Photo. Professors Ibrahim Gambari and John Ifediora.

Abuja, Nigeria.

The conference on “The State of Higher Education in Nigeria” held on March 12, 2020 in Abuja provided a forum for a serious national discussion on how well domestic institutions of higher learning in the country are preparing students and graduates for a 21st century economy with its attendant global implications. As Nigeria’s educational sector grapples with a rapidly growing population of university bound students, the questions that haunt university administrators remain the same as they have been over three decades ago….how to expand capacity without compromising quality, and how to provide access to all prospective students with proper credentials.
The keynote speakers and panelists at the conference all agree that a nation-state’s capacity to develop and sustain its development trajectory depend on a well-educated citizenry with a workforce sufficiently equipped with relevant and in-demand skills. But the acquisition of skills is highly dependent on a country’s willingness to devote significant resources in educating its students and creating infrastructures conducive to human-capital development. Since the early 1980s, Nigeria’s public institutions of higher learning have grown exponentially in number but such growth is far below what is needed to accommodate a steadily rising demand, thus making it necessary for Nigerians to seek university education in droves outside the country. The equally impressive growth rate of private universities in the country has not slowed the exodus of Nigerian students to foreign universities.

Both academic experts, students, policy-makers, professors and administrators at the conference stressed the need for a holistic assessment of Nigeria’s education sector in terms of access, and effectiveness of constituent institutions in delivering transformative and responsive education to students. Speakers at the conference pointed to the need for Nigeria to attract foreign investment in the education sector in the form of partnerships with established foreign universities with advanced educational technologies, and resources that would enhance capacity for domestic universities. This topical conference comes at a point where Nigeria is at cross-roads and must decide if she wants to be a leader in the 21st century by investing prudently in human capital development as is the case in many countries in Africa such as Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Morocco that have consistently made higher education a priority, and have seen the benefits in the form of robust economies, and attendant socio-political benefits. At the conclusion of the conference, Nigerians in the audience applauded Dakota Wesleyan University for hosting the conference, and had a standing ovation for Dr. Novak’s welcome address delivered live electronically from Mitchell, South Dakota.

Notable speakers at the conference include Professor Ibrahim Gambari, Pro-Chancellor of Bayero University, Dr. Amy Novak, President of Dakota Wesleyan University, Professor Ochefu, Secretary-General, Association of Nigerian Vice-Chancellors, Dr. EKpedeme Udom, Former Nigeria Minister of Prisons, Professor Jennifer Lofkrantz, American University, Nigeria, Professor John O. Ifediora, Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Wisconsin System, and many more distinguished speakers. Invited panelists include Dr. Kalu I Kalu, Former Minister of Finance, and Professor Obaji, Former Minister of Education.