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US-based Nigerian professor’s assessment of Nigerian Universities (II)

Cash-strapped departments, faculties and/or universities have more weighty priorities. Perhaps, a much better write-up could have been on ideas/strategies to help these colleagues to get…

Cash-strapped departments, faculties and/or universities have more weighty priorities. Perhaps, a much better write-up could have been on ideas/strategies to help these colleagues to get out of this morass—many of them teach 3-4 courses of 200-500 students a semester without TAs and get as small as N10,000 a year for academic conference presentations. Any ideas?
From Vanity Publications to PhD Production and Professorships in Nigeria
While I can understand and explain why some of the lecturers in some of the programs I evaluated as part of the NUC accreditation panels chose to engage in what we might term vanity publishing, I was surprised at the virtual absence of policies or discussions about quality assurance regarding scholarship outputs in many universities. Not one scholar I met had heard about Google Scholar (and its citation counts for every published piece of journal article, including those published IN NIGERIA), let alone other (sometimes controversial) measures of quality, such as Web of Science/Word of Learning and Pearson’s annual reports of “Impact Factor” of journals and academic publishers. It was therefore not surprising that a member of USA-Africa Dialogue Forum from the University of Lagos (Unilag) claimed that the Unilag Journal of Politics was “highly rated” without, of course, indicating who rated the journal and how, given that it is not indexed anywhere, and there is no rating agency in Nigeria. On two occasions, two editors of two different journals (very senior academics) proudly defended their journals to me by stating that they were “recognized and good quality because [they have] an ISSN number!”
While Google Scholar and other measures of quality sometimes exclude chapters in edited volumes, it should worry us that an academic that boasts 50-100 “professional papers” cannot equally boast ONE citation count (including the discounted self-citations) on Google Scholar! As I stated in Part 1, more than 90 percent of the CVs I reviewed listed as publication outlets “Volume 1, Number 1” or Departmental journals or self-published books or books whose publishers’ names and addresses are more innocuous and lesser known than the remotest streets in Ajegunle, Lagos or Ekeonunwa Street, Owerri. I concede that “writing for themselves” is not unique to Nigeria, but most scholars elsewhere don’t engage in this kind of massive inflation of output that is clearly indefensible.
Each of the six universities I visited had disproportionately more junior faculty (Assistant Lecturers–MA/MSc holders—and Lecturers I & II—anywhere from recent PhDs to PhDs with 3-6 years’ experience; and even master’s degrees with years of experience and/or professional certificates) than senior faculty (Associate Professors/Readers and Full Professors). A few of the Lecturer IIs and Lecturer Is were effective Acting Heads of Department (HODs). Yet, this contravenes NUC’s policy of Senior Lecturer as the minimum for the HOD to be able to provide a modicum of “academic leadership” to the unit. Some of the Assistant Lecturers and recent PhDs were quite good, but a large number were both victims and perpetrators of another form of fraud. In response to the NUC’s directive that the PhD is the minimum qualification for teaching in universities, several new universities have mounted PhD programs, some without NUC approval, even though they lack the resources and capacity (faculty members) to mentor the PhD students—who are mostly their academic staff without the doctorates. Many “older” universities have also expanded PhD enrollments to soak up the demand, even as some departments have upwards of 70 master’s degree students in a department boasting less than four full-time lecturers with PhDs.
While some departments (especially in most of the older universities) are still graduating quality PhDs that are garnering local and international awards and publications in some of the most competitive outlets in the world, a large number of the new PhDs are actually “arrangee PhDs.” In some cases, ONE retired professor is hired (often as an adjunct) with the sole terminal purpose of mentoring and awarding the PhD to one or two students—often relatives, pals or concubines of “the Ogas at the top” and/or a favored staff member. Once the deal is done, there is no more PhD program and the old bloke collects his money and goes home, or perhaps to another mercenary assignment.
Where the programs exist formally, it is not unheard of for ONE professor to “produce” over 10 doctorates in ONE year. One household name in Political Science has become notorious for serving as SUPERVISOR to several PhD candidates in more than SIX universities at a time! His detractors call his mass-produced protégés “Pure Water PhDs,” but they are all happily teaching in a university near your villages! I politely turned down an offer to supervise a well-connected PhD candidate in one of the universities in central Nigeria. I would have had no other affiliation with the institution. My eldest brother, a former professor at a university in Georgia, USA, had to recall two PhDs already awarded for insufficient work in 2011 as Dean of Postgraduate Studies and later Acting Vice Chancellor at a private university in Nigeria.

To be concluded next week

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