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Varsities Talk: Vacancies everywhere in Nigerian universities (2)

BY Dele Sobowale

Read the first part here

“Those having torches will pass them on to others.” Plato 427-347 B.C.

Courses in Business Administration, especially Marketing, provide another example. The NUC had made it mandatory for every university to introduce a course in Entrepreneurship – in order to encourage graduates of Nigerian universities to embrace self-employment. To begin with, the assumption that everybody can be an entrepreneur is not supported by any research. And, the fault in the assumption can be demonstrated by asking: if everybody sets up his business, who will be the employee? Clearly, not everyone is gifted to be an entrepreneur.

However, even if everybody can be self-employed, then everybody must accept the dictum by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850-1894, “Every one lives by selling something.” Selling is a sub-subject under Marketing and no institution can claim to train students in Business Administration or Entrepreneurship without providing them with the ability to market their products and ideas. I was at one of Nigeria’s best private universities last year, and the students were show-casing their “products” for stakeholders on Founder’s Day. Impressive as some of the products were, I soon discovered that there was no single Marketing Plan for any of them. I then asked for the Marketing Lecturer. There was none. One of the economics professors doubles as lecturer for Marketing. I have since discovered that the same is true of most of our universities. There are no Marketing experts to teach the subject. They are turning out graduates in Business Administration who don’t know that all businesses survive by selling something…

The first part of this series ended with the observation “I have since discovered that the same in true of most universities. There are no Marketing experts to teach the subject”. Almost every university advertising vacancies for admission to read Business Administration in Nigeria today is probably offering a sub-standard product. And no aspect of Business Education demonstrates this better than Marketing because even professional organizations – hospitals, hotels, supermarkets, ICT firms, funeral parlours and Events managers and even schools, are involved in Marketing/Sales as much as Unilever or Nestle or Samsung. Unfortunately, our universities are not even aware that they are Marketing organizations.

They are saved from their collective and individual ignorance by the erroneous and pervasive feeling that there is a shortage of vacancies for students wanting to attend universities in Nigeria. In reality, what we have done is to lower the standards for admission, on the basis of the Federal Character principle, as to inflate the number of student eligible for admission. Close to half of the students we send to universities, particularly state universities in some states, have no business there. The scarcity of opportunity is totally artificial.

If not for the artificial scarcity, our universities would have been forced to compete for students to attend the institutions and the students and parents would have been more careful in the selection of universities. So, when the subject is Marketing, as part of the Business Administration curriculum, the universities are trying, almost without success, to give what they don’t have.

For instance, one private university, in one of the states, maintains an office in Lagos – mainly to recruit students for the institution. Two years on the job and the Marketing officer had succeeded in bringing in five students. The others went in on their own. A short discussion with the Vice Chancellor soon revealed why the poor performance. The VC and the school’s proprietor had assumed that a good looking young lady, dressed appropriately, and given a car and driver, were all they needed for the students to start flocking to the university.

The poor girl had never sold anything in her life; she was recruited, after NYSC because she bagged Second Class Upper in English and spoke well. It took some time to persuade the VC that they have created their own problem. The girl possessed the basic requirements to succeed as a Marketing Officer for the university but she was far from being ready for the assignment. It was no surprise to discover that the university also offers Business Administration and the lecturer engaged for Commerce teaches Marketing as well.

Obviously, the insistence by the National University Commission, NUC, that all Nigerian universities must include entrepreneurship in their syllabus has created several vacancies in most universities which are not being filled in safe states and now unsafe areas.

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