In a wake-up call for universities to be prepared for the realities of the fourth Industrial Revolution’, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bayo Ojo, alongside the Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe and other stakeholders have called on government, philanthropists, and other beneficiaries of the university system to ensure that the sector is adequately funded so it can thrive and measure up with the rest of the world.
They said this at the Chief Arthur Mbanefo Lecture Series, recently organised at the Arthur Mbanefo Digital Research Centre (AMDRC), University of Lagos (UNILAG).
The lecture series which happens to be the first of many others to come, was themed ‘Realities of University Education in Nigeria: Are we Ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution?’
It was well attended by the Odu of Onitsha, Chief Arthur Mbanefo, at whose honour the event was held as a former Pro-Chancellor of several universities, including UNILAG; the CEO, Agusto and Co, Mr. Bode Agusto, among other dignitaries.
In his remarks, Ogundipe reiterated that the government alone cannot fund university education in Nigeria.
“Those who want government to provide high quality, free university education should get real. Population growth is too high; with five million addition per year, and government revenues are too low; with N50,000 per person, per year.
“Historically, universities in Nigeria have been over reliant on the government for funding. This worked when the demand for quality education was in thousands. Now that it is in millions, this funding model is unlikely to deliver value to all stakeholders.”
Giving statistics of realities of educational demands in Nigeria, the guest lecturer, Agusto said in Nigeria, students should undertake their undergraduate studies between the ages of 19 and 22.
“According to populationpyramid.net, in this age bracket, Nigeria had 9.4 million people in 2000. Currently, she has 12.6 million and she will have 25.5 million in 2040.
“About 3.15 million people will turn 19 years this year, approximately 2.0 million or 63 per cent of them will apply to universities and only 0.5 million or 16 per cent of those who turned 19 will be successful.
“The ‘4th Industrial Revolution’ combines digital, computing power, biology, and bio-chemistry to solve problems for humans. It is about using machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, black chain, robotics and the internet of things to scale and customise products and services to the needs of consumers.
“The revolution is changing the way we work and strategise. Are Nigerian universities ready? or how do they prepare.”
On how to prepare, Agusto noted that funding, academic staff, infrastructure, research, technology and quality of graduates in the country must urgently be improved upon.
“To be able to compete during the 4th Industrial Revolution, Nigerian universities must diversify their funding bases. Money must come from those who use the service of the universities; students and/or their sponsors, government, philanthropists who give gifts to universities and the investment income generated from investing funds currently surplus to the needs of the universities.
“To be able to compete during the next Industrial Revolution, Nigeria universities must provide professionally rewarding and financially rewarding careers to their academic staff. Universities need to carry begging bowls around to raise money from philanthropists to fund infrastructural projects. Most importantly, we should learn modern and appropriate research methods and how to raise funds for research projects. Nigerian universities must embrace technology to improve tuition and research, and must be intentional at producing graduates that can compete during this era.”
In his address, the Chairman of the occasion, Chief Ojo, admonished the National Universities Commission (NUC) to take up the challenge of developing a new curriculum that would pay attention to entrepreneurial skills among students, “which will ultimately impact greatly on efforts to generate employment and reduce the high rate of poverty in the country.”
While thanking the university management, Mbanefo reiterated that, “until we begin to see educational funding as every man’s business and not just the government, we can’t compete in the 4th Industrial Revolution.”