Prof. Julius Okojie, the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), on Monday, said the standard of Nigerian universities was high in spite of their low global ranking.
Okojie, who said this at the opening of a two-day workshop on African Centres of Excellence (ACE) Project Post-Effectiveness in Abuja, said that the problem with Nigerian universities was low Internet presence.
It was reported that Nigeria has 10 out of 19 African Centres of Excellence.
According to Okojie, the Nigerian Research and Education Network (NgREN) is solving the problem of Internet connectivity in Nigerian universities, saying it will improve global presence of Nigerian universities.
He said “what has happened in NgREN is a big boom because of Internet connectivity to 27 universities; you can almost share resources, knowledge and findings.
“The people that do the ranking do not really visit universities; they go to the Internet and find out what you are doing.
“Whatever research we are doing should be sent to the Internet. Money is going into the system for research.
“I am not disturbed; my concern is whether Nigerian universities are meeting local and national needs; whether we are number one or not does not matter.’’
Listing some of Nigeria’s universities’ achievements, the NUC helmsman said the Redeemer’s University Centre of Excellence had tackled the problem of Ebola and developed a rapid response diagnostic test that could detect the virus in 15 minutes.
He said Nigeria could not have solved the Ebola issue if not for Redeemer’s University’s research; a feat which he said ought to have risen Nigerian universities up in ranking.
The NUC boss said “Ebola is an international problem.
“We have made breakthrough whether they rank us or not; but let us concentrate; we have to rebrand our universities, they are good.
“Challenge our students with students from any part of the world and they will always prove themselves,’’ Okojie said.
He also disclosed that the ACE World Bank-sponsored project had disbursed more than N1.4 billion to the 10 ACEs in Nigeria.
He said that the first tranche would be shared equally among the 10 ACEs to avoid delays in implementation due to low liquidity.
According to Okojie, the Project Development Objective (PDO) of the ACEs is to support the recipients to promote regional specialisation among participating universities in areas that address regional challenges.
He said the objective also included strengthening the capacities of these universities to deliver quality training and applied research and to meet labour market demand for specific skills.
Dr Tunde Adekola, a representative of the World Bank, said it was the first time Nigeria was receiving such massive support from the bank.
Adekola explained that the essence of accommodating state and private universities in the ACE project was to make it competitive.
He said the goal of the project was results, adding the World Bank would monitor it to ensure efficiency.
World Bank had earmarked 80 million dollars grant for the funding of ACEs in Nigeria, which would be released in tranches.
The ACE project was instituted in 2013 by the governments of Burkina Faso, Republic of Benin, Ghana, Cameroun, Nigeria, Togo and Senegal, with support from the World Bank.