On Federal Character, Globalization and University Rankings

Dec 4 2018 - 11:05pm

Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka

Professor Idowu Olayinka

The Federal Character principle is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). This must have been in recognition of the need to promote national unity and integration.

It is stated in Section 14 subsection 3 that ‘the composition of the government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few state or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies’.

On the other hand, in the pursuit of an internationalization agenda which is an integral part of a world-class university, most institutions of higher learning seek to attract foreign students and Faculty. The international outlook, in terms of the proportion of foreign students and Faculty, is a major criterion used by the major prestigious ranking bodies. For example, it accounts for a weight of 7.5% in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 10% in the QS World University Rankings.

For the Russel Group of the leading 26 universities in the United Kingdom, for example, an average of 22% of the total student population is from outside of the United Kingdom. It is a competition among those universities to enroll more foreign students, who invariably pay higher tuition fees than the home students.

It seems to us that you cannot possibly be seeking internationalization of your student body and the Faculty while at the same time pursuing a ‘localisation’ agenda as inadvertently suggested by the Federal Character Principle.

If and when the Constitution is to be amended by the National Assembly, this aspect should be given a careful thought; otherwise it might be difficult for our public universities to do well in respect of their international outlook, and thus scoring low in this aspect of ranking. The private universities presumably do not have such encumbrance.

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