"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: 12/28/13

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Re: A UK-based Nigerian Lecturer’s Comparison of British and Nigerian Universities

My interview with Dr. Aliyu Musa, who is a journalism lecturer at Britain’s Coventry University, evoked interesting reactions, especially from people who are sympathetic to the cause of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Some people said my questions to Dr. Musa—and the responses the questions elicited— were backhanded jibes at ASUU, which just called off—sorry “suspended”—a cripplingly prolonged strike.

 I can’t stop people from exercising their interpretive freedom, but my object in the interview—and in the series of articles I intend to write on the state of teaching , scholarship, service and remuneration in Nigerian universities—was to establish a global context for the perpetual demands and expectations of Nigerian university teachers. ASUU almost always makes its case for higher wages and perks by appealing to international models. It would really help if someone does a systematic comparison of Nigerian universities with university systems in other parts of the world—of course, taking local peculiarities into account.

I know I will be attacked in the coming weeks for bringing certain issues to light in my comparisons, but as a public commentator, I am already used to that. Plus, I am just interested in democratizing awareness of how our universities are run, given how central universities are to nation-building, especially in a developing country like Nigeria.

A lot of my readers asked many thoughtful questions in response to the interview. My next write-up will address some of these questions. Meanwhile, enjoy a sample of the responses.

Why are there no questions/comments about the comparative level of institutional support for research and professional development, such as conference participation, that is available to Nigerian and UK academics?  Where are the comparative figures on class sizes; and staff-student ratio that UK and Nigerian academics encounter in their contexts?
Felix Kayode Olakulehin, University of Leeds, UK

The interview was basically a comparison between the university systems in the UK or the West generally and in Nigeria. Curiously the crux of the whole article was on Nigerian university lecturers earned academic allowances. One lecturer of Nigerian descent based in the UK was interviewed in which he said academics in the UK don't earn any extra allowances outside their salaries for doing anything they are employed to do.

I have always liked Kperogi's articles, but this one is completely off track! Agreed that lecturers in the UK don't get allowances for any extra work, but do they even do any extra work? How many students does a lecturer have there? The interviewee should equally have told us how much is a salary of a lecturer compared to his counterpart here in Nigeria. And lastly, why is he working there? If he is so jealous about the earned academic allowances why did he run away to the UK to teach? I am sure a Nigerian university lecturer will gladly forget about allowances if his pay will be at par with that of a lecturer in the UK or US or West generally.
Yari Yahya, Bauchi

Interesting interview. Very interesting initiative to compare Nigerian universities to those in the UK and the U.S. Comparison of some kind is inevitable and indeed useful. However, I think that this kind of comparison is too straightforward to be much useful. It merely deals with the effects, rather than the underlying causes, of the situations being compared. It is like comparing wages and salaries in the UK and Nigeria without taking into account purchasing power parity. For example, the working conditions for lecturers in the two systems are vastly different: the number of students per class, the number of courses per lecturer per semester, the number of students per supervisor, availability and quality of resources, facilities, etc. Perhaps a more useful comparison would take these into account. But on the whole, it is good to compare, after all, as the linguists say, meaning is a product of difference.
Suleiman A. Suleiman, Cambridge, UK

I think you missed a question on whether the British system actually has the "excess load" which we have in Nigeria. I have never been there but am sure no lecturer will be assigned as many as 300 to 400 students per class. May be that's why they are not paid for it. Lecturers in developed economies have very few students to teach/supervise, so nothing is excess there. I have a class of 480 students (undergraduate) to teach in my school back in Nigeria. I am doing my PG studies now in a Malaysian university (a developing economy, not even developed). We have a class of 18 but the lecturer has been complaining that she won't be able to teach us effectively. Our system is terrible. If not for ASUU’s series of strikes I believe our universities could have gone the ways of NITEL, NIGERIAN AIRWAYS etc.
Isma'il Isa, University of Malaya, Malaysia

Just think about it, what university in advanced economy would put 300 to 400 students for one lecturer? Doesn't that show the level of incompetence in Nigerian educational management system? It's counterproductive. Many Nigerian universities buildings are left to dilapidation. Their dormitories are pit of hell. I amazed that students are able to learn.
Uche Echi, New York


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