Specialised universities ordered to return to mandates
The federal government gave the order through Minister of Education Mallam Adamu in January. It affects both state and private universities.
Adamu said universities of agriculture should focus only on agriculture and related programmes while universities of science and technology, education and medicine should focus only on those programmes the government originally permitted them to offer.
“The mission for setting up these universities must be followed without deviation," Adamu said.
The minister said that it is time to rekindle the education system especially in the current state of economic recession. “It is time for the university sector to deliver its mandate of providing solutions that will drive better socio-economic growth and development.”
Bringing ‘sanity’ to the system
“We went back to the drawing board to restrategise to bring sanity to the education systems and follow the core mandate. The government will enact laws to strengthen the order and keep universities in check,” Adamu said.
Fabian Benjamin, public relations officer of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, said that the ban is with immediate effect and there shall be no new intake of students into the affected courses.
Benjamin said that the students already studying the courses in question will finish and there will be a smooth transition into the new rule.
It is a prerequisite that the universities follow the new policy smoothly, according to Ibrahim Yakasai, the National Universities Commission spokesperson, speaking on national television in Abuja last month.
He said that the government will not mete out any punishment except to those institutions that refuse to heed the order.
The decision comes in the wake of a summit in Abuja organised by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, Senegal-based non-governmental organisation TrustAfrica and the National Universities Commission, at which it was agreed that universities should stick to their mission.
“Specialised universities should remain so while conventional universities will remain as is,” Yakasai said.
The affected universities are: the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta; Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi; Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike; Federal University of Technology, Akure; Federal University of Technology, Owerri; Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola; Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso; Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University of Technology, Bauchi; Bells University of Technology, Ota; Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt; Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Enugu; Kano University of Science and Technology, Wudil; and Cross River University of Technology, Calabar.
These universities deviated from their mandate years ago as the demand for university education grew and government funding proved inadequate. There was also pressure on the universities from host communities to accept locals into the universities.
The Nigerian universities system has been characterised by low funding from the government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, or ASUU, has a history of battling the government over what it believes is the neglect of university education in Nigeria.
A universities strike was averted late last year when the president of the Nigerian Senate, Bukola Saraki, waded in as middleman between ASUU officials and the federal government. A special committee was inaugurated to agree on the terms for increasing funding for universities and building institutional infrastructure to aid teaching and research.
Reacting to the move to scrap those programmes which deviate from the original mandates, ASUU President Biodun Ogunyemi said universities were under-funded and in the course of seeking additional funds, administrators had added high-demand programmes as a means to secure additional income.
Ogunyemi said in order to enable Nigerian universities to conduct quality research and produce world-class students, government would have to increase funding, otherwise universities will keep looking for other ways to make up the shortfall.
“If there is enough funding from the government, the universities will be able to focus on teaching and research and will not keep struggling to get more funds.”
Concerns have been raised since the announcement about the fate of students and lecturers involved in the affected courses.
Yakasai said although the National Universities Commission will not approve any programme outside an institution’s mandate, students already in the programme will graduate. However, there will be no new students.
He said the commission and the ministry would work through the transition with the affected universities to ensure universities revert back to their mandate without any crises.