Nigerians seek foreign degrees as local faculty quality flounders

Nigerians are showing willingness to pay for quality education anywhere it is available going by the increasing number of Nigerian students seeking admission to foreign higher institutions.

Poor learning environments in local public universities and incessant strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have stirred the interest of Nigerian students in foreign universities.

Public universities in Nigeria were under lock and key for eight months in 2022 because the Federal Government could not come to terms with the lecturers on issues bordering on concerns funding and revitalisation of the institutions, leaving the students to seek remedies abroad for those whose parents could afford the cost.

In a space of one year, the number of Nigerian students studying abroad, especially in the United Kingdom (UK), increased year-on-year by 63.5 percent to 21,305 in the 2020/2021 academic year, new official data from the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency show.

According to the report, Nigeria is today placed third behind India and China on the list of countries with the highest number of students studying overseas with a total of 21,305. India and China had 84,555 and 143,820, respectively in the United.

For three years running Nigeria has been in the top three of international students in the UK.

In 2017, it was revealed that about 75,000 Nigerian students were studying in Ghana and paying about $1billion in tuition, personal upkeep, and other fees; a figure more than Nigeria’s annual budget for all its federal universities.

Lamido Sanusi, a former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said: “Although there are no comprehensive data on the number of Nigerian students abroad, recent data have shown that there are about 71,000 Nigerian students in Ghana paying about $1 billion annually as tuition fees and upkeep, as against the annual budget of $751 million for all federal universities in Nigeria.

“The money spent by Nigerian students studying in Ghana with a better organised system is more than the annual budget of all federal universities in the country,” Sanusi added.

According to analysts, one of the major drawbacks of tertiary education in Nigeria is funding, as the government still plays a central role in the funding of higher education in both the developed and developing economies.

In Ghana, many universities are funded predominantly through the provision of education or research grants in the national budget. Besides, the state supports in the area of payment of salaries to university staff and provision of infrastructure.

According to a 2021 UNICEF report, Ghana was committed to spending 23 percent of its total government expenditure on education. And in 2022, the government allocated 23 percent of its budget to tertiary education alone, while in Nigeria, 7.2 percent was allocated to the entire sector. This indicates that Ghana’s allocation to tertiary education is twice what Nigeria allocates to the entire sector.

Similarly, according to macrotrends, a premier research platform, South Africa’s education spending was 18.42 percent which was a 1.11 percent decline from 2020. The education spending for 2020 was 19.53 percent.

Nigeria’s education spending for 2021 was 5.14 percent, which is 13.28 lower, but a 0.01 percent increase from 2020, and the education spending for 2020 was 5.13 percent, which is 14.4 lower than South Africa in the same financial year.

This means that tertiary institutions in Nigeria are far underfunded compared to their African peers, a development believed to be contributing to the migration of Nigerian students overseas to seek higher education.

Emmanuel Nnadozie, a professor of Economics, and the executive secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), called for adequate funding of tertiary education in Nigeria, for the institutions to effectively perform their roles.

According to Nnadozie, “Nigeria’s higher education has grown astronomically in size and has undergone a lot of transformation since its inception 90 years ago when Yaba Higher College was established in 1952.

“It is, however, unfortunate that its ability to act as an engine of growth and development is being challenged by the long-standing problem of inadequate funding.”

The professor said that enrolment in higher education in Nigeria has grown faster than financing capabilities, reaching a critical stage where the lack of resources has led to a severe decline in the quality of instruction and in the capacity to reorient focus and innovate.

“To continue their operations and continue to be relevant, both public and private higher institutions must come up with a sustainable financing strategy,” Nnadozie said.

Other experts in the education sector have called for the adoption of the education tax-fund approach to address the underfunding syndrome bedevilling the tertiary institutions in the country.

Read also: Fresh concerns over Nigeria’s rising number of out-of-school children

Ndubuisi Ekekwe, an alumnus of the Federal University, Owerri (FUTO), and chairman of Famisco Group, subscribed to the public-private partnership (PPP) arrangements for development as practiced in the Western world.

“In America and Western Europe, there is a clever tax system that stimulates rich people to give money to schools because the more money they give; they are offsetting their tax obligation in other places,” he said.

“If there is such tax policy, people will inject capital into the university system which will make universities competitive.”

Friday Erhabor, director of media, and strategy at Markelenz Limited believes that the tax system of funding education is a better approach to what is obtainable in Nigeria today.

“Government should encourage the tax system to fund its projects. For instance, corporate organisations should liaise with tertiary institutions of choice and channel their tax fund into handling some of the projects of such institutions,” he said.

He said that the reason there are insufficient funds is that about 75 percent of the total financial resources available to public universities come from the government.

A cursory x-ray of the Federal Government’s funding of education in this light indicates that education has been poorly funded over the years averaging just six percent since attaining independence in 1960.

According to the World Bank, tertiary education includes all formal post-secondary education, including public and private universities, colleges, and technical training institutions, among others.

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