nigeria (CPSUN) has called on stakeholders to invest adequately in states universities to boost their development.

The plea was made on Wednesday during a session at the 4th biennial conference of CPSUN held at the Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State.

The conference has: “Current challenges facing State Universities in Nigeria and the Way Forward,’’ as its theme.

Most of the participants cited inadequate funding as a major challenge to be addressed if the universities were to be transformed as expected agents of development.

Aside dwindling resources, graduate unemployment and employability status, poor governance, management and administrative issues amongst others were other problems earmarked for urgent intervention.

Prof. Olufemi Bamiro, the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council, TASUED, in his programme notes, said that the link between quality higher education and socio-economic development of any country was well established.

According to him, the current global trend has seen higher education moving from the periphery to the centre of governmental agenda in most countries and as such, Nigeria should not be left out.

“Universities are now seen as crucial national assets in addressing many policy priorities and as sources of new knowledge and innovative thinking as well as agents of social justice.

“In other words, our universities have important roles to play as agents of development toward achieving the various developmental growth initiatives for our economy to thrive.

“However, a cursory examination of our national university system shows that it is a sector trapped within the iron triangle of the vectors of access, quality and cost,” he said.

In his keynote address, Prof. Julius Okojie, Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), identified an urgent need for the upward review of the fees charged by universities.

Okojie noted that critical to the attainment of world class standards in the nation’s higher education system was the issue of funding.

He called on state governments to adequately fund their universities by ensuring that budgets allocated to these institutions were released as at when due.

CPSUN Chairman, Prof. Gregory Akenzua, highlighted poor infrastructure, weak research and innovation capacities, shortage of teaching faculty, erosion of autonomy and political interference as threats to the development of state universities.

He said against this backdrop, state universities, in the absence of adequate funding, must now look to share resources amongst sister institutions while looking to cut costs.

Akenzua added that as members of the 21st century civilisation, universities must now maximise the use of digital resources to reduce administrative expenses and increase efficiency.

“Over the years, a number of factors have combined to create a crisis of confidence in our higher education system.

“The question is now whether the nation is getting value for the money it invests in university education or not,” Akenzua said.

Vice-Chancellor of TASUED, Prof. Oluyemisi Obilade, however, said she did not think that state-owned universities could be totally self-sustainable unless they were given the freedom to decide their fees.

She called on the authorities of the existing state universities to explore ways of improving their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and to raise funds through external interventions.

Obilade added that this had become necessary since state governments were faced with other challenges in the face of dwindling resources.

“The university should be the repository of the best brains. We cannot say because we have challenges we are going to fold our arms. We should seek solutions where possible.

“If government wants to disengage from financing the universities, the universities must be empowered in such a way that they can raise immediate funds even to pay salaries.

“There must be investment to an extent such that will merit the state universities’ ability to sustain themselves.

“This is where we need to look into in order to develop the sector,” Obilade stressed.

On the issue of employability, she urged universities to be ready to respond to the needs of the end users.

“We, as institutions, should be ready to inculcate into the university curricular, employers’ requirements and see how we can embed them in line with the NUC directives.

“Also, important in bridging the gap in technological advancement is the need to take capacity building for teaching staff seriously as this would help to improve standards in our schools,” she said.

Responding to the concerns raised, TASUED Visitor and Ogun State governor, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun, said it was important not to lose sight of the cogent needs of the education sub-sector.

Amosun, who was represented by Mrs Modupe Mujota, Ogun Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, said education had become the ‘hullabaloo’ of national turmoil seeking urgent intervention.

“Education will always remain the bedrock of meaningful, socio-political and economic advancement of any society.

“The future of any nation is usually determined by the quality of education offered by citizens.

“This is why developed and developing nations of the world have singled out the education sector for priority attention and investment.

“However, the downturn of economies across the globe has made the issue of education, as a commodity, a very daunting task for both the government and education administrators.

“Most of the problems confronting higher institutions revolve around funding; so many needs must be met and yet resources are limited.

“In essence, we must look at the stable and sustainable long term funding models that rely on a variety of sourcing options.

“Research grants, fellowships and collaborations that will entrench our schools as thought leaders should be welcomed.

“As stakeholders in this sector, all hands must be on deck to ensure that our students inculcate values that will enhance a secured future for the nation.

“It is, therefore, imperative that the challenges in Nigeria’s education system be brought to the limelight in order to proffer and implement remedial measures,” Amosun said.

The governor admitted that education must continue to be given a pride of place in the scheme of affairs of state governments by providing infrastructure for institutions of higher learning to deliver on their mandates.

Author: Cerebral Lemon