Nigeria: How Higher Institutions Will Attract Foreign Scholars

23 January 2020

Awka, Bauchi, Gusau, Abuja — There are reportedly thousands of Nigerian students in higher institutions abroad basically to have good education. In the USA alone, there were 5,689 undergraduate and 5,274 graduate students in the 2018/19 session.

On the other hand, in spite the huge growth in Nigerian students abroad, there are few foreign students in Nigeria's higher institutions, a report of the committee on internationalisation of admissions into tertiary institutions in Nigeria, has said.

The committee was set up by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to ensure that the tertiary education system played an active role in internationalisation, including student mobility, partnerships and projects and joint research initiatives.

Presenting the report of the committee, its chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, said Nigeria scored low on internationalisation by virtue of a survey conducted by the committee in August 2019. He said of the 194 institutions that responded, there were 1,856 foreign students out of a total of 1,132,795 students. He said there were 437 foreign academic staff from a total of 5,604 academic staff in the institutions.

"Foreign students make up 0.18% in universities, 0.29% in polytechnics and 0.04% in colleges of education. The percentage of all foreign students in Nigeria's tertiary education system as at 2018/2019 Session is 0.16%. With regards to staff, the percentage of foreign academics in Nigerian universities is 0.008%, 1.64% in polytechnics and 0.18% in the colleges of education, an indication that teaching staff in the tertiary education system is largely dominated by Nigerian academics," he said.

The report proposed urgent action to be taken by JAMB to attract foreign students and staff.

A lot of stakeholders have said frequent disruption of academic calendar by a series of strike actions as well as lack of resources has, to some extent, contributed to the fall of the number of foreign students in Nigerian universities.

The Dean, Faculty of Clinical Medicine, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Anambra State, Prof. Emeka Ojiyi blamed the non enrollment of foreign students in Nigerian universities on poor infrastructure, remunerations and lack of funding.

He said Nigeria's education system 'is one of the worst' in the whole world because of poor education infrastructure.

He said both state and federal governments earmarked insufficient fund to the education sector in annual budgets and many higher institutions were struggling with obsolete facilities. And academic staff unions are endlessly on strike.

He stated that Nigerian Students excelled abroad and, ironically, come out with poor academic performance in local institutions due to lack of facilities.

"How do you expect foreigners to come here and study, without any learning tools, when they have state- of- the- art learning facilities in their countries? Nothing works here," he stated.

According to him, the only way to attract foreign students to the nation's universities was to properly fund education infrastructure.

Prof. Ojiyi also added that there was a need for teachers to be well renumerated to attract foreign staff.

According to him, "due to the poor infrastructure development, our universities are producing graduates that are unemployable, because they are not trained on how to solve the myriad of problems facing society, and no foreigner would like to waste his time in this country studying".

At another instance, Dr. Alex Anando of the Department of Igbo and African Culture, Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka, said foreigners were not studying in Nigeria due to inadequacy of available resources.

According to him, poor funding and constant industrial actions among teaching staff have discouraged foreign students from Nigeria.

"No foreigner would like to study in a country where lecturers are always on strike. No one would like to study in a country with poor infrastructure," he said.

He said to attract international students; challenges facing education system, including insecurity must be tackled and scholarships should be offered to foreigners to study in Nigeria.

A lecturer, and Programme Coordinator, at the Department of Mass Communication, Abubakar Tatari Ali Polytechnic, Bauchi, Abdul Ahmad Burra, said that poor standard of education, corruption in the system and strikes have scared foreign staff and students.

"Strikes have created an impression that if you are in a tertiary institution, you will stay longer than expected to complete your programme."

Dr Andee Iheme of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) also said that articles and other research works published by Nigerian professors were not up to standard and that there was a deep sense of insecurity in the society.

Dr. Iheme said that some measures to improve the situation included proper management of available resources at the universities. In exact words of the speaker, "If government is the one funding universities, then it should take more interest in making sure that the money earmarked is well spent. Some vice-chancellors have fleet of expensive official vehicles."

Iheme added that relevant stakeholders must review the processes of appointing people into management positions in the university system; the procedure for electing rather than appointing heads of department is out of order. He exemplified the case of a lecturer being popular but lacking efficiency in administration. According to him, most popular staff that do not have the competence to lead were those often elected to hold various positions.

"You cannot believe that there is hardly a Nigerian journal that is listed among the best globally recognised journals because of poor leadership in the system. The issue of appointment of a university professor also comes into play; procedures are violated. Again, the quality of publications coming from universities is not up to standard. A lot of them go to the internet and copy from others," Iheme said.

A lecturer at Federal University Gusau, Dr Nasir Anka, said higher institutions were not attractive to foreign students because of poor funding for academics and research.

Dr Nasir Anka who was also the chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in the university said for foreign students to patronise Nigeria's tertiary institutions, funds must be available to create a conducive atmosphere for learning, to favorably compete with foreign counterparts.

In a similar vein, a lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication in the Abdu Gusau Polytechnic, Talata Mafara, Malam Abubakar Gummi, said much of the activities in the higher institutions of learning in the country including courses were not adequately known to the foreign students because the institutions were not ICT compliant.

"The information about a particular institution is usually accessed by potential foreign students via internet and once this information is not available, no one would be on familiar terms with the existence of the schools and the programmes they offer.

"Let me tell you, one university that was founded more than 40 years ago wasn't fully ICT compliant until about 7 years ago. Apart from some students from the neighboring Niger Republic whose presence in the university is due to their country's proximity with state, you hardly can find any other foreign student again. This is a contributing factor to the problem.

"I think part of what will solve the problem is organising student excursion abroad. Why I said so is that when we were undergraduates, we went on an excursion trip to Ghana. The students there developed much interest to come and study in Nigerian institutions. This was largely through our interaction with them," Gummi added.

Nevertheless, another lecturer at the Federal College of Education (Technical), Gusau, said the choice of students was what determined whether they would come to study in Nigerian institutions or not.

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