The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) has said that university autonomy has made vice-chancellors tyrants.
This is as he said that the near exclusion of non-academic staff from administrative positions of authority was part of why Nigerian universities don’t rank higher.
SSANU Public Relations Officer, Mr Abdussobur Salaam in an interview with EduCeleb.com alleged that vice-chancellors now use their positions to reward cronies irrespective of their unfit qualifications.
He made reference to the Universities (Miscellaneous) Act of 2003 that gives government owned universities autonomy saying that the law had “worsened governance” in the institutions and had given room for corruption to thrive.
“Most of our academic colleagues are involved in administrative and non teaching functions for which they were not trained, which do not fall into their basic schedule of duties and which ultimately affect their academic output.” – Abdussobur Salaam, SSANU Public Relations Officer
Rather than give room for academics to focus on the core of their work in teaching and research, they tend to focus on administrative jobs meant for non-academics.
“Coming nearer home and to the issue of our poor ranking in the global comity of Universities, many reasons can be adduced beginning from the laws guiding universities (autonomy act), which rather than help the system, have worsened the governance of our universities,” he said.
“The so called university autonomy has made monsters out of Vice-Chancellors and have overcentralised administration thereby. While those who had pushed for autonomy had intended an increased democracy in the system, what we have seen is an autocratic dictatorship in our universities where life begins and ends with Vice Chancellors.”
“While our universities have a major problem of poor funding, we have a more serious problem of corruption and mismanagement of funds, which many stakeholders, because of what they benefit from the rot will deny.”
“This issue of poor funding, corruption, mismanagement of funds and inability to account for funds have led to the deplorable state of facilities.”
“Our classrooms and laboratories are bereft of equipment not only because government barely provides, but that the little being provided are also being frittered away by government intermediary agencies, councils and administration.”
“It’s a very funny scenario where the beneficiaries of the rot declare themselves as victims! I will say no further on this but we don’t need lenses to sight deeper on this.”
“Rankings of Universities are not restricted to the quality and content of academic work, but the wholeness of the system, which includes the quality of administrative services, feedback for students, health and medical services, safety of the environment, hostel facilities and a whole gamut of non teaching services.
“Sadly, our people tend to believe that the quality of a university begins and ends with academic functions and tend to neglect these areas.
“Administrative staff are not trained and equipped with facilities to improve service delivery.
“The security of the universities are deplorable and are nothing to write home about. Global rankings of Universities require an international flavour of both staff and students, which our universities clearly cannot have, with the deplorable state of facilities.
Brain drain within the universities
Mr Salaam identified the appointment of academics to positions for non-academics as brain drain within the university system itself.
He alleged that administrative positions were often politicised by vice-chancellors.
“While our academic colleagues lament the issue of brain drain, there is also what I have seen as an internal brain drain which we are not cognisant of.
“Most of our academic colleagues are involved in administrative and non teaching functions for which they were not trained, which do not fall into their basic schedule of duties and which ultimately affect their academic output.
“These allocations of administrative or non teaching functions are usually done as political appeasement or job for the boys in the system.
You will hear of a Professor of English being appointed as Director of Academic Planning or ICT support services. You will see a Professor of Chemistry appointed to manage the University Guest House or some other non academic function.
“The import of this is that such a Professor has less time for teaching and research functions for which he was primarily employed, while the staff employed for these functions are pushed aside because of the politics of the system.
“These practices has far reaching negative effects and ultimately watered down the quality of teaching and research.
“Academic Staff should therefore be restricted to their academic functions while non teaching staff should face their administrative and support services.
“The usurpation of non teaching functions by academic staff have done more harm than good to the system.
“There is too much politics in the system and under such environment quality cannot thrive and mediocrity will hold sway.”