National President, National Executive Council, Delegates from Universities across Nigeria, Vice-Chancellor of the Host University, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, I congratulate you all for hosting the 2021 NDC. I salute my brother Vice-Chancellor, Professor Charles Esimone, for facilitating the hosting of this year’s Congress. Under its current leadership, ASUU has remained steadfast in its patriotic fight in defence of the Nigerian university system. This phase of the struggle, which began over 35 years ago, has brought many gains. Over the years, some of the gains have been eroded, and new challenges have emerged. At each point, the Union has engaged constructively with the government to ensure that they see the nexus between higher education and national development.
As far many of us are concerned, successive governments in Nigeria, have not given education in general and university education in particular the special attention that it deserves. At every point in the last 40 years, Government’s have had to be harassed, pressured and cajoled to see the nexus between education and national development. After nearly 40 years of funding inertia, the system has suffered so severely that it now needs to be disrupted fundamentally if positive gains are to be achieved. The current thinking on how our Universities should be owned and governed, the nature of our curriculum and how its operations should be funded is badly outdated. The statistical data on the subject matter, taking a cue from the Higher Education Participation Rate (HEPR), says it all. As of 2014, the Higher Education Participation Rate (HEPR), the rate of the population of a country eligible for higher education against the current capacity to provide the same, was 8.59%. The African average is 12%, while the global average is 34.45%. As of March 2021, there are 192 licensed Universities in Nigeria. The private universities are 99 while the public universities are 93. Of this figure, state-owned Universities are 49. The total enrollment of Undergraduate students is as of 2020 is 2,144,371, with the National Open University alone having over 500,000. The Federal Universities have 1,443,141 or 67.30%, State Universities 593,797 or 27.69, while Private Universities have 107,433 or 5.01%. Indeed the first five public universities together have more students than all the private Universities.
At the CVC, we firmly believe that creative and innovative thinking must be applied as new ways of solving an old problems. The Nigerian university system is grappling with inadequate compensation to staff, an unfriendly work environment, inadequate and, in some cases, outdated facilities, all of which frustrates teaching, learning and research. To cap it all, security of life and property on and off-campus have become a challenge in recent times. Some Universities have had to shut down their activities because of the heightened security challenge. In noting the appropriateness of the theme for this year’s NDC, CVC lends its voice to the need for urgent and meaningful nationwide attention to the current security challenges.
We strongly believe that our nation’s security managers should look more towards using technology for surveillance, intelligence gathering, and analysis. Above all, the material conditions that drive some of our citizens towards engaging in criminal activities have to be seriously addressed. With an estimated 10 million children out of schools, a 14.2% youth unemployment rate, one of the highest in the world, and a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) of 55%, it simply means that we are in a social crisis, one of whose fall out is the security situation that confronts us. Therefore, it is imperative that a resolution of the social crisis must go alongside the security challenge. While we commend the Federal Government in repositioning agriculture, completing abandoned infrastructures, and promoting an enabling environment for entrepreneurial initiatives to thrive, we believe that these efforts will not yield their desired results if the security situation is not fully tackled.
Some Initiatives from the CVC
On the part of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigeria Universities, we want to say you are not alone in the struggle as members of the university system. Our modest inputs and efforts are dotted here and there. We are currently studying the extant laws establishing our Universities. As you may be aware, many of them have legal gaps whose interpretations have had adverse repercussions in some instances. We are also looking at how best to manage the relationship between professional bodies who insist on conducting “professional” resource verification and accreditation of our programmes in addition to the one conducted by the regulatory agency, NUC. Our position is that these professional bodies can establish professional qualification/certification examinations after graduation for our products who wish to practice in their chosen fields.
CVC recently, launched EAGLESCAN, a plagiarism detection software and research repository, a month ago. The background to this software dates to 2011, when the General Assembly of CVC met to discuss measures for improving the quality of final year projects of undergraduate students and resolved that all Universities should adopt Turnitin, the industry leader in plagiarism detection software. However, by 2016, the General Assembly noted that because Turnitin relied primarily on global repositories, it did not help much in curbing cases of plagiarism, especially amongst undergraduate research projects. It then challenged Directors of ICT in Nigerian Universities to develop a solution that will address the shortcoming of Turnitin. EagleScan plagiarism detection software integrates global open and closed source repositories, local open Educational Repositories and allows users to validate titles, abstracts, primary texts and generate originality report. We are currently engaged in an open and accessible user test of the software, and from reviews so far, it has better functionalities than the Turn-it-in while other desirable functions have been recommended. When fully deployed by August 2021, its functions will have been improved to accommodate user experiences, and the cost will be affordable. We humbly request ASUU to partner with us to drive the promotion and use of the software in our joint bid to improve the quality and originality of research in our Universities.
In the past year, CVC have been working with the National Copyright Commission and IP experts from several Nigerian Universities to ensure the delivery of the model Intellectual Property policy for our Universities. Our major aim for doing so is the realization that in an increasingly knowledge-driven world, intellectual property is very important. Furthermore, less than 10% of our Universities have any such policy. We believe that its introduction and adoption will encourage universities and their staff to enjoy better economic value from their research and innovations. Universities will be on a better legal footing to collaborate in commercial research with external parties, and researchers will be comfortable knowing that their intellectual property’s efforts will not be shortchanged. A final validation workshop to review the draft will be held in November of 2021, and we will extend an official invitation to ASUU to be part of the project.
CVC is also working with some local and international bodies to inject new thinking in how universities can utilize unused spaces for commercial agriculture, especially tree crops that can act as a perimeter buffer; infrastructure-as-a-service that will improve universities’ infrastructure operations and promotion of the concept of alumni economy. On a separate note, we also want to put ASUU on notice that the CVC will turn 60 in October 2021. We intend to use the occasion to examine several aspects of University leadership in Nigeria thoroughly. ASUU, we believe, will play a key role in this event.
Let me conclude by assuring you that we, the CVC and ASUU, are in this struggle together. The Nigerian University system will get better if all the key stakeholders are on one page and are thinking together. The proprietors (Federal and State Governments) and private promoters, the regulatory body, the National Assembly, the Committee of Pro and Vice-Chancellors, the major unions, the various academies and the Professional bodies must have a platform where policy and operational issues concerning the Universities will be x-rayed periodically. We are prepared to partner with ASUU to forge this type of engagement. We are also open to innovative ideas, processes and inputs that enable us to keep abreast of challenges confronting us.
I THANK YOU for your attention as I wish you a successful delegates conference.