By Babatunde Ayedoju
A lot of people have heard times without number Nigeria being referred to as the giant of Africa. While some believe that Nigeria can be referred to as such, considering her size as one of the largest countries in Africa, and her population, others believe that it is a mere exaggeration. However, looking at Nigeria’s ivory towers, one may have a reason to give this status given to Nigeria as giant of Africa a little bit of attention.
According to Statista, an online platform, as at February 2023, Nigeria had a total of 170 universities, comprising 43 federal, 48 state and 79 private. From time to time, these universities, alongside thousands of other universities in the world, are scrutinised by certain international organisations, guided by certain parameters. Based on the results of their scrutiny, such organisations usually release a ranking of the universities that they examined.
Some of the organisations that rank universities globally include The Times Higher Education (THE), Shanghai Ranking and QS World University Ranking, among others. For example, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023 ranked 1,799 universities across 104 countries and regions.
According to their report released towards the end of last month, Nigerian universities had a good performance – University of Ibadan ranked third in Africa, coming after University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and Aswan University in Egypt. Nigeria’s premier university, formerly known as University College Ibadan, also ranked within 401 to 500 range in the world.
Among Nigerian universities, University of Lagos closely followed University of Ibadan, also staying within the range of first 401 to 500 in the world. Covenant University came third in Nigeria, 10th in Africa and found its place within the range of 600 to 800 globally. The fourth and fifth in Nigeria were Bayero University, Kano (BUK) and Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) respectively, which ranked between 1,001 and 1,200 in the world.
Around the same time, The Times Higher Education also conducted its inaugural ranking of universities in Sub-Saharan Africa where at least 51 Nigerian universities, led by Covenant University, Ota, performed impressively.
According to Professor Peter Okebukola, Chairman of the Nigerian Universities Ranking Advisory Committee, who led a delegation to the event in Accra, Ghana, “Covenant University emerged in the 7th position in Sub-Saharan Africa and the No. 1 in Nigeria.
“Other universities that appeared on the elite list and their ranks are Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (26th) Benson Idahosa University (30th), Nnamdi Azikiwe University (31st), Redeemer’s University (35), University of Ibadan (36), CRUTECH (37th), OAU, Ife (39th) Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University (43rd ), Adeleke University (45th), and Ahmadu Bello University (46th ).
“Others are: the University of Benin (47th), Landmark University(49th), Babcock University (50th), Ajayi Crowther University (51-60th), the Bells University of Technology (51-60th ), Federal University Kashere (51-60th), Federal University Lokoja (51-60th), Gombe State University (51-60th), Lagos State University (51-60th), the University of Port Harcourt (51-60th), Baze University (51-60th), Delta State University (61-70th), Elizade University (61-70th), Niger Delta University (61-70th), Abia State University (71+), Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike (71+), Bamidele Olumilua University of Education, Ikere (71+), Bauchi State University (71+), Bayero University (71+), Edo State University (71+), LAUTECH (71+), Lead City University (71+), NOUN (71+), Glorious Vision University (formerly Samuel Adegboyega University (71+), Veritas University (71+), and Yusuf Maitama Sule University, Kano (71+).
According to the former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, “the methodology of the sub-Saharan African rankings is on “five pillars- resources and finance (20 percent); access and fairness (20 percent); teaching skills (20 percent); student engagement (20 percent) and Africa impact (20 percent).”
Speaking about factors that affect ranking of universities, including Nigerian universities, Dr Gbenga Abimbola from the Department of Mass Communication, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, noted that there are many ways to rank universities, and one of them is webometrics, which is the presence of each university online, in terms of research and publications. He said that a university may have achieved so much physically, but if their online presence is poor or their scholars are not cited in other studies available online, they may have poor ranking.
In the words of the media practitioner turned lecturer, it does not mean that universities with good ranking have strong online presence alone, as they also invest a lot in their students and staff through trainings and fellowship programmes, “It’s just that they make sure everything they do is published online.”
He equally cited poor internet services as one of the reasons why Nigerian universities now tend to have poor global ranking, unlike in the past when some Nigerian universities ranked among the first 500 in the world.
Dr Abimbola also noted that not many African countries value research, unlike developed countries where governments and private organisations invest a lot of money to sponsor researchers because they know that without research, societal problems cannot be solved.
He stated that in Nigeria, except for Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), very little effort is made to promote scholarly research, and when scholars go the extra mile to do research, the government looks the other way.
Dr Bayo Fasunwon from the Department of Economics, Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba-Akoko, shared similar opening with Dr Abimbola when he said that webometrics is prominent among parameters that are used to rank universities. In his opinion, a close look at the top rated universities will show that they have a strong webometric score. He attributed the ability of some Nigerian universities to perform well, despite poor government investment, to dedication and innovativeness of staff.
On the other hand, Dr Adedayo Afe from the Department of History and International Studies, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, questioned the reliability of some of the organisations that rank Nigerian universities and the authenticity of their reports, saying that the only ranking that can be authoritative about Nigerian universities is anyone that is done in partnership with the National Universities Commission (NUC), because that is the agency that can give authoritative information about Nigerian universities.
He however decried the poor state of infrastructure and lecturer to students ratio in Nigerian universities, which according to him are a far cry from what is obtainable in other countries, adding that consistent ranking from reliable sources will help to put government and Universities on their toes.