Back to the Matter

Yes, I know; I promised no more ASUU related posts but this was impossible to ignore. Our big uncle, Professor Mobolaji Aluko was kind enough to share the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement for transparency. and I couldn’t ignore one more post to discuss the matter.

1. Funding: The only part of this agreement that ASUU and the FGN agree with is the area I find most disagreeable; that funding should primarily come from the government. It is clear that the era of government funding higher education is disappearing. While I don’t suggest government should disengage from funding universities completely in the short-term, I think recurring expenditure should be self-funded by the universities. Somewhere in that report, ASUU suggests the cost of educating one student is about N1.3 million per annum, maybe that’s the answer for those wondering how much it will cost to attend a university under this arrangement. Of course, if you pay N1.3 million, it must be for decent education and consumers will select the universities that provide the best value for money. There’s your incentive for quality improvement.

Many of the demands made by ASUU will be solved by agreeing some level of financial autonomy. If that does not happen, we will be back here in 2017 arguing about another strike. There’s no indication ASUU is averse to this, simply because a smart offer has not been put on the table. What is uncertain is if the government wants to start a discussion that involves a significant increase in fees, less than two years to a general election.

2. University Autonomy: I’m sure I wasn’t the only one surprised that ASUU insists only degree holders should be appointed to the governing council of universities. The fact that it needed to be clearly stated in an agreement should be a cause for concern about the quality of governing councils today. It is also interesting that most of the funding (local and international) to Nigerian universities must come through the National Universities Commission. Apart from regulating the curriculum and maintaining standards, NUC’s job should be limited to setting the overarching strategy for higher education.

I agree that a national examination (JAMB) is not out of place, but universities should be free to determine additional entry requirements, and apply such as they deem fit. While we are on this JAMB matter, surely it is time to revamp that process. It is inefficient running such an important examination on ONE day every year, across Nigeria. Oh, and paper based testing must be on its way to the museum. India got an American company, Prometric to handle its Common Admission Test; today you can take that entrance examination once within a 20-day window. If you don’t believe American companies provide technology solutions to India, you might enjoy this. Someone should tell those JAMB people and universities that admission tests can be computer based.

3. Salaries: I totally blame the government here, and my reason is simple. It is the prerogative of ASUU to try to maximize what its members earn, and all of us will do the same if faced with that situation. At least that’s what I’ll do. However, when ASUU comes to the table using salaries in South Africa (GDP per capita of $7,500) and Botswana (GDP per capita of $14,000), then the government must have been snoozing. Oh, did I mention Nigeria’s GDP per capita is somewhere around $1,500? I’m sure you get the point. But it is also good to remember that if we agree on how higher education should be funded, we won’t be arguing about salaries.

4. Allowances: I don’t think the negotiated allowances are too high, and made a case for this in previous posts. If we want to raise the assessment levels of post-graduate study in Nigeria, we need to align our goals with incentives. My theory on reward is simple: if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. If you want to minimize inbreeding, you need to incentivize external assessment of candidates and make it a compulsory part of the appointment process. Again, this is a problem financial autonomy takes away.

5. Fringe Benefits: Honestly, some of the requests here are hopeful, at best. Vehicle loans at 2% and Housing loans at a rate to be determined by the University Senate are impractical requests. The request for loans at rates below inflation and the risk free rate should have been deleted very quickly. Again, it makes me wonder, who negotiated this agreement on behalf of the FGN?

6. Pension and Retirement: There is no dispute here, I completely support a retirement age of 70 years for academics. The previous retirement age (65 years) robs the university community of 5 years per person. If you assume 5,000 professors make it to at least 70 years, that’s 25,000 years of teaching gained. No argument here. On the University Pension Fund, I didn’t get the reason for not aligning with the existing pension scheme. If the Universities desire, they should apply to run Closed Pension Fund Administrators (CPFAs).

7.Fun Fact: It is interesting one of the advisers at that negotiation is the current Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo. If he is not too busy dealing with the former PHCN staff, maybe he can share his opinion with us on how to fix higher education.

In the words of the good man that shared this document with us, there you have it.

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19 thoughts on “Back to the Matter

  1. On the JAMB tip, I think I read somewhere that they were working towards phasing paper based tests by 2015. While I’m for computer based tests, I wonder how students who have never seen a computer (which would be close to half if not more) would fare.

    If I were in power, the tertiary education won’t be my priority to be honest. By then, it’s too late for most students to be useful. If primary and secondary education were decent, we’ll have much less pressure on universities.

    • I agree with you completely. Higher education can only be maximized if basic education is up to spec. Makes me wonder if its sensible to allow ETF focus solely on higher education, and also suggests we havent paid enough attention to how UBE is operating. From a budgeting perspective, I believe UBE is a first line charge, so that revenue base is assured. Perhaps, we should be putting more spotlight on places like UBEC and SUBEB at state level.

      • On UBE…I try to track them when I can…(which is not a lot) but I generally get the impression that they are about the best thing happening in that sector. Definitely under funded and someone or the other is chopping money somewhere, but I think by Nigerian standards (always sucks to use this phrase) They are performing.

    • For the jobs of today, you are pretty much useless without a higher education. Never seen a country develop without a robust higher education system that allows it to plug local talent into certain areas of importance. Focusing on primary and secondary makes it too easy for metrics hungry bureacrats to simply lower the bar. Post secondary education is how we discover how well prepared kids are for the workforce.

      • I disagree about needing a degree for most jobs by default. In fact one could argue that skill is taking the place of university degrees these days…but that’s another debate…one that’s not for today 🙂

        Back to the matter, with decent basic education, you should be employable! Not as management but you should be able to get jobs as clerks, call centre agents, marketing (at least the kind mostly done in Nigeria), etc. Then work and study your way to a tertiary degree. In Nigeria today, no one would hire you for any of those jobs without a degree. (not like that’s even sure), you could argue unemployment rates as the cause, but deep down, we all know that even if the jobs came, there aren’t enough qualified people to do them.

        If the uni system got fixed overnight, you’ll still (mostly) have garbage going in and coming out. You can’t have a rock solid building without a decent foundation.

    • “While I’m for computer based tests, I wonder how students who have never seen a computer (which would be close to half if not more) would fare.”
      If we are to be brutally honest (which I think we should be with the case of our current education system) should a student that cannot use a computer be admitted into a tertiary institution? I’ll leave the answer open for debate. Computer based tests can in one swoop change the quality of input into tertiary institutions, reduce the levels of cheating, create jobs etc. Anyways, just my opinion.

      • Great point…but that only reinforces my point…basic education is so crap, that by default most won’t ideally qualify for tertiary education (by no fault of theirs). We thank God that some of our parents were able to afford good schools for us, but in these debates we must always also consider the children of the subsistent

      • Great point… that reinforces my earlier point…basic education is so crap, that by default most no matter how bright, won’t ideally qualify for tertiary education (by no fault of theirs). We thank God that some of our parents were able to afford good schools for us, but in these debates we must always also consider the children of the subsistence farmers and fishermen, petty traders…etc. Who also have equally bright children. It is not their fault that the basic education available isn’t up to standard. They deserve a fair chance too…no?

        (mistakenly posted the incomplete reply earlier please delete)

    • I completely I agree with your point on the quality of education before university and its importance. Its a cause I and a few friends hope to champion on a project so we have seen the stats and the reality (the children of the subsistent being the target market of this project). I can’t speak too much about it for now, but I just wanted to let you know that I am with you 100% on those 2 points.

      But as I said before, we have to be brutally honest, we are where we are because we haven’t been. If you do not have the basic requirements (by choice or circumstance), then you’re not ready for tertiary education. It might be that you need to take time off to learn, find access etc. But one thing I know is the ones that want to find a way, will find a way, regardless of their financial status or geographical location.

      We have modelled everything in Nigeria on foreign benchmarks so forgive me if I use foreign examples. Many small town students in the US or UK for example never get the chance to go to university at the same time their counterparts in the city get to. Some of them never get the chance at all either because of their financial status or geographical location (and yes I know some of them do not go by choice, but I know a number of them personally who want to and cannot). In my opinion, I think too many people are going to universities but that’s talk for another day.

      And remember before we move too far ahead, we are not asking them to do object oriented programming or rocket launching, just to fill in forms and take examinations on a computer. I don’t think that is too much to ask for any student that has passed secondary school education and is ready for tertiary education, let alone the brighter ones.

      • I think we agree on everything…except on the computer based test bit. I agree that every intending university student should know the workings of a computer. But how about we at least have teachers who know the workings of a computer before at the very least before implementing that?
        The UK/US example doesn’t hold, because they have decent basic education, here we still have university lecturers who still struggle with basic word processing. And worthless basic education certificates that can’t get you work to pay yourself through further education.

        In summary, things need to change…no doubt. but this change should start at the very bottom and work its way up. That’s all I’m saying.

  2. To be honest, I see many of these demands and ‘recommendations’ from ASUU as unreasonable. They are taking having your cake and eating it to a whole new height. You can’t tell your parents you want to move out of their house at 40 (with excellent WAEC results 24 years ago), tell them to pay the down payment for your new house and car, tell them to pay the mortgage and funds for your upkeep and let them leave you to do whatever you want when you couldn’t even maintain your room in their house by yourself, when you have shown no signs that you intend to improve yourself. That’s how I see it.

    If they want these salaries and allowances maybe they should also outline how they intend to improve the tertiary institutions in better ways than ‘we will use the improved infrastructure’ or other ambiguous comments, how they will generate funds towards the plan of self sustenance amongst other things.

    The students are the target market, the people we should tailor the product to suit, the people that should be considered at the heart of all the plans, policies, funds etc. Yet they were sparsely mentioned in all the very specific ‘recommendations’.

    If ASUU succeed and get all these things they want, I will know how powerful they are, how clueless the government is.

    I will not use the same mouth I use to condemn the NASS to praise ASUU, they seem to be moving in the same direction now.

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