The Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities on Sunday urged the Federal Government to establish a Ministry of Higher Education in the country.
.The Secretary-General of the association, Prof. Michael Faborode, said that the proposed ministry would give the needed attention to the challenges facing the sector.
Faborode said the call was part of the resolutions at its conference on “Consultative Higher Education Policy Dialogue’’, held in Abuja recently.
“At that particular conference we said there is need for a ministry of higher education to look at problems of higher education different from what it has always been.
“Ministry of Education is so large, that we can divide it to tertiary education and other levels of education, Universal Basic Education (UBE) secondary education, there is enough challenges there, everywhere needs attention.
“But for a country to have left the gains of modern development, a knowledge society, you need higher education to deliver that.
“I think the National Economic Team has looked at it and supported such an initiative; it will now go to Federal Executive Council.
“And I think it should be approved because that is the way forward for countries that are moving properly on the ladder,’’ he said.
Faborode said the ministry if created would also serve as a fulcrum for the transformation of the sector.
According to him, there is global understanding that higher education is the driver of growth and development as it engenders the creation of knowledge and innovation which are vital in steering sustainable development.
He said these include reduction of poverty, improve global health and enhancing national and global prosperity and competiveness.
He said the higher education institutions in Nigeria had increased from seven in 1962 to 323 in 2012 and the universities from five to 124, this growth had not led to the realisation of the objectives of the institutions.
He said there were concerns that universities and university education were no longer promoting democratisation, nor laying enough emphasis on citizenship, resulting in their products reinforcing, rather than rejecting old stereotypes.
He said over the years, there had been constant restiveness, including violent confrontations, which characterised relations between students and the host communities of their institutions leading to civil unrest and disruptions to the academic calendar.
Furthermore, he said there were challenges of weak governance structure and processes in the Nigerian higher education sector.
“These have contributed to disruptions of academic calendar owing to the constant bickering between the Academic Staff Union and university management and government.
“This has stunted the culture of robust debate and collaborative engagement between government, university management and staff for a common vision and progress,’’ he added.
Faborode said that Nigeria needs to holistically plan the growth of its higher education system.
He said this was in terms of mix, typology and functionality in relation to relevance, niches, matching labour market, development needs and the desire to nurture globally competitive institutions. (NAN)