By Moses Ochonu
Nigeria’s nineteenth century universities operate rigidly in the twenty first century. Here is a depressing instance of how the system’s inflexibility is hurting their financial bottomline, defeating the purpose for which they exist, and shortchanging students and potential students. An interlocutor, a stakeholder in the higher education sector, sent me a long, disturbing analysis of how rotten the university system is. Below is a tear-inducing excerpt from his long indictment.
Simply put, the NUC is useless as a regulatory agency! It is just another government agency run by a party hack…
“A student who graduates with a 3rd Class degree and who wants to remedy his course to get a better result would be asked to start from 200 or at best 300 level. A professional who has a Higher National Diploma in Accounting and wants a B.Sc. you will also ask him to start at 200 level. I know of the bizarre case of a chap who did B.A Philosophy and went on to do M.Sc. and PhD in Public Administration and was told he could not teach in the Department of Public Administration because his first degree is in Philosophy. Crazy if you ask me. He is now doing a B.Sc. in Public Administration. You can imagine the waste of time and resources.”
In forward looking university systems, not only do authorities count previously earned degrees and grades toward enrollment in a new program, they now even count work experience and skills towards the duration of a degree program, assigning value to work experience to replace courses dealing with already acquired workplace knowledge and skills. In Nigeria, a person who had previously graduated with a third class degree or HND and who may even have acquired practical work experience in a workplace related to their field is sent back to 200 level, forcing them to basically re-enroll for a fresh degree program. That is beyond mean. It is sadistic. These insecure university decision makers think that they will only be respected if they place any and all obstacles in front of people seeking to better themselves academically.
The last story in the excerpt is particularly grating. It is the classic illustration of man existing for rules rather than rules existing for man. It is more important to enforce a stupid, patently moronic principle than to utilize the expertise of a newly minted PhD, who is ready to get into the classroom and impart knowledge. And yet our universities are pathetically understaffed at the terminal degree level. This PhD is now going to waste because of a megalomaniacal commitment to some archaic understanding of disciplinary training.
Have these dinosaurs ever heard of multidisciplinarity/
transdisciplinarity? Have they hard that disciplinary barriers are breaking down and knowledge is being reimagined in new, exciting ways across the traditional boundaries of disciplines? Where have these impostors been? Why the heck do I need a first degree in political science to teach political science when I have a Masters and PhD in the field and have therefore transcended the rudimentary introduction to the field contained in the first degree curriculum?
I guess these 19th century “professors” would be scandalized to learn that, in the US, English, Philosophy, Journalism, and History undergraduate majors are going to Medical schools, Business Schools, Engineering Schools, and other quantitative and scientific fields to do Masters and even PhDs, while science and engineering undergraduate majors are enrolling in humanities and social science graduate programs.
These pretenders must not have heard that in the twenty first century, students can now design their own original undergraduate majors or choose from existing ones, and that institutions do not impose majors and disciplines on students. That’s how, in my university and in universities across the United States, you have students who double major in neuroscience and ancient history and, for good measure, add a minor in economics. I’ve seen students who are majoring in biomedical engineering and Romance Literature, and in law and nursing. Others have self-designed majors such as the economics of household pets, computer aided poverty modeling, the geology and chemistry of historical sites, medicine and mathematics in French Literature, Communication in medicine, or even medicinal practices of ancient civilizations.
Our outmoded universities are busy enforcing disciplinary conformity and insularity in the age of multidisciplinarity.
Tell me your own horror stories and your battle with the inanities and irrationalities of Nigeria’s backward and increasingly irrelevant university system.