Lessons Of ‘Going Global 2016’ For Higher Education Growth In Nigeria | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Lessons Of ‘Going Global 2016’ For Higher Education Growth In Nigeria

Posted: May 11, 2016 at 1:32 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Oyeniran Apata, Lagos The just concluded ‘Going Global 2016’ organised by the British Council annually for leaders in higher education around the world may have come and ended , but the lesson therein for Nigeria and the rest of the continent to learn are great and significant.

This year’s edition hosted in Africa for the first time witnessed the attendance of over 800 participants globally in attendance and managers of the education sectors at the tertiary level where issues affecting the sector were discussed from a global perspective in order to make the world a better place for all.

At the head of the Nigerian delegates at the conference is Prof Julius Okojie, Executive Secretary, National Universities Council (NUC), vice chancellors of; FUNAAB who is also the president of association of African Vice-Chancellors, FUTA?, UNN, UNILAG, Bayero University, UNIJOS among others.
At the opening plenary session of the conference of world’s largest highest education conference in Cape Town, Dr Blade Nzimande, the South African Minister for Higher Education and Training, told the audience of ministers, higher education leaders, policy-makers, vice-chancellors and institutional heads, that South African universities make a significant contribution to supporting education on the continent.

Dr. Nzimande urged the continent to become a producer of globally respected knowledge as he added that tertiary institutions in the continent have a big role to play in Africa’s quest to develop and deal successfully with the challenges facing our countries.

“One of the main things that we need is for our academics to undertake research and produce quality outputs that in the end will inform policy and influence positive outcomes for the greater good of society. We must deliberately seek to change the location of our continent in knowledge production from consumer to producer of globally respected knowledge”, he said.

Matt Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, United Kingdom, said: “The UK has a world class reputation for higher education and we believe that high quality education is a fundamental right for everyone. By investing together we will deliver smarter young people to generate the very best future leaders, teachers, engineers and employers for all of our countries.”
Speaking on the value of university ranking, the over 800 experts present at the conference warned that the global rankings should not distract the continent from national priorities.

The value of university rankings in helping nations develop their higher education systems was debated in a passionate session where Dr. Nzimande, told a packed room that rankings were a reality, and impossible to ignore.

However, he expressed concerns that there was a danger to view and use rankings in isolation of the context in which individual universities operate.
“We must aim to achieve excellence. But we must achieve excellence in a way that is good for the developmental priorities of our country. We achieve excellence by seeking solutions to the challenges that face a developing country”, he said.

Phil Baty, Editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, said that rankings provided the tools to help universities act and compete on the world stage, and this in turn enabled the long-term development of a continental-wide infrastructure for learning and research.
“I’m a great believer in the importance of diversity in higher education systems: put simply, there is no one single correct model of excellence. And the existing world university rankings are, I would argue, in harmony with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 programme” Baty said.

Dr Gerald Ouma, Director, Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET), University of Pretoria, South Africa, agreed that rankings try to develop excellence.

He said: “But the big question is what kind of excellence? Do we have a one size fits all definition of excellence? Excellence cannot be understood in isolation, it has to be understood in the context of the countries where the university operates.”
Prof. Ellen Hazelkorn, Policy Advisor, Higher Education Authority and Director, Higher Education Policy Research Unit, Ireland, told delegates that there was no doubt that in a globalised world, rankings mattered.

But Prof Hazelkorn stressed to the audience: “The focus needs to be on the overall system – what are you trying to achieve? Why would you use indicators set by someone else to determine your national priorities? You must focus on what is meaningful, rather than just focus on counting what is accessible.”

“The big concern with rankings is when they become a policy driver, from what is essentially a report card on disparities of wealth…As a benchmarking tool, rankings are fine. As a policy driver, rankings are a bad idea. We should be looking at building world class systems of higher education, not world class universities.” Prof Hazelkorn added.

Nigeria’s NUC boss, Professor Okojie affirmed that it was high time Nigerian universities doubled their efforts and effectively meet their tripartite ?mandates of teaching, research and community services.

He also promised that Nigerian universities would now intensify globalisation drive in the areas of collaborations and exchange programmes with other universities in both developed and developing economies, saying such will drive healthy competition.
In a wide-range discussion on how to stem the flow of ‘Brain Drain’ a panel of expert agreed that the competition for the brightest and best brains around the world has become ruthless.

Professor Jo Beall, Director, Education and Society, British Council said: “We face a world where there is this absolutely ruthless competition for the brightest and best,”

“In a global, interconnected world, we can’t confine people, but there is a policy issue in terms of governments needing to invest in people.”
Professor Xie Tao, Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean – School of English and International Studies, Beijing Foreign Studies University, China, stated that his country has witnessed some of the worst brain drain in modern countries around the world.

Professor Xie said: “There are many problems and obstacles to China’s efforts to retain and attract talent. There are issues of food safety and environmental pollution and health issues, and all these things can discourage people from coming back to China to stay permanently.”
The panel agreed though that ‘ties of belonging’ are what can bring people back.

Professor Xie in his submission said: “In order to make people stay in a country and like the country, you have to have that sense of belonging which means identity, and identity is complicated.”

The panel were then asked what can help countries hold onto their best and brightest people to stop them from going overseas.
Jo Beall said: “South Africa has a very good reputation in terms of holding its people, for example its health service has pre- conditions for people to remain.”

Professor Olusola Oyewole, President, Association of African Universities, Ghana, said efforts to improve higher education institutions will help to stem brain drain.

Jo Beall agreed, saying,: “If you don’t have investment in your Higher Education system or in the workplace to attract people to come home, then your country is more likely to be affected.”

Vice Chancellors and managers of education across the world present at the conference promised to make good ?use of the knowledge gained to improve on their responsibilities that will translate to appreciable development of their respective country’s higher education back home.
Consensus at the end of the conference was that all the issues raised and preferred solutions by participants were a good direction to take the continent’s higher education to the next level.