The level of quality discussions that took place as the inaugural edition of the National Higher Education Forum in 2014 was quite surprising to many for two major reasons. First, it was the first edition and not many gave the organisers a fair chance to pull it off. The second reason was the low turnout of delegates relative to our expectations, given the level of efforts invested in organising it.
From the word go, we set out to do things differently. Rather than follow the trend of publishing a hurriedly written communiqués at the end every conference, that are hardly remembered weeks after their publication, we took a firm decision to compile the deliberations and recommendations that followed in a report for consultations, even by those who did not have the opportunity to attend. Considering the relevance of the report, we have chosen to make it available to every registered delegate at the 2017 National Higher Education Forum.
The 2014 Forum took a broad-based looked at a number of issues challenging our various tertiary institutions. The resulting recommendations are categorized under funding, governance and leadership, research and development, technology and innovation, business schools and entrepreneurship. Here below is an excerpt of the recommendations from the 2014 Report for your perusal. If you are in a position of authority (in government or academia), who knows, you may be inspired to kick-start the process of adoption and implementation of some or all of the recommendations as it relates to government or your institution. But it does not always require being in a formal position of authority to exercise leadership.
Funding Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
- Institutions are advised to measure the actual cost of delivering quality education per student. This will help institutions determine the exact value of funding required to run a successful institution, and will in turn, enable government determine how much subsidy to grant public Higher Education Institutions.
- Every fund granted any Higher Education Institution (from public or private source) should be preceded by a contract between the funder and recipient, containing a commitment from the HEI to deliver stated values and/or results as the case may be; clear execution plans should also be part of this contract.Governance and Leadership1. Chief Executives of Higher Education Institutions and other key executives must be exposed to leadership and management trainings long before they assume these positions as well as during their tenure in these positions.
2. The autonomy that the Universities currently enjoy on the selection of Vice-Chancellors should be extended to Polytechnics and Colleges of Education in selection of Rectors and Provosts.
Research & Development, Technology and Innovation
- Higher Education Institutions should establish Industrial Liaison Centres – this allows for implementation of academia-industry collaboration, which has become a known feature in Universities around the world. If properly setup, it will allow HEIs become research beds for corporate initiatives or new products.
- Research Universities should establish Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) under the Industry Liaison Centres to specifically handle technology transfer responsibilities. This TTO concept is not new. In developed economies these have existed since the 20th Century. The 21st Century innovation policy direction in developed economies is now geared towards creating innovation ecosystems, which seek to increasingly promote collaboration among businesses, academia, government, financial institutions etc to enhance innovation. Academia operating in isolation only impedes rapid innovation and competitiveness. This is the idea behind the UK’s Catapult Centres (funded with about £1 billion of public and private funds).
Business Schools & Entrepreneurship
- We need the establishment of more business schools affiliated with reputable universities. Currently, there are a few world-class Business Schools in Nigeria – Lagos Business School and Business School Netherlands Nigeria are examples. 10 or 20 more of such schools in other HEIs in Nigeria will no doubt positively impact the quality of education and graduates produced, and by extension, Nigeria’s productive capability.
- Every institution should make investments in areas like real estate etc. There are no reasons why mechanical and civil engineering departments, for instance, especially in polytechnics, should not own modern commercial automobile and furniture workshops which will service the needs of host community/city/state and at the same time equip students with practical technical and business knowledge.