The presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, has assured Nigerians that if she emerges president, her government will transform the educational sector.
She made the statement in reaction to the ongoing strike by members of the Academic Staff Universities Union (ASUU).
Ezekwesili said that her government will convert the budgetary allocations to universities to grants in order to keep students in school and avoid strike actions.
She explained that there was a need to reposition Nigeria’s universities to make them rank among their contemporaries in the world.
She said, “One of the signature programmes of our administration would be TwentyToeRanking. This initiative will focus on the transformation of 20 Nigerian universities and to raise them up to the league of world-class institutions within a seven-year period.
“The other signature programme is Grant Autonomy to Federal Universities, which is a core policy change that can facilitate #TwentyTo-eRanking. It implies that our government will grant full autonomy to public universities.
“Our administration will end the current centralised control of universities by the Federal Government (or state governments over their own funded universities), which over the decades stifled their growth and performance.
“Most top-ranking government-owned universities around the world are known to thrive as a result of de-balancing of the need for accountability for public resources on the one hand, and preservation of their academic freedom on the other.”
She also said, “Granting autonomy to federal universities will enable institutional differentiations through a competitive race to the top of their performance in how they attract the best students and top faculty.
“The Federal Government’s current budgetary funding for such universities will be converted to annual grants that are indexed to accountability, performance, results. The overriding objective will be for our public universities to deliver qualitative tertiary education at cost-effective tuition for their students.
“University autonomy incentivises individual universities to pursue innovative methods of raising funds beyond tuitions and government budgets.”
The presidential candidate identified the need to grant and implement full universities’ autonomy, lamenting that undue interference by government was affecting the performance of universities.
“University autonomy will, especially, deepen research capabilities and building of partnerships within the tertiary education system. This policy will also change university leadership and governance, thereby insulating the institutions from political appointment of vice chancellors that has, over the decades, compromised academic quality and performance,” she added.
As a means to ensure that no one is denied tertiary education because of finance, she said, “Our administration will ensure that no individual with the requisite qualification and desire to pursue a university education is deprived of such opportunity solely on account of their inability to pay tuition.
“Our government shall design and execute a solid financing model that allows for students that meet the requirements for tertiary learning to fund their education, relying on a mix of financial aids, scholarships and student loans.”