Proliferation of Tertiary Institutions and its Implication for Intellectual Development

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By Owoicho Michael Alleh

THE accelerating increase in the number of tertiary institutions in Nigeria is, no doubt, thought to be an improvement in the growth of education, and to accommodate as many candidates seeking admission into tertiary institutions as possible. But how far has the multiplicity of tertiary institutions been able to fulfil these objectives?

Mal. Adamu Adamu

At present, there are 152 Colleges of Education in Nigeria, consisting of 21 federal, 82 private and 49 state colleges of education. In addition, there are 17 federal and 26 state-owned and 64 private Polytechnics established to train technical middle level manpower.

On April 8, 2021, the National Universities Commission (NUC) announced the approval of twenty (20) new private universities in Nigeria. Just a few days ago, on Monday, June 20, 2021, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, represented by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Arch. Sonny Echono, announced at a media briefing in Abuja the establishment of four new universities “to address shortfall in technology, medicine and nutrition.” The four new universities are to be located in Jigawa, Akwa Ibom, Osun and Bauchi states. In addition, Adamu also said a National Institute of Technology (NIT) would be established in Abuja “to serve essentially as a postgraduate centre devoted to research and innovation.”

This brings to 198, the total number of approved universities in Nigeria. There are other affiliate institutions running part-time programmes for candidates who could not meet up with the regular academic activities, just as there are other numerous unapproved colleges of education, polytechnics and universities operating without being duly licensed by the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and National Universities Commission (NUC), respectively. There are other colleges – of Forestry, Agriculture, and so on.

That the first and subsequent generations of tertiary institutions in Nigeria are facing these challenges is indisputable; therefore, what will be said of these infant colleges, polytechnics and universities that are being created at interval of months? This means that the new institutions will definitely suffer the same or worse fate than the older institutions are going through!

In the coming days, one expects to witness more approvals of new tertiary institutions. But the question one may ask is: Are the regulatory agencies for licensing these institutions and the government aware of the implication of the multiplicity of tertiary institutions? Apart from the aforementioned reasons for establishing more colleges of education, polytechnics and universities, there is a political undertone that these institutions are approved and sited based on political interests and gains of certain politicians and individuals rather than for educational prowess.

It is a well-known fact that the first, second and third generations of tertiary institutions in Nigeria are still struggling with numerous challenges – recurring industrial disharmony, under-staffing crisis, inadequate facilities like shortage of lecture theatres/halls, insufficient hostel accommodation for students, out-dated library facilities and very poor state of staff quarters. In addition, all professional courses such as Engineering, Medicine, etc., lack modern equipment for facilitation of qualitative training.

That the first and subsequent generations of tertiary institutions in Nigeria are facing these challenges is indisputable; therefore, what will be said of these infant colleges, polytechnics and universities that are being created at interval of months? This means that the new institutions will definitely suffer the same or worse fate than the older institutions are going through!

Intellectual development and capacity building are the underlying factors for the establishment of any tertiary institution, the motive the university, for instance, is often regarded as “the citadel of learning.” But this phrase has been undermined as far as the current realities in our universities are concerned! The facilities are overstretched! Lectures are often suspended due to lack of venues. If some lectures are to hold, more students have to go earlier to occupy available seats. Those arriving few minutes to the lecture will have to sit on broken woods, stones, or the floor or hang on windows near the lecturer delivering the lecture. This makes learning uninteresting to students and result in poor academic performance.

The proliferation of universities and other tertiary institutions would have been a right step if the government and private owners are able to strike a balance between human resource development and infrastructural development in the institutions. Anything short of these amounts to intellectual underdevelopment of the students as can be witnessed in most tertiary institutions today. There seems to be questions that the agencies for approving the establishment of tertiary institutions never asked before giving such approval.

It is true that medical students often migrate from one university to another for further training at teaching hospitals due to non-availability of medical facilities in the universities where they study. This exposed such medical students to a number of risks including huge financial expenses. This contributes to not only high rate of poor quality training of medical personnel but also quacks in the profession because of instability and lack of focus on the part of trainees. No wonder there is high death rate from poor handling and management of health issues traceable to poor training of medical professionals in the period of study.

Learning in the 21st century is driven by technological sophistication. How many of our tertiary institutions have been able to achieve this fit? There was a case in one of the first generation universities where students had written General Study (GS) examinations and thereafter, both the students’ answers and the examination questions disappeared from the system. The university authorities had to recall the students to re-write the examinations.

The state of ICT in most tertiary institutions is poor, and this makes e-learning difficult for the students, especially for those who could not afford private internet services on a regular basis, and since the students paid for schools’ internet services, their hope is on the schools to make it available for them, but this is not forthcoming in most cases.

The proliferation of universities and other tertiary institutions would have been a right step if the government and private owners are able to strike a balance between human resource development and infrastructural development in the institutions. Anything short of these amounts to intellectual underdevelopment of the students as can be witnessed in most tertiary institutions today. There seems to be questions that the agencies for approving the establishment of tertiary institutions never asked before giving such approval.

What facilities do such institutions have? Do they have enough space to operate? Do they have enough staff to set the institutions on sound footing? Are there enough library facilities? The questions are limitless! Proliferation of tertiary institutions is not the solution to our educational problems. It will rather cause more harm than good in the intellectual development of the students except something urgent is done to salvage the situation.

Most of the emerging institutions only have facial, rather than, content validity. My submission is that emphasis should be on putting infrastructure in proper shape in the existing tertiary institutions. There should be enough lecture theatres, medical facilities; and adequate teaching aids for prospective teachers in the colleges of education; workable modern machines and equipment in the polytechnics and universities for enhanced practicals, to mention a few. This will curtail brain drain and inefficiency and pave the way for intellectual advancement of the students who will turn out later to give to the society what they have acquired in the course of their study.

Alleh, an educator, writes from Jos, Plateau State capital. He could be reached via [email protected] [email protected] or [email protected] 08073534949

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