Daily Champion (Lagos)

Nigeria: Role of Tertiary Institutions in National Development


Lagos — I consider this topic as an exercise in critical evaluation of the contributions of private tertiary institutions both to the advancement of the cause of education as well as economic development of the nation. In order to properly address the issues involved, I have segmented this presentation, into four parts as follows: the concept of economic growth and development: the role of education in development, role of private tertiary institutions in national development while the fourth and final segment contains my conclusions.

The Concept of Economic Growth and Development

Over the years economists and public analysts have sought to establish the difference between economic growth and economic development. Is common knowledge that the trust of government activities is not driven by profit but by the social good. All its activities are aimed at increasing the quality and quantity of the national wealth which are the crux of economic growth and development. But what is economic growth and development?

Economic Growth

Economic growth can be put in proper perspective when we appreciate that all factors of production are engaged in the production of goods and services which, at the aggregate levels, can be called the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). If this is expressed in monetary terms, we speak about gross national income. Any increase in the volume of goods and services over a given period of time can be described as economic growth. For instance if the GDP of Nigeria was N500b in 2001 and this increased to N1550b in 2005, economic growth will be said to have taken place irrespective of how it was achieved and the impact on the citizenry.

Economic Development

But economic development is more fundamental than economic growth as it goes beyond the mere rise in real national income. It must manifest in increased standard of living for the citizens. According to the third National Development plan, "development is not just a matter of growth in per capita income. It is possible to record a high growth rate in per capita income while the masses of the people continue to be in abject poverty and lacking in the basic necessities of life, particularly in a situation, such as in Nigeria today, where the momentum of growth derives from a sector whose direct impact on the bulk of the population is small." In other words, according to an expert, development "must be a sustained, secular rise in real income accompanied by changes in social attitudes and customs which have in the past impeded economic advancement'. Development is synonymous with "those changes in the use of resources that result in potentially continuing growth of national income per head in a society with increasing or stable population". As the United Nations development Programme (UNDP) noted in 1990". The basic objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives".

By implication, poverty is anti-development while the alleviation of poverty can advance human development and create opportunities for sustainable growth and better future. Put simply, since development cannot occur without growth, the ultimate rationale of development must be to improve living standards and welfare. Within the context of a growing economy "economic development can only be defined in terms of the reduction or elimination of poverty, inequality and unemployment."

Making an analogy with an organisation, Inanga observed that growth is said to have occurred when an entity increases either in size or number or both. But its development on the other hand, is reflected in its capacity and potential to satisfy its needs and legitimate desires while at the same time, making effective contribution to the environment and society within which it operates. He conclusively noted that an organisation that successfully moves through the cycle of birth and youth to maturity is one that has grown and developed.

The role of education in development

Education involves the acquisition of knowledge and skills that can facilitate the process of wealth creation. it is about teaching, training and learning in order improve existing knowledge. It is about empowerment of the less privileged. It teaches the population how to catch fishes rather than give them fish to eat on daily basis. As a social resource, education defines the path of growth and development of any nation as it promotes innovation and creativity. It makes governance easy and smooth sailing as people know and discharge their civil duties. An enlightened populace is easier to govern than an illiterate population as compliance to set standards will be higher. Indeed, education eliminates wastes, promotes efficient resource utilization and by extension economic growth and development. Investment in education, in my view, is an investment in the future of the nation. That this is so, need no empirical validation.

The emerging global economic scenario depicted by advancement in information technology, rapid changes in production processes, increased globalisation of business activities, make investment in the knowledge industry, the most strategic survival option of our time. As one expert noted recently, "with the advent of the new knowledge economy, knowledge has become the important factor in economic life. it is the chief ingredient of what we buy and sell, the raw material with which we work. Intellectual capital - not natural resources, machinery, or even financial capital - has become the one indispensable asset of corporations. "Thus, the inability of Nigeria to make significant progress after nearly 47 years of political independence is not far removed from the little premium it places on education and acquisition of technical skills.

The Role of private tertiary institutions in national development

Considering the cost of providing qualitative education and the dearth of public sector resources, the government cannot and should not be expected to wholly shoulder the responsibility of educating the entire populace. It is in this perspective that the growth in the number of private tertiary institutions in the education sector finds great relevance.

Manpower Development

The acceleration in the process of economic growth and development requires that more skilled personnel are produced to meet the growing needs of the various sectors of the national economy. With the establishment of over 50 federal and state universities, 60 polytechnics and colleges of education since independence, the quest for higher education and skilled manpower had not been adequately satisfied. Yet the cost of running these tertiary institutions has become prohibitive and unaffordable. The government therefore considered it necessary to encourage private participation in education through such initiative as the licensing of the Lagos City Polytechnic. Thus, a major role of private tertiary institutions in the education sector is to assist to build skilled manpower for the national economy. One of the successes of this initiative is what we are gathered here today to celebrate.

Training players in the informal sector

Another critical area where private tertiary institutions have proved their usefulness to the national economy is in the training of players in the informal sector through the running of adult education programmes. As noted above, development is about enhancing the ability of production inputs to create wealth. Since a large proportion of the populace is involved in the informal sector, private tertiary institutions can render invaluable services by training most of these self-employed Nigerians in order to improve their efficiency and ability to create wealth.

Research and development

In an emerging business scenario in which success depends on the quality of knowledge, private tertiary institutions also invest in research and development which are crucial to the expansion of the frontiers of knowledge. Indeed, tertiary institutions must continue to proactively invest in research and development and make their results available to government as part of their social responsiveness to the society where they have their being. This should be in the core areas of utilising local raw materials in the production process; evolving ways of processing primary products before export; developing improved seedlings for the agricultural sector, etc.

To underscore the importance of this role, ICAN as a professional body committed to excellence, recently established the Accounting Research Foundation in its determination to expand the frontier of accounting information. As envisaged, the activities of the foundation have expanded over time. For instance, since the re-launch of the Foundation in 1997/98 presidential year, the Institute has approved grants to members and some academics engaged in research into accounting and related disciplines while it also held a non-fee paying seminar for researchers drawn from various organisations and tertiary institutions. Very recently too, the Institute endowed three professional chairs in accounting to the turn of N10 million each in three universities (Universities of Lagos, Benin, Nigeria) as a further demonstration of its commitment to the expansion of the frontiers of accounting knowledge. The Institute also awards prizes to best graduating accountancy students in all Nigerian universities.

Moral Development

Private tertiary institutions have critical roles to play in the moral and spiritual development of the Nigerian youth. Indeed, these institutions abhor not only cultism and other deviant behaviour, they also promote the development of moral and religious values. These are crucial both to the building of a virtuous society and to the cause of national development.


The thrust of this paper is the role of private tertiary institutions in national development. In my presentation, I asserted that since the ultimate goals of national development are the well-being of the people and their ability to create wealth, greater premium must be placed on the provision of education as this is strategic to the elimination of poverty, disease and want. Indeed, access of the citizens to education must not only be unfettered, it must also be a right. However, given the cost of providing the social service as well as the dearth of public sector resource, it was expedient and wise for the government to have encouraged private participation in education. AS has been demonstrated by this government policy, academic years have become more stabilized while the quality of education will ultimately be enhanced. Besides assisting the government to produce the required skilled manpower, the private tertiary institutions have been involved in research and development as well as moral rectitude and regeneration of the society. These are virtues that socially responsible corporate entities should consistently advocate.

Dr. (Mrs.) Okpareke, who is the current ICAN president, delivered this lecture at the Lagos City Polytechnic Ikeja-Lagos third convocation held last February 28.

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