Why FG should fund state varsities – VC Professor Mohammed Akaro Mainoma
Is the Ag. Vice Chancellor of the Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK) who in this interview in Abuja speaks on autonomy, disparity between states and federal universities and his plans for the young university. Excerpts:
Do you think granting autonomy to universities can lead to better education?
What autonomy means is that organs of the university are allowed to operate as the law provides. It is not a favour to the universities. On matters of admission, examination, research, management of finances, the universities administration should not have any influence from outside. Doing otherwise will affect the quality of students, the sanctity of examination and ability to conduct research. Indeed, the administrators of the university will become bootlickers of government agents without autonomy. This definitely will not augur well for the system. We must not understand autonomy from the point of view of finance. The hindrance to that is the fact that government said there should be free tuition on the part of the students. Government, therefore, should pay on behalf of the students - funding the university is a necessity. The erroneous belief that he who pays the piper must dictate the tune does not apply here. They are paying for services that are heavily subsidised by the university administration. So, autonomy is really essential if the universities are expected to deliver on the mandates
of developing young minds and carry out advanced research to advance society.
Recently, the federal government threatened to stop assisting state universities in view of the increasing costs, does this portend good omen
for education in the country?
This is a natural consequence of the structure of governance. The Federal Government has the bulk of these resources and education is on the concurrent list. It is the responsibility of state and federal government. Strictly speaking, it is not an issue of assistance. It is a responsibility. So the federal government cannot abandon its responsibility. The products of the states’ universities also work for the federal government. Indeed, they are more in number in federal government establishments. A new arrangement can be put in place however, where states shall be accorded more revenue and the federal government can hands off all universities, including the ones that are today called the federal universities. The states can handle them better. Most of the federal universities today operate like the states’ universities but funded by the federal government, while some state universities are more federal in character but funded by states.
The sharing formula of the recently released 200 billion naira university development fund is 80/20, in favour of the federal universities. Is this fair?
Well, you can kindly recall that the intervention of the federal government was as a result of assessment of needs of the universities. Ordinarily, one would have said if the assessment were objective, it does not matter who gets what. The source of the fund is, however, critical if there is discrimination. If federal government is providing the funds, you will not see anything wrong if less is given to state universities. But I am not sure if there is discrimination on the basis of status of the university. The truth is that there are federal universities that got less than others, even less than some state universities. There are federal universities that did not
You were a former Deputy Vice Chancellor and now the Acting VC, what is your goal now that you are in charge?
My goal now is to reposition the institution for the provision of quality teaching, research and publications. I shall also lay emphasis on the immediate environment as part of our corporate social responsibilities. But for us to do this, we must improve on the welfare of both staff and students, we must institutionalise academic culture so as to bring about development and operate as a viable university. We intend to achieve this through public private partnership and public lectures. Doing so, we believe, will bring the university closer to the people and encourage participation. We shall also focus on research so that we can become a reference point internationally. Finally, discipline of both students and staff shall be improved. We shall not compromise on quality and standard in the institution. We intend to link up with institutions for cross-carpeting of ideas and knowledge for development of teaching and learning, we shall fund a lot of researches for both staff and students. We are already on this. Only last week, former vice president Atiku Abubakar donated 25 million naira to start a centre for conflict resolution and other issues bordering that. So, you see we are on a right footing.
Insecurity, inadequate infrastructures and indiscipline by both teachers and students are on the increase across our higher institutions, what are you doing to check them?
Well, on these issues, there must be cooperation and enough sensitisation and this we are doing. The cooperation from all is paramount in our desire to achieve the goals that we have set for ourselves. We are all important in this project; we must make sacrifices to make our dear institution greater. We have a security network that is very important and efficient, cultism and wayward behaviours from both staff and students are not allowed to exist. Even though we are a young institution, but we are proud of our achievements so far. Our products are all over and making us proud by the day. They make sure they also contribute to the growth of their alma mater. Only recently we met with them and they assured us of their readiness to intervene in critical areas when called upon to do so.