Universities in Nigeria

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About universities in Nigeria

Nigeria’s system of colleges and universities is the largest in Africa, and students from all over West and Central Africa flock to the country’s many institutions of higher learning. In a country of 120 million individuals, there are 30 million students enrolled in schools. Given these numbers, the government of Nigeria has done an impressive job of regulating degrees, accrediting institutions, and slowly developing the infrastructure that is necessary for any improvement in a nation’s education system. Many of these schools offer advanced degrees at the Master’s and Doctoral levels, a rarity in sub-Saharan Africa.
Higher education in Nigeria is split into three sectors: federal, state, and private. The federal universities are generally the oldest in the country, having been founded in the years from 1948 to 1963. This time period, representing the last years of Nigeria’s history as a British colony, were marked by the growth of institutions designed primarily to serve British imperial interests in the country. With the coming of independence in 1963, it became clear that Nigeria would need its own independent non-colonial universities in order to develop into a self-sufficient modern nation. Unfortunately, the early decades of the country’s independent history saw a series of brutal and repressive military dictatorships, most of which viewed higher education as a threat to their dominance, and so the dream of a full-fledged university system was never fully realized.
The country finally achieved democracy in 1999, and has had a democratically-elected government ever since. This new government has reversed decades of oppressive policies in the country and made a commitment to giving colleges and universities the freedom and autonomy that they need in order to serve their students. Of course, it will take many years before the education system fully matures, but significant steps are being taken in the right direction. The Nigerian government has established a system of accreditation that is widely considered to be fair, and standardized tests, while onerous for students, help to ensure that the college admissions process is fair and transparent. The improvement of Nigeria’s primary and secondary schools has also enabled those schools to produce more qualified graduates than they previously could have, which has increased enrollment and demand for higher education.
There are two main challenges that Nigerians will have to overcome in the effort to improve their colleges and universities. The first is infrastructure – transportation and communications networks must be extended to reach more of the country so that education is accessible for all populations. Equally important is the improvement of the domestic educational workforce. Like many developing countries, Nigeria is in serious need of qualified professors and instructors who can teach at the college level. Since domestic institutions are producing very few qualified graduates (and those who do graduate almost always leave to seek opportunities elsewhere), the country lacks people to fill faculty positions at its institutions of higher learning. Improving post-secondary education in Nigeria depends upon reversing this “brain drain,” developing a competent pool of professional academics, and giving institutions the time and resources to develop under their own initiatve.

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