By Florence Ebebe, Education Editor
Professor Peter Okebukola has listed Low investment, shortfall in research capacity and cutting corners in research as some factors which constitute drawbacks to the ability of African universities to compete favourably with their international counterparts in global ranking.
Other factors are, according to the former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC ), are weak attraction of international workers and students, poor utilisation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for visibility and poor data collection and management.
Okebukola, painted these pictures yesterday when he delivered the Covenant University’s 14th convocation lecture in Ota, Ogun State.
The former NUC helmsman regretted that universities in Africa might continue to experience the ranking challenge due to questions bordering on academic integrity.
He spoke on the topic: World Ranking Parameters: Matters Arising for African Universities.
For years, the erudite scholar noted, African universities had been contending with myriads of issues bordering on integrity.
The issues, he said, include proven cases of examination fraud, plagiarism across undergraduate and post-graduate levels, forged research data, spurious academic certificates and dishonest report of performance of researchers by their supervising officers. Others, he stressed, are: poor or fraudulent grading of scripts and altering of marked scripts for favoured candidates, poor attendance of lecturers in class per session, inconsistent academic calendars as well as compliance to the universities’ rules of punishing erring students and workers, among others.
Okebukola, a professor of Science Education, is happy that the situation had improved over that of 2004 when less than eight African universities featured among 500 universities appraised globally by the world ranking body – Times Higher Education, to the 15 listed this month.
Such spontaneous improvement, the eminent scholar argued, is not unconnected with improved investment in university education, especially by the private sector.
According to him, there is the desire by African universities to avoid the shame of low ranking, produce better graduates to drive the economy and attract international scholars.
Okebukola said NUC had come to the rescue the nation’s university education with the release of what he called “magic bullet,” a document to jack up Nigerian universities ranking on the global scenario.
The document, christened: “Blueprint on the rapid revitalisation of university education in Nigeria (2019-2023)”, otherwise called “Rasheed Plan” (coined after the author and incumbent Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof Abubakar Adamu Rasheed), provides 40 parameters which, if religiously complied with by the authorities, could catapult some of the nation’s universities into the zenith within a four-year target.
CU’s Chancellor Bishop David Oyedepo said the benchmarks for global ranking would remain sacrosanct and uncompromising in the face of integrity questions universities in Africa are facing.
He said: “We (African universities) cannot escape ranking. It cuts across every ramification of our life.
“Though we have heard some things about the integrity issues about our universities, the truth is those ranking bodies will not bend the rules because of us.
“Let us also admit that not everything about Africa’s past is bad; let us take the good ones, drive towards excellence and create a better future.”