The recent disclosure by the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Prof. Suleiman Elias Bogoro, that the sum of N5billion has been earmarked for research and development in Nigerian universities is cheering. The TETFund boss stated this during his recent visit to inspect some projects funded by the agency at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. According to Bogoro, TETFund is now focusing more on journal publications, library development and training of academics than funding of physical infrastructure. He also disclosed that TETFund would prefer that universities lay more emphasis on research and innovations that would find solutions to socio-economic, political, security and ICT problems instead of limiting its focus to academics.
We commend the TETFund for dedicating the grant for research in Nigerian universities. It is expected that the research grant would go a long way in improving the quality of research in Nigerian universities. Although, the fund might not be enough to make the expected impact, it is a good starting point. We advise that it should be increased in future. There is no doubt that our university teachers can carry out quality researches and find solutions to some of our socio-economic problems if they are adequately funded. In addition to this, the universities must be adequately funded and equipped to make much impact in the 21st Century world that is technologically-driven. Our first generation universities located at Ibadan, Nsukka, Zaria, Ile-Ife and Lagos can compare with their counterparts anywhere in the world if they are adequately funded. In their heydays, they competed with the best in Africa as well as the commonwealth.
In those days, they were well funded, the faculties properly constituted and staffed. Research and development were priorities, and the universities were fully aligned to the country’s goals of developing adequate manpower and spur rapid socio-economic growth and development. Without doubt, the universities achieved the set goals. The first generation universities were amongst the best.
However, the rot soon set in with the advent of military regimes in the country, which led to undue interference with the independence of the universities. Apart from reduced funding for the existing universities, the country soon witnessed the proliferation of universities. At present, there are about 95 public universities and 79 private universities in the country.
The rating of our universities has also dropped. The recent Webometrics ranking of world universities by citations in Top Google Scholar profiles has Harvard University as the number 1 in the world with 8,704,969 citations. The University of Nigeria, Nsukka, which is top-ranked in the country, is no 17 in Africa and 1108 in the world with 108,209 citations.
The increased competition for survival and relevance has made it incumbent on the universities to move to their core mandate of research. This can only be achieved from prioritising research and development. To do this, the universities must be adequately funded. The amount of funding required to make the right impact is so huge that government alone cannot afford it. Therefore, it is advisable that the universities should collaborate with corporate bodies, international agencies and rich individuals to fund the researches.
This has been the tradition that has served the Ivy League universities very well and which our universities should emulate. It is good that TETFund is beginning this innovation. We enjoin international agencies, oil companies, the banks and others to be part of this development.
Unfortunately, inadequate infrastructure, especially power and transport, remain a huge challenge for the country. These are areas that are begging for urgent solutions. Not quite long ago, the federal government entered into agreement with Siemens to deliver 25,000MW to the country by 2025.
With the country’s optimal energy need put at 40,000MW, there is need for more collaborations. With adequate research, the universities can fill the gaps. The Chinese economic miracle would not have been possible without research and development from its universities. Nigeria can borrow a leaf from China. We can also learn from the Silicon Valley and the other great industrial hubs located close to university communities throughout the world.