Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Arc. Sonny Echono, has offered some recommendations to the federal government out of concern about the poor condition of many public tertiary institutions.
Since taking office, Echono has focused his attention on finding long-term answers to the recurring problems the country’s education system faces, particularly at the postsecondary level.
At a celebration for the National Universities Commission’s 60th anniversary, the ES delivered the most current warning (NUC).
In order to address the complex issues surrounding education, he further suggested that government should limit its role to that of an overall policy framework, regulation, and the establishment and strengthening of institutions like NUC, TETFund, Education Bank, Federal Scholarship Board, and a Students Loans Board. Wherever government chooses to implement policies, “such as the ill-advised free tuition policy,” it should make full financial provisions for the same as grant per student based on need.
Adding: “It should also provide dedicated funds for research and innovation to be accessed on strictly competitive bases.”
The head of TETFund emphasized that the makeup of University Governing Councils should de-emphasize political patronage in favor of academic, business, and policy experience and disposition in a speech titled “Enhanced Role for University Governing Councils.”
According to him, Governing Councils should base fee structures on revenue sources, such as government grants, and their cost structures. This, he claimed, will enable them to pay the proper salaries in order to draw in and keep the brightest minds, as well as to create an environment that is favorable to teaching and learning for both national and international competitiveness.
“They should ensure that the nation’s universities operate on the strength of their balance sheets by demanding accountability and efficient harnessing and deployment of internally generated revenue”, he added.
Regarding “Cost Sharing by Stakeholders,” the ES remarked that it has become necessary under the current conditions to encourage students, who are the system’s main beneficiaries, to pay their tuition as a way to supplement government subventions and interventions.
“In fact, it is common knowledge that many state government owned institutions have already adopted this model, and the rest of society, including university alumni, faith-based and other philanthropic organizations, the organized private sector, professional associations and other stakeholders, should be encouraged to support tertiary education through endowments, partnerships and linkages as well as execution of designated projects on our campuses.”
Echono tasked government organizations, including TETFund, NUC, and other pertinent agencies, to step up efforts and investments to equip Nigerian tertiary institutions for effective competition in the global research and innovation ecosystem. Echono stressed the need for partnerships, endowments, research grants, and ventures.
He pointed out that such a development will increase their relevance and modernize their foundation’s financial infrastructure;
He said: “Our institutions should be supported to explore partnerships and collaboration with funding agencies and development partners, both at home and abroad, to attract support and complementary resources. The institutions should strengthen their Research and Development activities and ensure effective linkage and collaboration with industry towards the commercialization of their research outputs to generate revenue and sustain the system.”
“They should establish functional Business Development Offices to support fund-raising and pursue knowledge intensive business opportunities as well as opportunities for research grant funding, and tertiary institutions should device innovative ways of engaging in entrepreneurship initiatives and explore commercial opportunities to guarantee self-sufficiency.”
In summation, Echono reaffirmed that sustainable funding is essential for the future of tertiary education in Nigeria. This, he said, is obviously anchored in cost-sharing among stakeholders, more autonomy for postsecondary institutions, and income diversification.
Others include developing other revenue streams, establishing alliances at home and abroad, and generating money outside of teaching and research.