Speaking at UUKi’s 2021+ transnational education conference, the Nigerian High Commissioner for the United Kingdom, Sarafa Tunji Isola, stated that there was “a lot of room for improvement” for working with the UK’s largest TNE partner in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Our expectation is that the bilateral educational cooperation between Nigeria and Great Britain will be deepened”
In 2019/20, 4,368 students in Nigeria were studying TNE, a 20% increase from 3,615 the previous year, he said.
“Our expectation is that bilateral cooperation in education between Nigeria and the UK will be deepened using all system mechanisms and platforms such as the ongoing negotiations between UUKi and the Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities,” he said.
“I am very optimistic that the ongoing negotiations … will greatly improve our relationship,” he added.
“We want UK universities to support Nigerian universities through educational exchanges and other collaborations in their areas of research, capacity building and digital technology. These will improve the quality of education in Nigeria. “
The University of Sussex’s Deputy Provincial Chancellor (International) and chairman of the UUKi Sub-Saharan Africa Network, Richard Follett, said that scientists from both countries jointly authored more than 5,000 publications between 2015 and 2020.
In addition, more than 13,000 Nigerian students were studying at UK universities in 2019/20, he said.
Of the 4,368 TNE students studying for a UK degree in Nigeria in 2019/20, 3,655 were UK distance learning degrees and 80% of UK TNE students based in Nigeria were at the postgraduate level.
“There is potential for growth in collaborative on-site delivery, in working with our Nigerian partners, in rural delivery, and through mixed forms, especially undergraduate education, of course, but I think there is growth in the postgraduate level as well,” said Follett.
While trying to improve quality there is also a need to increase capacity – where TNE can play a role, stakeholders suggested.
“Nigeria has a higher education sector that is facing enormous challenges; far too many applicants are chasing far too few study places”
The University of London has about 4,000 TNE students in 48 of the 54 African countries, emphasizes Mike Winter OBE, director of global engagement at the University of London Worldwide, with Nigeria accounting for about 14% of the students.
“Nigeria has a higher education sector that is facing enormous challenges, with far too many applicants looking for far too few places, and there is a risk that this gap will widen. With Nigeria’s population of 213 million growing at a rate of more than 3%, it means that if it stays that way, it will pretty much double in just a few decades, ”he said.
With the establishment of the University of Ibadan in 1948, the country’s first university, Nigeria established itself in the post-independence 1960s and currently has 45 state, 48 state and 79 private universities, the Ambassador to Great Britain noted.
“Despite the apparent increase in the number of universities and institutions in Nigeria, higher education has faced all sorts of challenges,” said Sarafa Tunji Isola, with funding being the main problem.
“While private universities and colleges have been better funded, government institutions all need adequate funding to deal with the myriad of challenges that institutions face.
While budget allocations to education were typically close to Naira 5 trillion, N 742.5 billion was allocated to education in 2021. N875.93 billion is earmarked for the Ministry of Education in 2022.
“In other words, government funding for universities has been severely affected,” he said.
“This year’s low allocation is due to dwindling government revenues influenced by the low price of crude oil, which is the mainstay of the Nigerian economy in the world market, and the coronavirus pandemic,” added the ambassador.
“It is in vain that the NUC colleagues … begin to outline their government’s guidelines for the liberalization of transnational education”
Follett also pointed out the central role of the National University Commission.
“It is our declared mission to ensure the orderly development of a well-coordinated and productive university system. In vain, NUC colleagues… are starting to outline their government’s guidelines for liberalizing transnational education, and we look forward to seeing these guidelines widely disseminated once they have been formally approved. “
Sussex has worked with the NUC on capacity-building projects for over five years, he added, to work on educational staff development initiatives.
“It’s about maintaining and supporting locally rooted, locally anchored innovation systems, ecosystems that enable and promote transnational cooperation as well as increasing the strength and capacity of the Nigerian higher education system.
“Developing such an innovation ecosystem or system-to-system collaboration is absolutely critical in my opinion,” he said.
The University of London began a multi-year commitment to developing open and distance learning in 2017, Winter added.
“The NUC believes that online and distance learning are vital to Nigeria for one fundamental and very obvious reason; it is the most feasible and affordable way that the country can meet current and future higher education needs, ”he said.
“Nigeria’s plans to expand university teaching through the accelerated use of ODL are therefore extremely ambitious. You need to. But despite having solid foundations on which some institutions can build, the speed at which ODL can be scaled at the national level is inevitably limited by the availability of qualified practitioners on the one hand and institutional experience on the other.
“Our work therefore aims to accelerate this process by focusing on capacity building through personnel and institutional development and by deliberately targeting the support at upper and middle management levels.”