A former university lecturer and World Bank consultant, Chinedum Nwoko, has urged federal and state governments to immediately put in place necessary platform to commence the process of granting the nation’s varsities academic, finance and administration autonomy, in order to put a final stop to frequent strikes by ASUU, NASU and SSANU.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been going on strike for a number of years over the same issue – government not honouring agreements reached with the union; yet, nothing seems to have changed.
Nwoko, who taught for many years at the University of Nigeria [UNN], Nsukka, Enugu state, in an exclusive interview with Businessday in his Abuja office, said granting universities autonomy and introduction of tuition fees in public varsities will improve educational output, that allows various institutions to deliver more competent graduates and higher quality research methodology as well as putting an end to the issue of government not honouring an agreement with varsities unions in tertiary institutions.
Nwoko, who is also consulting chief executive, DT Policy Associates, believe that as long as tuition in public universities is free, the problem will continue, adding that tertiary education should not be free. “Tuition is free in federal universities in Nigeria and that is a problem because there is no free lunch in education,” he said, stressing; “students are the future hope of their families and the nation, so they should be the centre of gravity of the university system and should not be made to suffer.”
He said: ‘’There is sufficient evidence to suggest that autonomy for universities would provide better educational outcomes and have a direct impact on labour market productivity. Government can’t fund public varsities education any longer. In the past, there were five varsities, today there are no fewer than 81 federal and state varsities. Let each university appoints its VC as well as governing council and determines how each of these varsities should be run.
According to Nwoko, ‘’universities autonomy, specifically in reference to academic approach, staffing, internal decision-making, and financial practices, in combination with proper funding, is likely to enable universities to produce graduates with better competencies and to enhance both the quality and quantity of research output.