Beyond AAUA’s Impressive Ranking
FOR the umpteenth time, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA) has been adjudged as the best State University in Nigeria, having attained the feat in previous five rankings in recent years. The university ranked 13th position among Nigerian universities, 99th in Africa, and 2,753rd globally, out of the 12,003 institutions assessed in the Webometric Ranking. The Vice Chancellor of AAUA, Prof. Olugbenga Ige, had attributed the impressive showing to the relentless efforts of stakeholders; staff, students, and alumni, despite the funding challenges plaguing the institution.
NO doubt, this development is cheering news to the management, Council of the university, as well as the Ondo State Government, who have paraded this achievement at different fora. For instance, the Governor, represented by the Commissioner for Education, made it very clear at the last convocation ceremony of the institution that he was very happy with the status in the comity of universities in Nigeria. Pleasantly, Nigerian universities have been performing impressively in their rankings.
RANKING of universities started in 2004, and was then published by the Cybermetrics Lab, a research group under Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), the largest public research organisation located in Madrid, Spain. Specifically, Webometric Ranking deploys four indicators for ranking, and they are (web) Presence, Visibility, Transparency (Openness) and Excellence (Scholar). In the 2023 Webometric Ranking, University of Ibadan, Ahmadu Bello University, Covenant University, and Federal University of Technology, Akure, were listed the first four best universities in Nigeria.
ANOTHER reputable organisation that ranks universities across the world is Times Higher Education, which uses carefully calibrated performance indicators to comprehensively compare universities globally, along five praxes: Teaching (the learning environment); Research (volume, income, and reputation); Citations (research influence); International outlook (staff, students and research); and industry income (knowledge transfer). The Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2024 includes 1,906 universities, across 108 countries and regions, reflecting the expansiveness and diversity of their operations. In the latest ranking, University of Oxford, United Kingdom, topped the list, with many other universities in the United States of America dominating it. Covenant University, Ota, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, and Federal University of Technology, Akure, were listed as best, second best, and third best universities in Nigeria.
THE Hope congratulates the Ondo State Government, Council, Management, staff, students, and alumni of Adekunle Ajasin University for the repeated acknowledgement of the institution as the best state-owned university in Nigeria by Webometrics. However, beyond the ranking, we must remind ourselves that the realistic status of any university is best measured based on many factors, which include the personnel, infrastructure, equipment and funding; all that combine to produce quality graduates.
TALKING about needed personnel, it is no longer news that Nigeria universities are being successively hit by brain drain, with the recent Japa phenomenon being a nail on the coffin. The implication is that existing staffing equation has plummeted, falling below approved lecturer-student ratio. As at 2019, teacher-student ratios in Nigeria universities were put at: Education 22; Engineering and Technology 21; Social Sciences 21; and Agriculture 19. However, the actual realities in the varsities show disproportional relationships between available teaching personnel and learners. This is not to mention the negatively skewed recruitment process that has left universities with more non- academic staff than the needed academic staff. No thanks to tokenism, nepotism, and patronage.
SIMILARLY, in term of infrastructure (Physical facilities), a well-ranked university should boast of good studio, friendly and conducive lecture theatres, well-equipped laboratories, comfortable office spaces and furniture, etc. There is no gainsaying the fact that requisite equipment are central to the training of students. It is disheartening that laboratories in most public universities are grossly inadequate and lacking in basic instruments for learning, as revealed in the reports of the Needs Assessment Visitations sent to public universities under Goodluck Jonathan administration.
ON funding, we are of the view that government alone cannot fund university education, but both Federal and State governments should be alive to their responsibilities, as proprietors of public universities. They should not establish universities without adequate funding plans. This is also to denounce the subjection of TETFund, an interventionist agency, to funding new higher institutions when the fund available to it is not enough to meet the yarning gaps of infrastructural needs in existing institutions.
THE Hope is unequivocal about the need for a holistic funding plan for Nigeria universities, through a well-recalibrated approach to the administration of Internally Generated Revenue, subventions from government, as well as funding drives and donations from alumni and philanthropists. University managers and administrators should take initiatives to engage good-spirited Nigerians to support their institutions with funding. State-owned Universities must change their orientation and avoid dogmatic copying of redundant policies that federally-owned institutions are given to, because of their ownership status and Law.
THESE universities must attain breakthrough in research and patency, to attract funding support and commissioning from the private sector and industries. Further to the foregoing, the recruitment process of Vice Chancellors should be reinvigorated. Any Vice Chancellor who cannot justify the proposals to attract funds, made at the point of his/her appointment, should have his/her appointment reviewed after two years, and shown the way out. Governments and industries must wake up to galvanise universities to be able to offer solutions to the challenges confronting the country and humanity. The desired synergy between gown and town must not be lost, for any reason, in the overall interest and benefits of the society.