The National Universities Commission (NUC), is in the final stage of a draft review of Nigeria’s university curriculum, according to the Executive Secretary of the commission, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed. Rasheed, speaking at a high-level interactive dialogue commemorating this year’s International Day of Education at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, said the move was part of efforts by the Federal Government to revitalize the country’s tertiary education system.

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His words: “currently, there are 172 universities in Nigeria. 79 are privately owned, largely by churches, some by Muslim organizations and by individuals. The others are public universities owned by the Federal Government and various state governments. We have a total population enrollment of slightly over two million in the entire university system, which spells a very serious problem; it is almost a crisis. A population of 200 million people with a total university enrolment of just two million translates into one per cent of the population currently in the university.”

He said another dimension to the challenge of access was the gender composition of university students in the country and their enrolment in core courses such as Engineering, IT and others. “This is one area we have been working on and at least for the first time in many years we have now succeeded in getting reliable data, which we publish and share with all our stakeholders. Well, I am very happy to say that in most universities, actually, there are more female students than male students, especially in private universities. In general, it is just about 42 per cent of the total population that are female, and about 58 per cent are males,’’ he said.

On the teaching side, the executive secretary said there were currently 61,000 academics in the nation’s university system out with only about 17 per cent being female. He said the government’s major focus now was how to attract more female graduates into teaching, especially in the “hard core areas of Engineering, Basic Medical Sciences, Environmental Sciences and Agriculture.

“But in the fields of Medicine, Art, Humanities, Languages, Education, the gender ratio is either 50-50 or there are more female lecturers.

“We have just signed something with Oxford University under which a number of Nigerian female academics are attending series of training. Next month, another group will go there to help inject more confidence and competence into the female academics so that they continue to be role models to our young children in the country,’’ Rasheed said.

On safety, the NUC boss said Nigeria’s university campuses were generally safe, except for pockets of one-off security incidents in some areas. He added that there was also a culture of academic freedom in Nigerian universities for both students and teachers to engage in critical thinking and develop their analytical capacities.

 

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