The Deregulation of University Education in Nigeria: Implications for Quality Assurance

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Introduction

The role of education as an instrument for promoting the socio-economic, political and cultural development of any nation can never be over-emphasised. According to Abdulkareem (2001), a nation's growth and development is determined by its human resources. The provision of the much-needed manpower to accelerate the growth and development of the economy has been said to be the main relevance of university education in Nigeria (Ibukun, 1997).

Precisely, the National Policy on Education (2004) highlighted the aims of university education:

1. To contribute to national development through high-level relevant manpower training;

2. To develop and inculcate proper values for the survival of the individual and the society;

3. To develop the intellectual capability of individuals to understand and appreciate their local and external environments;

4. To acquire both physical and intellectual skills which will enable individuals to be self-reliant and useful members of the society;

5. To promote and encourage scholarship and community service;

6. To forge and cement national unity; and

7. To promote national and international understanding and interactions.

The belief in the efficacy of education as a powerful instrument of development has led many nations to commit much of their wealth to the establishment of educational institutions at various levels. According to Ajayi and Ekundayo (2007), the funds allocated to higher education should not be considered as mere expense, but as a long-term investment of immense benefit to the society as a whole.

The importance of university education to the individual in particular and the society in general has made the demand for university education increase astronomically in the last twenty years, resulting in a very high percentage of unsatisfied demand every year. See table 1.

The demand for university education in the last 20 years is far greater than the supply. This is in spite of the phenomenal expansion in the publicly owned universities in Nigeria from 1 in 1948 to 56 in 2007. It is evident that the government alone cannot provide the much needed university education to the teeming applicants seeking places yearly--hence the involvement of private sectors.

Historical Development of University Education in Nigeria

The history of university education in Nigeria started with the Elliot Commission of 1943, which led to the establishment of University College Ibadan (UCI) in 1948. UCI was an affiliate of the University of London (Ike, 1976). According to Ibukun (1997), the UCI was saddled with a number of problems at inception ranging from rigid constitutional provisions, poor staffing, and low enrolment to high dropout rate.

In April 1959, the Federal Government commissioned an inquiry (the Ashby Commission) to advise it on the higher education needs of the country for its first two decades. Before the submission of the report, the eastern region government established its own university at Nsukka (University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1960). The implementation of the Ashby Report led to the establishment of University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife) in 1962 by the Western region, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1962 by the Northern Region and University of Lagos (1962) by the Federal Government. Babalola et al (2007) posited that the University College, Ibadan became a full-fledged university in 1962. This meant that UCI, Ibadan and University of Lagos became the first two federal universities in Nigeria--the other three remained regional. In 1970, the newly created mid-western region opted for a university known as University of Benin. The six universities established during this period 1960-1970 are still referred to as first generation universities. Babalola et al (2007) remarked that during this period, universities in Nigeria were under the close surveillance of the government. …