Text of the Speech by the Founder & Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Aare Afe Babalola, CON, SAN @ NUC Evaluation Team on Quality of Governance and Management Practices of Private Universities holden in ABUAD on Monday, July 22, 2019

 Protocols:

Introduction:

I welcome you all to our university, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, ABUAD, acknowledged by the NUC as “a model, benchmark and reference point” as well as “the pride of University system in Nigeria”. It has also been described by the Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU) as ”the most successful private university in Nigeria” and endorsed by UNESCO as “a world class institution of higher education”.

I appreciate the support of the NUC right from when we received our Operating Licence on November 16, 2009.  In particular, I want to pay tribute to Prof. Peter Okebukola, former NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Julius Okojie, the Immediate Past Executive Secretary and Prof. Jubril Aminu, the Chairman, Screening Committee on Private Universities of the National Universities Commission (SCOPU), as well as Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, MFR, mni, the incumbent ES, who has acknowledged our University as “the pride of university system in Nigeria”.

Appreciation:

We appreciate NUC for sending this accredited team of experts on "the Evaluation of Quality of Governance and Management Practices in Private Universities in Nigeria to our university.

We observe that the checklist for the exercise are:

  • Academic brief volume
  • University Law
  • Minutes of Board of Trustees Meetings
  • Minutes of Governing Council Meetings
  • Minutes of Senate Meetings
  • Minutes of Congregation meetings
  • Minutes of Committees of Governing Council and Senate
  • Total Number of Academic Staff by Rank and Department/ Programmes
  • Student Population by Faculty/ Department / Programme

Public Universities Excluded

We also observed that this exercise is severely limited to private universities alone. It is my honest view that public universities (Federal and State) should be included in the exercise. I say this because I was the Pro-Chancellor & Chairman of Council of the University of Lagos between 2000 and 2007 where I saw with naked eyes the myriads of problems affecting quality education not only in private universities but also in public universities.

It is my firm belief that the main purpose of this exercise is to improve quality of university education and the graduates we turn out. I am an unrepentant advocate of quality education because I am a beneficiary of quality primary education of colonial days which enabled me to obtain Cambridge certificate, GCE O Level and four advanced level of London University at home and B.Sc Econs.  and LL.B of the same University of London.

Furthermore, it was because of my passion for quality education that made me to accept to serve as Pro-Chancellor of University of Lagos after I had turned down ministerial appointment twice.

I was twice voted the Best Pro Chancellor of Nigerian Universities and was unanimously made the Chairman of Pro Chancellors of Nigerian Universities. Besides, UNILAG itself was rated the Best University around while the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe, was voted the Best Vice Chancellor. It is apt to mention that I served throughout without accepting any allowance or emolument.

Establishment of ABUAD

After my UNILAG experience, it was my concern about the dwindling quality of education, particularly at the tertiary level, that impelled me to sell my properties to build a non-profit private university in order to demonstrate how a university should be run or how it should not be run and above all, to address the nagging problem of dwindling quality of Education in the country.

University Education in Nigeria: Problems

From experience, the problems afflicting quality of education in both public and private universities include:

  • Lack of conducive learning environment,
  • Low cut-off marks for admission into Nigerian universities, whether private or public
  • Underfunding
  • Inadequate number of quality teachers
  • Inadequate quality of teaching and instructional materials
  • Incessant strike actions by campus unions
  • Outdated curriculum
  • Outdated Teaching Methods, and
  • Innumerable illegal institutions masquerading as universities.

Bearing the foregoing in mind, I establish ABUAD which commenced Academic works on its permanent site on Monday, January 4, 2010.  Within those nine-and-half years, we can boast of predictable and consistent academic calendar and six convocations.

In addition to the above, we can boast of the following monumental achievements:

Within nine-and-half years of existence, ABUAD has emerged as the only university with huge population of students from all the 36 states in the country including Abuja.

It is a notorious fact that ABUAD is the academic reference in Law, Medicine, Engineering, Accounting and Entrepreneurship Studies.

Within those few years of our existence as a university, we have not only measured up to much older universities, we have indeed overtaken them in academic performance in Law, Medicine, Accounting and at professional courses where the examination is conducted nationally.

  • Our Law programme has been acknowledged as the “Best in West Africa”. This got a boost and further confirmation during the 2018 Bar Examination conducted by the Council of Legal Education where apart from recording 100% Pass, the Overall Best Student came from ABUAD.

In addition to these uncommon accomplishments, our students won 24 out of the 36 available Prizes as a result of which many of the much older universities have been congratulating us.

  • Our Engineering Programme which can boast of 37 laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art equipment from Germany, England and the US, was dubbed by the Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, as the “Template for Engineering Education in Nigeria”.
  • The former Minister of State for Health, Dr. Khaliru Alhassan, said our Medical programme “will be difficult for any other university in Nigeria to equal”.

To corroborate this, during our first MBBS Examination in July 2018, we recorded an unprecedented 100% with eight (8) Distinctions - the equivalent of First Class in other disciplines. This accomplishment makes ABUAD the first university in the country to produce Medical Doctors in six-and-half years after its Medical Programme flagged off when some other universities which commenced their Medical Programme some two decades ago are yet to graduate their first set of Medical Doctors.

Landmark achievements at the Multi-system Hospital:

Since the Multi-system Hospital commenced operations in 2018, it has recorded many landmark achievements like:

  • Brain surgeries
  • Three Open Heart Surgeries/Interventions and we are in the process of performing another set of 10 of such operations (Comments by the first Cardio Vascular Patient is hereby attached).
  • Daily medical operations in different areas of Medicine
  • In the last ATS/ICAN West Africa examination, a 200-Level Economics student of ABUAD, Miss Nellieken Ochinke, emerged Second Best out of the 2,500 candidates who sat for the Examination in West Africa while UNESCO instituted a Professorial Chair on Entrepreneurship & Sustainable Development.

All of these have been possible because of our commitment to quality Governance and top rate Management Practices.

Beyond Terms of Reference:

As I said earlier, I am convinced that the common ground is how to improve quality education. Older universities including federal and state universities regularly ask us how we have achieved all these in nine years. The answer could be found in the quality of governance and internationally accepted management practices

We have succeeded because:

  • All our teachers and students live on campus. This enables us to monitor and mentor them, instill discipline and encourage hard work.
  • We are the only University that teaches between 8am and 3pm, 7pm and 10pm. We have Interactive Boards in every classroom, while our ICT is one of the best and most robust anywhere in the country. Indeed, all our teachers are ICT-literate.
  • We have improved on NUC Curricula by adding five new Programmes,e. Mechatronics, Social Justice, Intelligence & Security Studies, Human Biology, Nutrition & Dietetics
  • Teachers go for regular re-training,
  • We are the only University holding Teaching Methodology Workshops annually for our Teachers at the begining of every semester
  • We instituted Annual Staff Assessment which is garnished with private Assessment of Teachers by their students
  • We encourage scholarship by giving different Awards for deserving Teachers and students on an annual basis.
  • We establish a Genius Club for highly brilliant students where they are given the latitude to express themselves. An exceptionally brilliant member of this Club, Mr. Ernest Chukwuma, Jnr., a 300-Level Medical Student recently earned an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree, D. Sc. and bagged a Fellowship of the International Agency for Standards and Ratings.

Suggestion to NUC:

In the early days of Nigerian Universities, admission was based on a minimum of 2 Advanced Level subjects or HSC. The age long practice in England is that candidates must possess at least 2 Advanced Level subjets. In the United States, the quality is equally very high. In courses like Law and Medicine, candidates must possess a degree before been admitted. But regrettably here in Nigeria, admission qualification has been badly lowered that all a candidate needs to enter a university is a mere School Certificate.

 The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB:

It is important to stress that the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) was established pursuant to Section 1 of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board Act, CapJ1, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 which came into effect on September 7, 1989.

Pursuant to the law, JAMB has the general control of the conduct of matriculation examinations for admissions into tertiary institutions in Nigeria.

JAMB was set up to regulate admission into Nigerian universities. But unfortunately today, what is required to write JAMB qualifying examinations is School Certificate. JAMB comes up with cut-off marks which vary from one university to the other. While the cut-off mark by JAMB may be 200 or 180 in some universities, it can be as low as 120 or 140 in some others and yet all of them will come out as degree holders shopping for jobs in the same global employment market. Obviously there is need to upgrade admission qualification to improve the quality of those admitted to our universities.

I suggest that there should be a unified cut off mark which will not be lower than 40% of the total marks below which no university can go without prejudice to the right of the Senate to increase the cut-off mark OR we revert to universal practices by making GCE Advanced Level the minimum qualification for admission to university.

NUC Curriculum:

The world is dynamic and moving fast. NUC ought to encourage our universities to develop new curricula suitable for the developing world to be a clear departure to what has been in existence since the commencement of Academic works at the then University College, Ibadan, in 1948. It remains incontrovertible that since NUC came into being in 1962, subject to correction, I don’t know any university that has added to the curriculum except ABUAD which has added five new Programmes, i.e. Mechatronics, Social Justice, Intelligence & Security Studies, Human Biology, Nutrition & Dietetics.

Poor Funding:

I have always said it that education is too important and expensive business to be left to governments alone to fund in the face of innumerable and competing other needs to be met.  Today, public universities in Nigeria are poorly funded to the extent that the Annual Budget of Stanford University in the United States of America is far in excess of the pitiable and unpalatable N392,263,784,684 which Nigeria budgeted for over 200 universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education and the UBEC within the same time frame.

TETFund

I have written many articles and delivered lectures on this topic. TETFund is money collected from private and public companies for upgrading education. It suffices to say that it is discriminatory and unconstitutional to exclude private universities from benefitting from the money collected from people for the education of people who are going to work for the people.

Appointment of Members of University Council:

A University Council is the Governing and Executive Body of the university and it regulates all the affairs of the university either by way of policy making or by executing the statutory powers given to it under the Act. Unlike the Board of companies, corporate governance cannot go on in a university in the absence of the Council.

On account of the basic fact that education is a serious part of the development of a nation, appointment of Members of Council of public universities should be seen as a serious business too. I urge you to recommend that at all times Council appointments should not be a reward for loyalty to a political party in power. Such positions are meant for highly educated people with relevant background and who are ready to work without pay and make donations, gifts and endowment to universities.

Appointment of Vice Chancellors:

Just like Council members, the office of the Vice Chancellor is a statutory one. But what do we have today? Most of the Vice Chancellors of our public universities are favourites of the political party in power. In many cases, appointment of Vice Chancellors has been turned to political patronage. Vice Chancellors of Nigeria’s public universities should appreciate that the money voted for their universities is for development and not for payment of salaries, allowances etc for which they should be accountable.

Now to NUC:

To entrench good Governance and Management pattern, I suggest that you should recommend to NUC to ensure that action should be taken promptly on letters from universities requesting for verification of facilities. Whenever any Accreditation exercise is concluded, NUC should please release the Report of such within 14 days unlike the present practice where such Reports are not made available for months. In the same way, NUC should act promptly on Resource Verification exercise. We have an experience here where application for a Resource Verification was made in January but no action has been taken up till now.

Masters and Ph.D

There have been some instances of some public universities running their Postgraduate Programmes without obtaining any approval from the NUC whereas there are some others who are either denied or are compelled to wait for years for NUC approval to start the programme. In our own case in ABUAD, there have been some instances whereby we started graduating Bachelor’s Degree students some four years ago but cannot proceed to run Master’s Degrees simply because we have been waiting for NUC approval.

Illegal Universities

It is common knowledge that there are many illegal institutions masquerading as universities. I urge you to recommend to NUC a more drastic action on the proprietors or owners of such institutions.

Facilities in Universities and Adequacy:

The practice of NUC granting Operating Licenses to new universities without anything on ground should be done away with. Rather, NUC should insist that certain minimum level of facilities should be on ground before giving the nod for new universities. In addition, it is recommended that government should stop establishing new public universities, rather efforts should be made to fund the existing universities and upgrade them to international standard.

Uniform Final Examination across board:

Because of the lack of facilities in Nigerian universities that I have earlier spoken about and particularly because of the quality of students we admit into Nigerian universities, I would like to suggest that we have a common examination for all final year students and in all courses like is currently done in Law where the Council for Legal Education sets the same qualifying examination for all Law Graduates who want to be called to the Nigerian Bar. This will have immediate effect on quality of graduates we produce.

University Ranking:

I would like to suggest to the NUC that the time has come for it to start the ranking of Nigerian universities. This will checkmate the present trend whereby all manner of organizations which rank Nigerian universities based on what they do not see, thereby inflicting incalculable damage to our university system.

Data Bank

May I also suggest that the NUC should endeavour to always up-date its data base on the courses it has approved and run by individual universities.

I say this because we are a victim of that lapse here in ABUAD. There have been instances of where we were embarrassed by parents who complain to us that some of the programmes/courses we advertise to would be students are not on NUC’s data base even though this had been approved by NUC.

Conclusion:

While welcoming you all to our serene campus, we urge to take a critical look at all the points I have raised. They will help your Team. They will help NUC and the Nigerian University system in the entrenchment of Quality Governance and Management Practices. They will certainly raise the standard of education our universities.

I thank you for listening.

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