The Inevitable Meeting of Town and Gown

I wrote this almost two years ago, with some editing, I think it’s still relevant today.

It is interesting to examine different views on the state of Nigerian universities and the quality of graduates produced therein. The usual conclusion is our universities are underfunded, below par and produce half baked graduates. This judgment is usually delivered in a passionate and eloquent manner by employers, social commentators, and in some hilarious situations, by government officials.

The obvious solution to any problem in Nigeria is to throw money at it, but in this case whose money? Since 1974, Harvard University’s endowments have been managed by Harvard Management Company, set up to support the educational and research goals of Harvard University. The Harvard Endowment is worth approximately $32 billion. To put this in context, Nigeria has external reserves of $34.7 billion, while the Ministry of Education presented a budget of N400 billion (less than $3 billion) for the 2012 fiscal year. The University of Lagos (Primus Inter Pares, as it likes to describe itself) has a budget of N10.5 billion ($70 million), with over N9 billion of this devoted to payroll. The same university has a capital expenditure budget of N450 million, the cost of the house James Ibori allegedly bought in Hampstead, in 2001. The conclusion is obvious, Nigerian universities are underfunded.

Professor Odebiyi and Dr. Aina, both of the Obafemi Awolowo University, wrote an excellent paper on the alternative modes of funding higher education in Nigeria and the implications for university governance here: . It is clear from their argument and global trends that the onus of funding higher education has shifted from government to the private sector. It is not enough to complain about the quality of graduates without asking how much Universities charge for tuition and how much endowment has been sourced from companies like MTN, Shell or the legion of Nigerian “billionaires” to those universities. This is not about giving scholarships to students from oil producing communities or donating millions of Naira to a grandiose presidential library. It is about a concerted and sustained effort to fund higher education. If this does not happen, we will be here crying about ASUU strikes and more in 2025.

This takes me to the role of adjunct lecturers in Nigerian universities. Nigerian CEOs are not doing enough in the classroom to pass practical business knowledge to the next generation. The classrooms at HBS, Wharton and Said are littered with the best brains from Wall Street and Canary Wharf. This is where the tyre hits the track. But our brains remain at Ikoyi Club, complaining about the quality of graduates produced by Nigerian universities, over Suya and a round of golf. Afe Babalola never taught law during his years as Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, instead he focused on being Nigeria’s first emeritus Pro-Chancellor. Our CEOs were taught by CEOs at Harvard and Yale, why do they ignore the classrooms in Ife and Zaria?

Now everyone is setting up a university. Last year it was Chief Ade-Ojo or Elizade, as you might know him, launching his university in Ilara-Mokin. Soon we will have one in Ogbomosho, set up by you know who. The school will focus extensively on skin pigmentation and colour separation research. At the launch of Afe Babalola’s University in Ado-Ekiti, the man Soyinka calls Daniel Elebo said “Naira has been bastardized today” after $5 million was raised at the event. Oga Afe never organized such an event during his tenure as UNILAG’s pro-chancellor. He would rather construct five buildings; call it a university and name it after himself. Supporting the existing universities is too much work.

Next time anyone rants about the state of our universities, here’s my answer, “yinmu.”

In Other News…
Osaze Osifo, the Managing Director/CEO of FBN Capital Limited died last week. The finance world is depleted by the passage of such a brilliant mind. I pray his soul finds eternal rest.


2 thoughts on “The Inevitable Meeting of Town and Gown

  1. Pingback: Let’s Talk About Higer Education | proudlyekiti

  2. Pingback: Let’s Talk About Higher Education | Ikole Boy

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