There are a plethora of bills and proposals on the floor of the National Assembly, seeking the establishment of new universities in the country but a university don has described the proposals as counterproductive and unnecceasry.
Prof Bayo Okunade, former director of the Distance Learning Centre (DLC), University of Ibadan, said on Friday that the creation of more universities will further deepen the underfunding crisis rocking the nation’s educational system.
In addition to the nine federal universities set up in the twilight of the last regime, several state and private universities springing up, there are bills, proposals and executive suggestions for the creation of Information Communication Technology (ICT) University, Nigerian Maritime University, a Nigerian Defence University and even a Sports University.
But speaking on CEO Africa’s online TV programme, Community Today on Friday, Prof Okunade said these universities will only stretch the already limited resources available to existing universities.
“We’ve been talking about adequate funding for our universities and we know the challenges. Creating more universities is definitely not the way to go because they will end up suffering poor funding. And it is important to note that improving funding for universities is not necessarily about increasing the quantum of funds but ensuring the the funds available are properly and creatively managed”
Promoters of some of the proposed universities have argued that they are needed because of the specialised nature of the studies. Some also argue that the new universities will create more access to university education for those unable to get admissions in existing ones.
But Prof. Okunade disagrees, saying that there are more creative ways of achieving that aim without creating more universities. He advocated the shifting of a number of university programmes that do not require practicals to Open Distance Learning modes while other programmes that require practicals could be strengthened in the universities.
He said: “Creating more conventional universities can’t solve these problems, in fact they create more problems in the area of funding. The ODL system, with the huge successes we are recording, can accommodate as many students as possible. We just need to invest in it and make it work better than it is doing now. In England, we have an ODL system that has more than one million students globally. One in Delhi has up to three million. There is even one that has up to 10 million.
“As for the programmes, existing universities have these programmes already. Why create specialised universities in the midst of limited resources? You can easily adopt and channel funds to existing faculties and colleges. Is it ICT? Is it Maritime? Even defence, to me, is better taught in the conventional universities where the students mix with others because they’ll eventually be dealing with people. A regimented environment may not be the best place for them all through their studies. Even in some of the specialised ones like University of Agriculture, you have people studying Yoruba and English there.
“We need to properly channel the resources. Creating new universities is not the way to go”.
While advocating for ODL, the professor explained the only difference between Distance Learning and regular programmes, is the mode of study, as ODL is ICT driven.
“We just need to keep improving the system”, he said.