March 13, 2024

What we need to turn education around – Prof. Folasade Ogunsola

What we need to turn education around – Prof. Folasade Ogunsola

Frowns that Govt pays only salary while the universities pay the rest
•40% of revenues from MDAs go to the FG

By Ebele Orakpo

Indeed, Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder with the way the education sector is being handled by successive governments. The youths are said to be the leaders of tomorrow; unfortunately, the future of the Nigerian youth is constantly on a downward trajectory due to the actions and inactions of those in authority. At the third TOPAZ ’88 lecture titled: Funding Education: Challenges and Options, organised by the University of Lagos Mass Communication Class of 1988 held recently via Zoom, the Guest Speaker and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, UNILAG, Professor Folasade Ogunsola, spoke on funding tertiary education in Nigeria, challenges, opportunities and way forward. She says that policies inimical to the growth of education should be reversed. Excerpts.

Fee hike necessary

According to Prof. Ogunsola, with dwindling government funding, rising inflation, depreciating naira value among others, it became absolutely necessary to increase fees.

“University fees have been pegged at about N25,000 (N25K) for returning students and N75K for new students for at least a decade. Around 2010, N25K was about $200. In 2023, the increase of mandatory fees to N100K was about $100. The universities had wanted to increase fees gradually over time but successive governments did not allow it because it was part of the promise of free education. What we could do with N25K 10 years ago, we cannot do now. It was becoming more and more difficult to run the universities and government funding was getting less.

So in 2022, a number of universities, especially FG-funded universities, decided it was important to raise the mandatory fees like ID cards and others.”

Dwindling allocations

Due to dwindling allocations from the Federal Government, FG, something needed to be done urgently. Said the VC: ”Over the years, allocations to the universities towards research, purchase of buses etc., just melted away; no more official cars for deans. Lecturers could no longer be sent for conferences, so gradually, the things we could do were getting less and less; we were caught between reducing government funding, a static student fee and rising inflation; it was no longer possible to run the university. In 2015, we got 10.79%, and in 2022, it was 4.3% of the expenditure despite the rising inflation.”

What we need

According to the vice-chancellor, to function optimally, universities which are meant to transform people and materials into value for development, in addition to adequate and sustainable funding, need the right manpower, equipment, facilities, activities and processes in order to meet the expected outcomes.

“We must also be able to forecast and plan ahead, but we can’t because we are just managing to survive.
It is recommended that for universities and education to be good enough, the country must give up to 6% of its GDP or 15 – 20% of its public expenditure to fund education. I’m not even sure Nigeria has spent 10% on education.”

How universities are funded

Speaking on how universities are funded worldwide, Ogunsola said it’s usually a combination of different ways which include: Government funding, Tuition fees, Research Grants and Contracts, Endowments & Donations, Income from Investments; Commercialisation of Intellectual Property; Continuing Education Courses, Professional Development courses and Executive Education programs (these are the major areas for internally-generated revenue, IGR that we have in Nigeria.)”

“Irrespective of the status of the university, tuition fee contributes significantly to the income and could be as high as 83% in some universities. In our universities, it’s about 83 % if government is to introduce tuition. Research and business concerns contribute majorly to university’s income. Teaching hospitals or healthcare services are the largest sources of fund generation in universities in the US; we need to look again at the policy that separated our teaching hospitals from our universities. Personnel cost is about 43.9 to 60 % of the total needs of the university to run effectively and so this must be done.”

She noted that government funding in Nigeria is usually used to pay salaries, regretting that the private sector is suspicious of anything government,”so they don’t want to invest a lot but we have found a way around it, we just ask them to do something; they don’t have to give us money, and that works.

“For universities with healthcare facilities such as UNILAG with LUTH, most of their income comes from healthcare services but around 1977, under the Obasanjo military regime, there were some challenges which led to the uncoupling of all teaching hospitals from the universities and the universities could no longer access the funds.”


“Prof. Ogunsola noted that although income from investments used to be great “but when President Buhari came in, he transferred all income into the Treasury Single Account, TSA which meant that all endowments, prizes and scholarships, went into the Central Bank and the money was not getting any interest with which to run the investments. It took us two years to get our endowments out of the TSA and when it came out, we were not allowed to put it anywhere but in treasury bills which were down; about 1%, for 3, 4 years so we had to convert our prizes that were in perpetuity to 10 years because there was no way we could run prizes and endow chairs as they were no longer gathering the expected income. As a result, the university in the last 2, 3 years, has been unable to do some of the things it was doing, like scholarships and prizes to about 1,500 to 2,000 students yearly, based on merit.

On Commercialisation of Intellectual Property, Ogunsola said that in the last five years, there has been a lot more innovation and patenting “but we still need policies that would support taking things from conception to market; not just within the university but from government. What you find is that when we develop things, we usually take them out of the country. We’ve had quite a number of fintechs developed here but the developers take them out of the country so that the country doesn’t benefit beyond the fact that it’s a Nigerian that did it. It’s after they’ve gone abroad that we start to celebrate them but while they are here, it is difficult for us to get anybody to invest in them. Today, that is changing, especially among the young entrepreneurs that have made it big, they are coming back to the universities and supporting and working with us.”

Cost of education

“Essentially, what the FG gives us is for salaries. Government has still not recognised that there is an intrinsic cost to education. In 2005, NUC calculated that on average, you need about N345,000 to train one student in the Faculty of Arts; N680,000 for basic medical sciences; about N1.2m for Dentistry, N1.3m for Physiotherapy, but today, they are paying N190K and we are still arguing about it.”


Ogunsola noted that Nigeria’s major challenge is its young population and the demographics of that population. “With 226m people, 70% of them below 30 years (158m people) and 42% of these are below 15 years so we have 38% between 15 and 30 years (86m people); these are the people that need to be educated. We must think of a way to educate them well.

“Presently, the university system just absorbs about 2m of all these. The 56 federal universities account for over 60% of all the students in Nigerian universities. Unfortunately, we are dismantling polytechnics and colleges of education and turning them to universities yet, everybody cannot go to the university.”

“Government policies, especially in the last 10 years, have been a challenge. University autonomy was severely eroded. There is a civil service order for MDAs that says 40% of revenue will go to the FG but the laws of the universities have always been such that they implicitly say that where any civil service rule is against the laws of the university, it should not work but under Buhari, we lost all those.

“Government keeps forgetting that the reason why IGR was introduced into universities was to ameliorate the reducing income from them. So as we improved our IGR, and government income went down, they turned round and said they were going to charge the IGR that had not even yet taken care of the deficits. Also, there has been a proliferation of agencies coming to the university to audit or check one thing or the other, and each time they come, we pay for their presence and then you are asked to come to Abuja so many times. We have been computing how much that takes out of our inadequate funds.

”The Education sector has been pauperized. We have a community that is poor, universities that are poor, with government funds going down. Something has to give. The people receiving the service must be ready to pay more; government must be ready to allow the universities grow their funds to support their income. When our funds first went into TSA, we came out of all the commercial banks. Before, when we ran our convocation for example, commercial banks and all the people we do business with, more or less underwrite everything, now they give token sums because they have no real business relationship with us. They had our money and knew what they could get out of it so it was a symbiotic relationship.

Way forward

*Address policies that stifle the universities.
*Our Endowment funds should be released from the TSA, that will allow us to invest.
*Appropriate fees must be paid for the universities to function well.

The true cost of education should be determined but even if it’s not determined, we can use the 2005 estimates by the NUC, so government can provide the grants tied to these estimates. Government can decide to fund 1,000 or 3,000 students every year. The grant should not be too far from what universities are paying now. They can then allow universities to open their gates and take in those who want to pay more. So a percentage of the students would be paid for by the government and a percentage by private funds.

We need to ensure that as we take care of policies, we must understand how much it takes to run the universities. Rather than say universities should not charge fees, it really should be about how do we support people to pay for what is needed for universities to do their jobs well because if universities are not doing their jobs well, we are condemning students to inadequate education which means yes, they have gone through universities but what type of education did they get? Will that really set them out to be truly independent and to really live well in the world when they go out?

*We also have to make sure we have good governance. In the past few years, some university council members have been card-carrying political party members most of whom see university councils as compensation and so you end up with all sorts of people in the council who are more interested in procurement, and not so much about the growth of the university.

Now that we have the BVN, the NIN and so on, it will be very difficult for government not to be able to see any account that is opened by university personnel. If there is any challenge, they can check your account so the fear that we had before technology has gone.

”We must also remember that people don’t have money and it is a real and present danger and with the 86m young people, we must really think about how to support families to pay for students. Government has committed N5.5bn to student loan, if the papers are to be believed.

State governments used to give bursaries, the universities already have work studies, we are also partnering with other industries so that students can do some work study or internship in their free time.
Then universities should continue giving scholarships if they have the funds. We aggressively seek scholarships from corporate entities. Government itself can give scholarships on merit. Then alumni support. A lot of universities now have a third deputy vice-chancellor – Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Development Services in UNILAG is for strategic partnerships, alumni, quality assurance and innovation because these are areas that we had typically ignored.

“Finally, as a country, because of our large population, we might need to explore other types of universities and may be invest more in some of these open universities so that we are not using the traditional campus styles that are really expensive to run and use more technology.”