The State of Tertiary Education in Nigeria

Storytelling for change

The State of Tertiary Education in Nigeria

Education is the pillar of development and the determinant of the social-economic and technological advancement of a nation. Although education has become probably one of the most misunderstood English words. Just like “diversity”, it has come to mean whatever the communicator wishes it to mean. However, it is best understood as a result of the process of learning.

Once upon a time, Nigeria paraded the best set of scholars, authors, and publishers in Africa. At that time, education was aimed to unlock the ideological instrument for the development of a national ideology, independence, and control of society. Today, going by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index in 2016, Nigeria’s quality of education is ranked 125th out of the 137 countries.

Also, available statistics from the Global ranking Web of Universities show that Nigerian’s best performance in the global academic community is a lowly 1249th position. Tertiary education in Nigeria leaves a lot to be desired. From incessant industrial and economic action to low-quality research outputs, the tertiary education system is fraught with a history of underperformance, unproductivity, and waning influence in the area of sustainable national development and global competitiveness.

Chinua Achebe

However, the huge problems that contribute to the distressed state of the Nigerian tertiary education system are widely recognised. 

  1. Government attitude towards education and unsustainable funding model for institutions.
  2. Breach between the tertiary institution and the economy.
  3. Poor-quality research output anchored on international citations.

These problems are not new, nor is the recognition. Taking a close look at these problems. Firstly, the lack of government commitment towards standardised education policies and budgetary allocation. The underlying basis for public funding of education is to equip people with the required knowledge and skills. With the capacity to enhance the quality of life, augment productivity, and capacity to gain knowledge of new techniques for production. To be able to participate evocatively in the national development process. But in spite of that, the government’s attitude towards the crucial problems of education is apathetic. This is the case at every level of the government, from the federal government down to the state government.

Nonetheless, According to The United Nations Educational, scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), 26% of every nation’s budget should be allocated to its educational sector. This is to ensure a positive educational impact on national development. Sadly, according to an analysis by Daily Trust in 2016, the joint expenditure of the federal government, and 36 state governments on education is 8.44% of their total budget for that year.

Most institutions in Nigeria are in terrible condition, buildings are collapsing, teachers lack teaching materials, schools lack practical and technical facilities leading to a rather theoretical than more qualitative learning. The government is not consistent in policy decisions, and policymaker doesn’t conduct qualitative assessments before jumping to a conclusion, therefore, leading to policy conflicts.

The state of tertiary education in Nigeria

Secondly, the lack of qualitative education and poor-quality research output anchored on international citations. Over recent time, the Nigerian general attitude towards education has developed into the ideology of a certificate-based system of education. This system has led many students into the scorching race for temporary memorization and sometimes illegitimate means such as examination malpractice, result buying, forging of certificates, ghost students, impersonation, and bribery, etc. More importantly, building a gap between education and national development. Also, we approach the internet with a concept of scarcity; this approach has placed significant limitations on the quality of research and innovative ideas that we present to the world. The sum of which mesmerises the overall quality of our education.

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See also: Ohafia crisis – the battle between the Nigerian Army and the people of Ohafia

Notwithstanding, it is paramount to make headway towards revitalising Nigerian tertiary education and if there should be any perfect time, that time is now. Although, it might not seem easy, but have in mind that there are countless possibilities.  In tackling these diverse challenges, there are three major reforms to improve the quality of tertiary education in Nigeria.

First, there should be accountability in the education sector concerning the disbursement of funds and the budgetary allocation for education should be at least 26%.

Second, the focus on a certificate-based education which is in vogue in our present-day universities should be removed and replaced with a knowledge-based system. And third, the use of technology should be incorporated in our tertiary education to keep up with Nigeria’s population surge and to improve the quality of research. Education remains the key!


  1. A Review of Obstacles of ICT usage in Nigeria Tertiary education Institutions by the International Journal of Human Resource Studies
  2. Chang, C. (2007). Nigeria’s 10-year strategic plan for education: policy, cost and financing assumptions and their implications. Working document – United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
  3. Eravwoke Kester Erhieyovwe (Ph.D.) and Ukavwe Andrew June 2019. HIGHER INSTITUTIONS FUNDING AND THE NIGERIAN ECONOMY: International Journal of Development and Economic Sustainability Vol.7, No.4, pp. 1-7.
  4. Exploration”
  5. Famade Oladiran Afolayan. Funding for Higher Education in Nigeria: IOSR Journal of Research & Method in Education (IOSR-JRME) e-ISSN: 2320–7388,p-ISSN: 2320–737X Volume 5, Issue 1 Ver. I (Jan – Feb. 2015), PP 63-68 
  6. Famade, Olu Adesola1, Omiyale, Grace Tolulope2, And Adebola, Yetunde Abiodun (2015) towards improved funding of tertiary institutions in Nigeria. Asian journal of humanities and social sciences (ajhss) volume 3, issue
  7. Olufemi A. Bamiro November 6-7, 2012. Sustainable financing of higher education in Nigeria: University of Ibadan.
  8. OECD. African Economic Outlook 2006/2007 (OECD, 2007, ISBN 978-92-64-03313-9)
  9. NPOnline: Impact of New Technologies in Developing Countries

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