Un­cov­er­ing fake uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sors

The Punch - - EDITORIAL -

Pre­ten­tious schol­ar­ship in the coun­try’s uni­ver­si­ties has reached new heights with the re­cent dis­cov­ery of 100 self-ac­claimed pro­fes­sors. these au­da­cious aca­demics had up­loaded their cur­ricu­lum vi­tae on the web­site of the na­tional Uni­ver­si­ties Com­mis­sion with a view to con­sum­mat­ing their iden­tity theft. the NUC ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary, Abubakar rasheed, said the shock­ing dis­cov­ery was made dur­ing the process of com­pil­ing a directory for pro­fes­sors.

As a re­sult, at a strat­egy ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee meet­ing with vice-chan­cel­lors, the NUC told them to cre­ate desk of­fi­cers to mon­i­tor such abuse in their var­i­ous uni­ver­si­ties to en­sure that only gen­uine pro­fes­sors go by the ex­alted ti­tle. Pro­fes­sor­ship is the high­est aca­demic hon­our in a uni­ver­sity, ac­corded only to lec­tur­ers who have made out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to knowl­edge through schol­arly re­search and pub­li­ca­tions. those so recog­nised in ac­claimed uni­ver­si­ties are em­blem­atic of in­tel­lec­tual dis­tinc­tion, highly re­spected by their col­leagues, stu­dents and the larger so­ci­ety. But the aura that goes with the sta­tus is fast fad­ing in nige­ria be­cause of its bas­tardi­s­a­tion.

the global best prac­tice to­wards be­com­ing a pro­fes­sor is for the pub­lished works of a can­di­date for the post to be as­sessed by three cho­sen ex­perts in a given field of study from out­side the award­ing uni­ver­sity. Favourable rec­om­men­da­tion from two out of the three as­ses­sors con­firms the ap­pli­cant’s suit­abil­ity for the po­si­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the NUC, the de­tails of the up­dated ver­sion of the doc­u­ments of these ivory tower fraud­sters will be pub­lished be­fore the end of this month. “The fight against fake pro­fes­sors is a col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity,” rasheed de­clared.

With the rack­e­teer­ing in cour­ses’ ac­cred­i­ta­tion in uni­ver­si­ties, this news­pa­per had, three years ago, ad­vo­cated the cre­ation of a data base for pro­fes­sors in all the uni­ver­si­ties. this fore­stalls the in­cli­na­tion of in­sti­tu­tions to se­cure the nuc’s ap­proval with fraud­u­lently en­gaged pro­fes­sors, and those who pur­port to be so, from other uni­ver­si­ties, which they claim to be their bona fide fac­ulty mem­bers. Af­ter the aca­demic pro­grammes had been ac­cred­ited, the so-called pro­fes­sors dis­ap­pear from the uni­ver­sity’s nom­i­nal roll, while other aca­demics re­cruited for the du­plic­i­tous scheme are sacked. the scam in one uni­ver­sity in enugu state a few years ago elicited se­ri­ous protest from the vic­tims se­quel to the de­mand that their salaries, while the fraud lasted, be paid.

the abuse of ap­point­ments and pro­mo­tions is so ram­pant that even some pro­fes­so­rial el­e­va­tions have had to be re­versed in a num­ber of uni­ver­si­ties. in 2017, a panel set up by the Michael ok­para Uni­ver­sity of Agri­cul­ture, Umudike, rec­om­mended that 28 pro­fes­sors be de­moted: nine of such were billed to be re­duced to se­nior Lec­tur­ers; seven to Lec­turer i and two to Lec­turer ii. one of the pur­ported pro­fes­sors was said to have ob­tained a PHD be­fore the first de­gree. this is most ridicu­lous! At the Fed­eral Uni­ver­sity, otueke, seven lec­tur­ers were down­graded be­cause the ap­point­ments did not fol­low laid-down stan­dards. the uni­ver­sity’s lo­cal chap­ter of the Aca­demic staff Union of Uni­ver­si­ties said though its role is to cham­pion its mem­bers’ cause, it was dif­fi­cult to do so in the mat­ter.

Crooked ma­noeu­vres to the pro­fes­so­ri­ate are a virus that is not re­stricted to the new uni­ver­si­ties. At one of the first gen­er­a­tion uni­ver­si­ties, a noted pro­fes­sor was sacked for ex­pos­ing a col­league who at­tained the hal­lowed po­si­tion with ques­tion­able aca­demic claims. the claims were nine jour­nal ar­ti­cles and two book chap­ters, said to have been ac­cepted for pub­li­ca­tion in 1995. But the pa­pers were not pub­lished un­til the lid was blown off 18 years later. Pro­fes­so­rial as­sess­ments are based on pub­lished pa­pers, not on pre­sumed ac­cepted ma­te­ri­als for pub­li­ca­tion. this puts a big ques­tion mark on the pro­cesses that led to the said pro­mo­tion.

Just in oc­to­ber, the nnamdi Azikiwe Uni­ver­sity, Awka, with­drew a PHD it had awarded to one of its lec­tur­ers, Peter eke­mezie, whom it was set to ap­point as an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor. The uni­ver­sity coun­cil sacked him; but for five years prior, it failed to act on the scan­dal that the man forged his first de­gree; his mas­ter’s de­gree was sus­pect, and it took him 14 months to com­plete his doc­tor­ate, in­stead of the pre­scribed min­i­mum 36 months.

there are 174 uni­ver­si­ties in the coun­try, com­pris­ing 43 owned by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment; 52 (states) and 79 pri­vately-owned. the high num­ber leads to a dearth of man­power, es­pe­cially at se­nior lev­els, a cri­sis that un­doubt­edly goads ju­nior lec­tur­ers to move to new­lyestab­lished uni­ver­si­ties to as­sume se­nior po­si­tions or pa­rade them­selves as pro­fes­sors when they are ac­tu­ally not.

Ul­ti­mately, this phe­nom­e­non has cor­ro­sive effects on the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion and out­put. these fake pro­fes­sors’ iden­ti­ties should be made pub­lic, just as the uni­ver­si­ties that har­bour them. stan­dards can­not rise above the qual­ity of aca­demics in any given uni­ver­sity. this is why the NUC, whose re­spon­si­bil­ity in­cludes guar­an­tee­ing qual­ity as­sur­ance, should en­sure that the af­fected uni­ver­si­ties de­scend heav­ily on these aca­demic im­posters. Ac­tive in the vine­yard of in­tel­lec­tual de­ceit, these lec­tur­ers pla­gia­rise, re­vise one ar­ti­cle many times for se­rial pub­li­ca­tions and cre­ate phan­tom in­ter­na­tional jour­nals with their co­horts off­shore, through which their lowly-rated ma­te­ri­als are pub­lished. in many cases, they are self-pub­lished au­thors helped by fringe pub­lish­ing out­fits.

With a re­tired pro­fes­sor now earn­ing his last monthly salary as pen­sion for life, and the age of re­tire­ment in­creased to 70, in­stead of the 65 years for non­pro­fes­sors, des­per­a­tion to at­tain the sta­tus will in­crease. But gov­ern­ment at the fed­eral and state lev­els should sack vice-chan­cel­lors and uni­ver­sity coun­cils whose delin­quen­cies in the per­for­mance of their statu­tory re­spon­si­bil­i­ties aid false aca­demic star­dom. Pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties where the trend is rife should be sanc­tioned by with­draw­ing their ac­cred­i­ta­tion.

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