Ibadan, the best!
THE emergence of the University of Ibadan (UI) as the best university in Nigeria and the eighth in Africa, the other day, rightly evokes the hope that the lot of the nation’s tertiary educational sector is not beyond redemption.
The development shows that the much-lamented decline in the standard of education can be halted and the sector made to be among the best not only in Africa but the entire world.
This success, however, should not be a brief interlude that only illuminates the dark night of the nation’s educational sector. Rather, it must be sustained by UI and replicated by other universities to make it a permanent feature of the nation’s tertiary education.
But for the sad days that have befallen the nation’s educational sector, this ranking of African universities and other higher institutions conducted by Journals Consortium on 1,447 higher institutions would not have been as momentous as it is now.
But for those days of the locust, UI should have done better than this and become a centre of academic excellence not only to be assessed side by side with other universities in Africa but those from the other continents of the world.
This is because UI which was established in 1948 as the first university in Nigeria once attained a level at par with the best in the world.
It attracted the best teachers and students from different parts of the world and it was not surprising that the best of Nigerian professionals filling the civil service and other sectors of the economy shortly after independence in 1960 were products of the university.
However, as part of the general decay in the Nigerian society, UI like other universities in the country lost this trajectory of excellence due to poor funding and absence of right incentives, especially during the military era.
So, the return of the university to the ranks of the best in Africa while occupying the top slot at home could be seen as the beginning of the journey to recovery. For UI not to lose its current attainment and indeed surpass it, it must continue to adhere to those values that have nurtured this re-born culture of excellence. And other universities in the country should emulate these values.
No doubt, prime among these values is good leadership which has harnessed the institution’s human and material resources appropriately. The university has been fortunate to be headed by good leaders on the governing council and as vice chancellors in recent times. This has no doubt cascaded to the lower offices in the university.
Such leadership has succeeded in sustaining the university as a place of sound learning, teaching and research as opposed to a hotbed of acrimonious politics that often pits academic and non-academic unions against the management.
It is to the credit of the leaders that they have been able to sustain the tradition of liberality, universality that defines a university.
It is a testament to the competent leadership of the university that it has not lost the physical ambience that is conducive to deep thinking which shares kinship with breakthroughs in research. The physical environment has not been commercialised, sold to the highest bidders or dotted with all manner of ill-planned structures on the pretext of generating revenue.
Also, on account of that good leadership, the university has been successfully steered away from the path of dishonour, for instance, by refusing to commercialise its honorary doctorates.
Nowadays, one measure of the decay in institutions of higher learning is the tendency to confer honorary degrees on all manner of people as a way of generating revenue. The recipients of UI’s honorary degrees have largely been distinguished members of the society whose contributions to the improvement of humanity are unassailable.
Even at the departmental and faculty levels, this culture is evident.
This could also be seen in the sustenance of the tradition of emeritus professorship. Indeed, there is a fair blend of old and young academics which helps to sustain the culture of excellence.
To make academic excellence distinctly Nigerian however, government at all levels and the universities need to invest in education.
And in an era when government is hamstrung by paucity of funds, the universities must be creative in sustaining themselves financially. One way to do this is to leverage on the resources of their alumni.
In developed societies of the world where the appropriate premium is placed on education, alumni play a vital role in the development of their alma maters. Universities must not wait for their alumni to come to them but they should seek out their alumni and use their resources for development.
It bears restating that there exists a nexus between a nation’s development and the quality of its education. Therefore, the feat by the University of Ibadan should be seen by the Nigerian government and other stakeholders as an urgent call for more investment in the educational sector.
And while there is the need for UI to build on its success, Nigeria’s other universities must strive to be competitive not only with themselves but with their counterparts