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Alao explains yardstick for university ranking

BY DAYO ADESULU

“The quality of a university depends critically upon the quality of its average (human) product. The higher the quality of the average and the closer the average is to the best, the higher is the effectiveness score.”

Former Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos,  Professor Nurudeen Oladapo Alao made the assertion recently during the pre-convocation lecture titled: “UNILAG and University Missions: Past, Future and the Globe” held at the institution’s Senate House.

While explaining the rationale behind the yearly ranking of universities in the world, Alao noted that effectiveness dimension and the efficiency dimension are  basically the two dimensions of performance put into consideration by the rating body.

He said that the effectiveness dimension relates to the mapping between mission elements and institutional outputs while the efficiency dimension on the other hand, addresses the relationship between quantity value of inputs and quality value of outputs.

According to Alao “ The Times Higher Education (THE) global ranking body which publishes its results annually, addresses the effectiveness vector which endows with five major components for university rankings which include:

Teaching- 30 %, Research- 30 %, Citations Inf1uence of Research- 32.5 %, Industry Income Innovation- 2.5 % and  International Mix- 5 %.

Alao, Professor of Analytical Geography, discarded those who based the rating of institution on the performance quality on the basis of the quality of the “best student” in the institution saying that such assertion contains more information about the individual student than about the system and the quality of the average in our system. Adding that, the quality of a university depends critically upon the quality of its average (human) product as the higher the quality of the average and  the closer the average is to the best, the higher is the effectiveness score.

“For an efficient Institution, the larger the quantum of resources the higher is the effectiveness likely to be, he said.
Analysing the THE scoring scheme, Alao noted that the body  gives equal weighting to teaching and research, namely 30 per cent each stressing that this proportion is not radically different from that used by UNILAG over the decades in making professorial appointments.

He maintained that a university which scores highly on efficiency when severely constrained by resource supplies (or funding) can record mediocre performance on effectiveness adding that Private universities should also seek endowments and donations and use such revenues not only to support high quality teaching and research but also provide financial assistance to poor but talented students.

In the quest to compete with global universities, the Professor urged first rate teachers to accomplish at least six goals which include:
To expose with respect to each course the essential themes and critical issues which define the course as comprehensively as possible.

To supply the concepts and techniques needed to conduct arguments and analyses in the course and to master associated literature.
To integrate the first and second goals so as to make the course systematic, coherent and cumulative

Constantly to engage the students and thereby facilitate the mastery of subtle relationships as well as encourage creative skepticism with respect to received thoughts and doctrines.

To expose unsolved problems and call attention to solvable special cases of such general problems.

To develop graduated exercises which both challenge the students problem solving capabilities and reinforce their learning process.

One big moral of the international ranking process says the Professor, is that universities cannot afford to take teaching casually maintaining that useful information on teaching quality can be obtained from at least three sources: external examiners’ reports; peer evaluation and student’ inputs adding that Publication quality is often measured by the quality of the journal outlet or that of the publishers as well as the frequency of citations.

Speaking further on how to assess a university performance, Alao pointed out that institution performance could be assessed  vis-a-vis its mission. Using UNILAG as example, he  reiterated that the mission statements which is the objectives and the driving force of the school include the  following:

*to encourage the advancement of learning and to hold out to all persons without distinction of race, creed, sex or political conviction the opportunity of acquiring a higher education.

*to provide courses of instruction and other facilities for the pursuit of learning in all its branches and to make those facilities available on proper terms to such persons as are equipped to benefit from them

*to encourage, promote and conduct research in all fields of learning and human endeavour and
*to undertake any other activities appropriate to a university of the highest standard.

“ This original mission statement, said he, emphasizes teaching, research and all intellectual activities that may be undertaken by a university of the highest standard. The university was conceived as a world class institution which by the first and second items of the mission statement must rapidly attain high global status.

His word: UNILAG came on board at the same period as a cohort of new British universities of the early 1990’s called plate glass universities. These universities bore missions comparable to UNILAG’s and set out on an academic paths that were structurally similar as well.

In certain dimensions especially student population growth however, UNILAG has outclassed members of its cohort. To take just two examples: Warwick and Sussex. Warwick which opened in 1965 now has a student population of about 17,000. Sussex which opened in 1961 has a student  population of about 10,000 (according to web sites of each university). UNILAG, born in 1962 now has a student population of 38,000 a figure which is more than twice the student population of each other member of the cohort.


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