Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Federal University, Lokoja, Nigeria. February 2016
Member, Court of Governors, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, October 2015 for four years.
UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN
MAIDEN SENATE RETREAT
EXPECTATION FOR THE UI SENATE AT 70
PROFESSOR EMERITUS, UNIVERSITY OF PORT HARCOURT.
website:nimibriggs.org Friday, 6 December 2019
The Road Not Taken.
Having performed quite well at the University of Cambridge Higher School Certificate (HSC) examination and that of the University of London General Certificate of Education, Advanced Level (GCE A level) in 1964, I had the wonderful privilege of being offered admission that year to study Medicine at the University of Ibadan (UI) as well as the University of Lagos (Unilag). The offer by UI even came with a note confirming that my Hall of Residence would be Mellanby Hall. However, like the fascinating story of “two roads diverged in a yellow wood” in Robert Frost’s poem of “The Road Not Taken”1, I accepted the offer by Unilag, rather on impulse than of any particular reason. To be invited therefore, to address the Senate, the foremost academic decision-making body of a university that would have authorised one’s degree had one used “the road not taken”, is a delightful occurrence for which I am extremely grateful. I thank the authorities of UI and wish to place on record, my tremendous joy at being here today.
From the rigorous antecedents and the meticulous care at its establishment, it is clear that UI had its path to greatness roundly cut out for it from its hinged beginnings in 1948 as a College of the University of London, to its adulthood as was heralded by The University of Ibadan Act, 1962, to its present state of maturity, beyond the signpost of 70 years. Many extol the institution as the first and the best2: insignias that require constant defending to remain at the top and to prevent rival claims and incursions. And it is in defense of these enviable accolades, I believe, that this maiden retreat by UI Senate is being held “to enlighten and properly induct members into the hallowed nature and business of Senate and its procedures…”, following the expiration of the one-year period of celebration that was declared by the vice-chancellor, to mark the institution’s 70th anniversary.3 May I therefore, and with great pleasure, extend my hearty congratulations to the management of the university for this brilliant act of forward thinking.
Aside from participating in the discussions of the day, I will contribute to today’s retreat in this keynote address by briefly reviewing the statutory functions of university senates and giving an example of some of the ways in which one university is tackling its responsibilities. Next, I will specifically examine the functions and operations of UI Senate, drawing from a previous encounter I had with the university. In the process, I will focus on the role UI Senate has played in the wonderful success story that has been the lot of this great institution. I will then make some recommendations in the areas which I believe, UI Senate should lay emphasis at a post 70 era especially in the light of current global realities.
Just as the Romans originally intended it to be, senates ( Latin: senatus, derived from senex: elder) are the highest decision making bodies of organisations.4 Accordingly, in universities, senates are the highest deliberative and legislative academic decision-making bodies of their institutions – universities having been set up for the academic and professional exploitation of knowledge for the benefit of society.5 Their composition, statutory functions and committees are usually defined by the laws that establish the respective institutions. In general, the vice-chancellors (presidents) are chair persons of senates while professors in the university, heads of colleges, schools, faculties, academic and professional units and departments are members. Senates function largely through their component units and committees and are broadly saddled with the responsibility for academic matters as they concern the students, the staff, learning, teaching, research and the community. Thus, senates determine eligibility of students for admission, formulate curricula for their teaching, provide the teachers and the environment and generally supervise all aspects of students’ lives in the universities including their welfare and discipline. Furthermore, senates determine students’ suitability for graduation in learning and character and approve the awards of honours, degrees and prizes as appropriate. Beyond student affairs, university senates engage in a wide range of strategic activities and policy making that affect all staff and all aspects of the functions and operations of the institutions including research and community participation.
Indeed, so crucial are senates to their respective universities that they are regarded as one of their universities’ most important components and so, constitute the largest group in the composition of governing councils of most universities in Nigeria – the bodies with the authority for the overall superintendence for the operations of the universities. For, it is the commitment to excellence and quality of the work done mainly by university senates that determine, to a large extent, the visibility, respect, acceptance and relevance of their respective universities including how the universities are ranked alongside their peers.6 Not surprising therefore, universities place great emphasis on the operations of their senates and through their visitors, chancellors and councils, to which senates are, in a way, responsible, ensure that senates run the affairs of their respective universities responsibly. A case in point here will be instructive.
A Strategy Advisory Committee (STRDVCOM) led by Distinguished Professor Peter Okebukola and of which I am a member, was set up by Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, Executive Secretary (ES) of the National Universities Commission (NUC) in January 2018 to advise him, among others, on the Rapid Revitalisation of University Education in Nigeria. As part of its on-sight visits to ascertain the state of affairs in some universities in Nigeria, the team visited Bayero University, Kano (BUK), 20 to 21 February 2018. The team toured the university extensively and reported on the operations of the various sections of the institution and concluded that the university was doing well from the various points of evaluation and needed to be encouraged to continue on the path of rectitude. The particular section of the report that covered the university senate is paraphrased below:
The team’s interaction with the authorities of the university revealed that the
institution is on course to achieving most of these stated objectives.
As is evident from the above account, purposeful leadership, careful planning and diligent execution of strategic activities as well as a collective determination by all to pursue a good cause is enabling the Senate of BUK to play a pivotal role in positively driving the affairs of the university as happens in all successful universities.
The 1962 University of Ibadan Act which transferred the assets and liabilities of the University College Ibadan to UI also set out the functions of the Senate of the university. “The formulation of academic policies including the organisation and control of all academic activities of the University is the responsibility of the University Senate”. Also, “the Senate is the coordinating body for recommendations from the various faculties and departments” and, as stated in the Act, senate’s composition is similar to what obtains in other universities. The Act gave some breakdown of the functions to include the:
The quorum of Senate, as stated by the Act, shall be 20.
It is within these guidelines that UI Senate currently runs the affairs of the university’s:
Thus, at a post 70 era and the first university in the country, there is none other whose fortunes have mirrored events in the Nigerian University System (NUS) as those of UI which commenced in the noblest traditions with strict commitment to quality and excellence and truly established an educational system for which the university was designed. The university, through its Senate resolutely inculcated the expected levels of knowledge, skills, values and attitudes in all who made contact with it, in one way or the other. Students’ intake was done through a competitive and credible process, while the best and dedicated individuals, from within and outside the country were recruited to nurture them. Staff career progression was through well-defined criteria that were expressly stated and peer reviewed internally as well as externally in the case of advancement to professorial ranks. Such a high a priority was given to research that between 1965 and 1970, Nigerian scholars, led by those in UI contributed the highest in Africa to the international literature in Science, Engineering, Medicine, Social Sciences and Arts.7 In the same vein, engagement with the community was conducted with the highest levels of probity, accountability, professionalism and candor as obtained in many university-operated activities like the University College Hospital, the university farm, the staff schools, various consultancy services and commissioned research. As expected, these results were often obtained through decisions reached at the university senate and accordingly, the respect and reputation of UI within and outside the country was high, its operations akin to international best practices, quality of its graduates, good and comparable to their global peers. So also was its research output and service to the community. Indeed, if global ranking of universities had been in vogue in the 1960s and 1970s, UI would, most probably, have been ranked along with the best, with a Senate that consisted of men and women of character and integrity that were strongly committed to the institutional goals and were acutely alive to their responsibilities.
However, things began to change, about the mid-1980s for many reasons, affecting standards. First there was a gradual, then rapid increase in the number of universities from five in 1964 to the current number of 173, including private universities, without a corresponding infusion of qualified persons with the right orientation and attitude to take on academic positions in universities. This opened the door for ill qualified individuals without the right calling to find thekir ways into the universities, including UI and possibly to its Senate also. Furthermore, student enrollment increased putting pressure on educational and other facilities, which did not increase harmoniously, to the point of dilapidation and abandonment. Worse still, funding, by which some of these deficiencies would have been ameliorated, dwindled and became epileptic. Then there was the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank-supported Structural Adjustment
Programme (SAP, July 1986) by which the value of the Naira, the country’s currency was abruptly devalued by about 200%, hitting the universities hard as they were unable to meet their financial commitments such as the payment of staff salaries as and when due and keeping educational infrastructure functional.
At the same time, all manner of malfeasant activities, including frequent disruption of academic activities by staff and students crept into the system and affected the quality of operations, graduates and research output making it difficult for UI and other universities, to maintain those high standards they depicted originally that earned them fame and reputation. These challenges and more, degraded the quality of a once vibrant, highly successful and profoundly respected NUS which in the 1960s and 1970s boasted of institutions like UI which was reputed to be among the best in the British Commonwealth.8
However, it will be incorrect to conclude that UI gave up completely on its pristine traditions and quality control measures even in the face of these daunting challenges. For instance, the university ensured that its programmes were accredited by the NUC and that it did well in the only Institutional Accreditation (IA) that has so far been conducted by the NUC.
That IA took place from 27th November to 3rd December 2011. A team, led by me, and consisting of six academic and two non-teaching staff from various universities in the country, visited various sections of UI and had extensive discussion with management of the institution. The areas covered during the IA exercise were:
Specifically, the team was to find out if the Senate of the university:
Some aspects of our findings and the report we submitted, especially on areas of strength, weakness and recommendations on items 1 and 2 of our Terms of Reference are probably still pertinent today and so, will be cited briefly.
In general, the IA team found that :
Some areas of challenges identified were that:
A few of the recommendations were that the university should:
Overall, the university did well in the IA exercise within the parameters that were examined by the team and the prevailing conditions at the time. The university scored over 80% and the team recommended that the institution should be accredited for ten years.
Recommendations were also made on how to improve IA exercise and on the urgent need to constitute a Council for the institution. However, the NUC did not act on the report and instead, put the entire IA process on pause. Happily, I am aware that the current leadership of the commission wishes to resuscitate the process once again.
The Great UI
Perhaps this is an appropriate point to reflect, if momentarily, on the resounding success of this institution as a university and the tremendous contribution it has made to the course of human development and the creation of better societies as a prelude to highlighting the onerous burden of history on it and its Senate now that the institution is in its post 70 era.
For, if indeed universities are established to enhance individual and societal advancement through knowledge generation, exploitation, innovation and creativity as well as foster the sustenance of societal values, then, UI is one university that has remarkably met this remit, despite the multiple challenges it has faced over the years.
The institution has successfully blazed the trail of the concept of a university in Nigeria and effectively popularised higher education in the country, showcasing its benefits for all and sundry. The operational structure and methods of the university, the institutional culture and traditions it has set, and its constant quest for excellence have become the yardstick for universities within and outside Nigeria. Furthermore, not only was the bulk of the workforce that saw post-colonial Nigeria through its days of glory in the 60s and 70s graduates of the institution, UI has remained the source from which many higher educational institutions in the country have drawn succor by way of teachers, administrators, scientists and much more. Undeniably, most educated Nigerians bear the influence of UI as was observed by President Goodluck Jonathan who is quoted to have said, “If you did not attend UI, somebody from your family must have finished from UI. If that is not the case, but you went to school in Nigeria, you must have been taught by someone who graduated from UI or who was taught by someone who finished from UI.
Therefore, you bear the influence of UI”.9 The distinction the university has acquired lies in the fact that its products, exemplary as they are, are to be found in all continents of the world as top rate professionals, writers, diplomates, technocrats, artists, academics, scientists and researchers among others, contributing outstandingly to the political, economic, industrial and cultural development of society.
Expectation for UI Senate
From the account above, the expectation for UI Senate as it commences a new experience past the 70 era becomes clear. The expectation is that the Senate should continue to drive UI to remain the flagship university in Nigeria and beyond in accordance with its historical antecedents. To do this, members of UI Senate should resolutely abandon those actions that bring disdain to the university, deepen the practices that make UI a preferred destination and launch themselves into a renewed commitment and determination to solve society’s complex challenges through scholarship. And this much was implied in the many speeches that were made on Saturday November 17, 2017 at the events to celebrate UI at 70, the Platinum Jubilee celebration of the university. Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, who represented Mr. President said Nigerian universities should play a major role in solving Nigerian challenges as well as training students to be able to cope with the competition in the world. On his part,the institution’s Chancellor, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto, who affirmed that the institution is fit to be regarded in Nigeria as “the first and the best”, stated that the university in its 70 years of existence, has indeed grown by all measurable parameters, to be an icon in the knowledge industry both nationally and internationally. While the vice-chancellor Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka assured that the institution is already repositioning itself to become one of the top five universities in Africa and among the first 500 universities in the world.
Let me expatiate further.
Two recent and widely publicised cases of university professors – one at the Obafemi Awolowo University10 and the other at the University of Lagos11 – demanding sex in exchange for better grades from their female students and the accompanying public revulsion and uproar typify the disdain and condemnation that some issues of human failings, such as sexual abuses bring to the university system, seeing that universities are meant to serve as conscience of society. Whereas a few cases occasionally hit the limelight, many, it is believed, go unnoticed even in instances where the transactions were perfected. Nor is sexual favour the only indulgence sought for in exchange for grades, as others include money, gifts and paid holidays. Apart from the scorn on the universities that these malfeasant activities evoke, they fly in the face of all efforts aimed at probity, equity, accountability, transparency, fairness and excellence – attributes that are fundamental to the operations of all universities. Furthermore, the fact that they occur almost everywhere and in almost all spheres of human activities is hardly a plea because society holds universities to higher levels of accountability. So, UI senate should firmly deprecate them and deal decisively with erring staff and students.
Academic fraud, in its various forms is another pestilence afflicting the university system bwhich the Senate of a celebrated university like UI is expected to tackle head on in order to make the anticipated quantum leap after 70.
Academic fraud includes:
It is expected of Senate to apply the wide array of available modern technology and other methods to fish out staff and students who engage in academic fraud and examination malpractices and to sanction them.
Finally, sight must also not be lost of the issue of cultism whereby gang groups of students and sadly, some staff, use violence or threats thereof – physical, verbal or as transmitted via social media to obtain undeserved favours and twat rectitude.
These actions, if left to foster, undermine and supplant university ethos, debase quality, and lead to the production of half-baked students without values as well as the publication of fake research findings.
Many would agree that the greatest achievement of UI is the quality of its graduates, a good number of whom have made it to the very top of their various callings, partly on account of the excellence of the education they had received in the institution. Among them is a Nobel Laureate, globally acclaimed writers, academics, scientists, entrepreneurs, professionals, administrators, ambassadors and much more. The fact that the university has achieved this level of success could be put down, among others, to how well the Senate of the institution had pursued its responsibility of running the academic activities of the university.
From the admission of qualified students with aptitude, to the recruitment of good staff to foster their development, the provision of appropriate environment for teaching and learning and up to ensuring the sanctity of all examinations, especially degree examinations, it can be said that UI has done well. Most of its graduates acquired the attitude, knowledge and skills commensurate with the degrees they held and were generally valuable members of their communities.
But the fame of the 50s, 60s, 70s and probably 80s have waned to some extent and UI has to bring forward that level of excellence it applied to all it did in order to regain the position of eminence as well as re-launch itself into the future to retain its relevance. And in this thrust, the Senate remains central because of its overall control of all academic matters in the institution.
The university should engage the future.
The document for the Rapid Revitalisation of University Education in Nigeria, 2019-2023 to which reference was made earlier, was prepared only after widespread consultation among students, parents, university staff, vice-chancellors, chairpersons of governing councils and other stakeholders in which their opinions were sought regarding the challenges facing the NUS. In response to the issues they identified, the following ten strategic goals were developed by Stradvcom to address them:
Put simply, the expectation is that in the near future, the NUS should have expanded its intake of students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and provided teaching and learning facilities that are of global standards, especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as qualified staff to nurture students for tomorrow’s workforce. The system should also be in a position to conduct research relevant to national and regional development.
To be able to do this, universities will have to produce graduates with skills for daily living and the work force of tomorrow where technology will play a dominant role in all human activities. In that environment, people will be hired for the things they can do with the knowledge they have and not for their ability to carry out repetitive actions which would be handled by automation. Creativity, therefore, will be a fiercely sought for skill. Furthermore, teachers will have to trained to meet the expected rise in student population in universities and research designed to solve national problems given pride of place.
These events are squarely within the ambit of senate and for UI they constitute targets that have to be met through a re-engineering of the teaching and learning process, using appropriate changes in the curricula. New programmes that will encourage students ability to think and create solutions to problems. Entrepreneurship will have to be incorporated to all programmes to enable graduates create employment opportunities rather than queue endlessly for non-existent jobs.
Fortunately, UI recently reviewed its Procedure of Senate and established a Business Committee of Senate to “prepare terms of business for the consideration of Senate”.2 This should free Senate of some of the mundane issues that take up its time and afford Senate greater latitude to address other issues that border on national and regional development.
These could include mainstreaming of the SDGs into the curriculum, monitoring the university’s strategic plan, international partnership, university advancement. As the revised Senate procedure allows it, committees could be formed to develop ideas in these areas for the benefit of Senate.
Furthermore, Senate should expand the horizons of the university through international collaboration, especially in the areas of research, the admission of international students and the encouragement of trans-border as well as open and distance education. It should leverage on the area of its greatest strength – its alumni and alumnae with their strong global reach and their involvement in the on-going efforts aimed at converting the brain-drain loss of the diaspora to a brain circulation gain through various diaspora organisations with interest in Africa.14
In-country alumni and alumnae should also be properly recognised and organised so that they too can be encouraged to contribute to the development of the institution. This is particularly true of the large pool of retired professors of the university who are also graduates of the institution. If taken on board, I predict a number of them will come up with brilliant ideas that will serve the interest of the university. A handbook of Senate’s decision should be kept and widely circulated to track compliance and progress.
In Act IV Scene III of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Brutus is reported to have remarked to Cassius: There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. This metaphor draws attention to the place of timing in the attainment of success in the affairs of men (or organisations). For the NUS, my view that this is a favorable time for leaders in the system to successfully address a number of the serious issues confronting the system so as to produce the fit-for-purpose graduate for tomorrow and contribute better to national development. This is so because, in my opinion, several persons currently at the helm of affairs in the higher educational firmament of the country, have shown strong passion and commitment to quality education.
Shortly after his appointment as Honorable Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu formulated a Ministerial Strategic Plan, 2016-2019 in which the issue of improving quality of education was made the centre-piece of the plan.15 He directed his subordinates to bring the plan to fruition. Furthermore, in October this year, he launched a follow-up plan: “Education sector Short and Medium Term Blueprint/Work Plan” which contains several issues that are relevant to tertiary education and I daresay, UI. They include:
For the universities, drawing up the plan for the execution of these plans became the responsibility of the NUC.
The current Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), is another strong pillar in the current concerted effort by the Federal Ministry of Education and its parastatals to change the narrative as far as higher education in Nigeria is concerned.
The fourth on this list of stars in the current higher education skyline of the country, is the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), who, since his return after his missionary journey, has resuscitated and given priority to funding academic staff training and research.
With these strides and much more, hope is gradually being rekindled in the NUS. But it is on the individual universities, especially their senates, that the actual hard work will have to be done – admitting the right kind of students, giving them value-based education in which they would acquire aptitude, knowledge and skills for tomorrow’s world as well as conducting the research that would advance the course of humanity. And who better to lead in this, than the Senate of UI?
Universities are institutions that are expected to exist in perpetuity. So, judged against the background of some older ones – Oxford (> 900years ), Harvard and Yale (>300 years ), UI at < 100 years can be considered a young university. But at 70+, UI is the oldest in our country and also one of the oldest in Africa. Furthermore, it has produced 232,225 graduates – higher than any other in Nigeria, and the highest number of Ph.D. degree holders and five Doctor of Science graduates – again, higher than what any other university in Africa has done. No wonder it was observed, as far back as 2011 during the IA exercise, that UI has great experience in running the university system and that it has an excellent track record. It will therefore remain a huge national asset and as one of the most accomplished institutions of higher learning in Nigeria and the entire Africa.
Thus, if universities are established to find solutions to human problems, then Africa’s challenges as enunciated in its Vision 2063 – the Africa We Want, the global issues of
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or indeed Nigeria’s current Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) which the county launched in 2017, should all be of major interest to an accomplished institution like UI. For the university has an immense number of specialists, scientists and thinkers constituting a rich mix of human capital capable of finding solutions to a good number of these problems. So, led by UI, universities in Nigeria and Africa, must leapfrog development in the continent to catch up with 21st century realities of the 4th Industrial revolution (4IR) brought about by globalisation and digitalisation in which robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, organ printing, 5G technology, internet of things and other forms of technology driven activities will drastically alter the way people live and relate with one another. They must also address the fundamental issues of poverty, disease, illiteracy, environmental rot, lack of opportunities and social dysfunction in which Africa is currently immersed.
The UI senate must continue to remain the driving force of the institution by graduating students with the appropriate attitude, skills and knowledge who will help Africa and
Nigeria to address some of these challenges. Designing curricula as well as programme and enhancing relevant research activities to meet the issues of tomorrow, remain the key to the solution of the problems.