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.