Evolving Issues In The Public Education Sector In Nigeria: Challenges of Pursuing Postgraduate Studies in Nigerian Public Universities

This is a guest post by a contributor who has requested to be made anonymous.

According to dictionary.com, education can be referred to as an act or process of developing and cultivating, (whether physically, mentally, or morally) ones mental activities or senses; the expansion, strengthening, and discipline of one’s mind, faculty, etc.; the forming and regulation of principles and character in order to prepare and fit for any calling or business by systematic instruction.

Postgraduate education in Nigeria has continuously produce graduates qualified in either academic or professional degrees. Graduates of postgraduate education are the lecturers and workers occupying high ranking positions in both public and private establishments. This is informed by their exposure to critical thinking and research geared towards developing ideas that improve the different fields of study. However, it is necessary to critically assess the realities of undertaking a postgraduate program in Nigerian public universities, especially in the wake of the incessant strike by the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU).

In Nigerian public universities, postgraduate programs are not regimented or strictly regulated like the degree programs. Degree programs have a specific duration of four or five years depending on the course of study. The Nigeria University Commission (NUC) is the government agency that is saddled with the primary responsibilities of regulating and approving programs offered by universities in the country. Its mandate includes ensuring strict compliance by university authorities in graduating degree students as at when due.  By implication, if there are no strikes or disruption of the academic calendar and a student does not have cause to repeat an academic semester or year such a student should be able to graduate without any hindrance as specified by the course duration.

However, postgraduate programs do not enjoy this same result-oriented approach in regulation and management. The programs are structured to be less cumbersome and flexible to a certain extent and this was meant to accommodate the tasking schedules of an average postgraduate student, who could either be working or job hunting in most cases.

Basically, the course duration for a MSc. program is two years while the duration of a PhD program is a minimum of three years. But the realities about postgraduate programs in most Nigerian public tertiary institutions show that students could stay on these programs for limitless number of years, due to factors which are unsavory.  It is obvious that the extension in the specified duration of the postgraduate programs is frequently influenced by student’s unpreparedness and negligence in the cause of the study. Funding could also be a consequential encumbrance in completing the program within the specified years. Hence, postgraduate researches in Nigerian universities are not groundbreaking and impactful because the student researchers are unlikely to have access to monetary grants which are vital in researches of this nature.  In an unusual case of grant availability, it’s either a major chunk of the fund is held back by the host institution or program supervisors while the student is left with insufficient amount from the grant to complete the research.

It is also necessary to emphasize the role of supervisors in ensuring that students complete their programs within the stipulated time frame, after these students must have met the stipulated requirements as spelt out by their host institutions. The typical trend in most Nigerian public universities is that supervisors define the conditions appropriate for the completion of these programs in accordance with their own whims and caprices. Supervisors take advantage of the flexibility and the laxities in the regulation of postgraduate studies to hold students back using all manners of delay tactics. Postgraduate studies are deliberately not given effective monitoring as compared to degree programs because the supervisors and administrators of postgraduate programs are products of that same flawed system that is not result-oriented.

Possibly, some of these supervisors have biased mindsets and see their postgraduate students as potential threats to their career. With this delusional insecurity on the part of some of these supervisors the students are made to go through unnecessary barriers in their studies in an effort to frustrate them out of the programs. An average Nigerian academic supervisor is frightened by competition from those he or she perceives as a potential replacement to him or her at work. A doctoral student in architecture who was being supervised by one the foremost professors of architecture in Nigeria had to abandon his PhD program because the supervisor deliberately refused to peruse his post-survey report for a long period of time, even though the student happened to be a lecturer in that same department with the professor. Despite the unprecedented achievements of this professor in the study of architecture in the country and the Nigerian construction industry. The doctoral student through a TETFUND grant was able to travel out of the country to recommence his doctorate program. Obviously, this was a needless offshore spending which could have been spent more efficiently and effectively in upgrading tertiary education in the country.

There are other instances where postgraduate students were frustrated out of their programs because supervisors want to take ownership of their students’ research work without giving credence to the students. There was a case of an MSc student who was delayed for seven years simply because the supervisor was marveled by the unimaginable groundbreaking feat achieved by the researcher. The supervisor believed that when the student is victimized through unwarranted delays he will be forced to abandon the program and this supervisor who was untouchable will take credit for the research. It took the intervention of the postgraduate students’ body and the vice chancellor of the affected institution before the student was allowed to graduate.

Most Nigerians planning to undertake postgraduate studies prefer traveling out of the country because they are sure that with hard work and commitment from them they will graduate within the specified duration. Some Nigerian students who have been to Malaysia to study are usually challenged by the country’s citizens – why are they flocking into Malaysia for their postgraduate studies? In spite of the long travelling hours between Nigeria and Malaysia, the different time zones between the two countries, and the huge availability of human resources in the Nigerians tertiary institutions.

Due to this negligence in the postgraduate studies provision in Nigeria, the country is massively exporting prosperity, creativity and ingenuous ideas that would have helped in catalyzing developments both in the education sector and the Nigerian society to other countries. Our strength as a country lies in the resourcefulness, diversity and capacity of the Nigerian population which is expected to be nurtured by institutions of higher institution of learning through academic research and studies.

Therefore, if we are wondering or theorising on why Nigerian higher education is still tottering – the reasons are not far-fetched, we just have to look inward and rethink our ways of managing the education system. It is every easy for the lecturers to always put the blame at the doorsteps of the government without considering the critical roles they have to play in re-positioning the tertiary education sector of the country in becoming results-driven.

This article was edited by Abdulghaniy Kayode Otukogbe.The facts, opinions, views or positions expressed or established in guest posts represent that of the writers and not necessarily of www.edusounds.com.ng.  

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1 Comment

  • I wish I couldn’t agree with the writer. He was so on point!
    I have a friend who had tried to bag an M. Sc unsuccessfully from two universities in this country. He had to do it outside the country. Now he left because he could afford it or probably got financed. What happens to those who couldn’t?

    Then what of those that wanted to do postgraduate courses just for doing sake?

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