An opinion based article on Improving the quality of tertiary education in Nigeria.

Tertiary education is post-secondary education received at Universities (Government or privately funded), Monotechnics, Polytechnics, and Colleges of Education 1.

The World Bank further adds that a tertiary education also called higher education is instrumental in fostering growth, decreasing poverty, and boosting prosperity; it profits not just the individual but the entire society 2. Since education is seen as a driver of national development and a tested and proven antidote to poverty eradication, it is therefore important that any well-meaning nation should provide a good and sustainable education for her people.

Tertiary institutions or citadels of learning and character formation produce individuals that are more environmentally conscious, intellectually informed, and morally established and possess a higher level of civic participation.

Furthermore, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) underscores that tertiary education concentrates on learning endeavors in specialized fields 3.

These specialized fields are areas of discipline that give special training and skills that enable the graduates to become professionals. Tertiary education empowers the recipients with the requisite knowledge, exposure, and boldness to compete favorably with their colleagues across the globe.

In essence, the objective of this work is to proffer some ways in which the quality of tertiary education can be improved. However, it is vital to give a brief historical evolution of tertiary education in addition to highlighting some of the perennial challenges confronting it and the institutions.

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Improving the quality of tertiary education in Nigeria – Brief History

 The first tertiary education institution in Nigeria was established in 1934 and that was Yaba Higher College 4.

This followed the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates which gave birth to the geographical artificiality called Nigeria in the year 1914 by Flora Shaw Lugard.

This institution was later absorbed into the then University College Ibadan, now the University of Ibadan, founded in the year 1948 4. The succeeding years followed a massive establishment of tertiary institutions in the country- universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, and vocational institutes.

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 Most of these challenges seem interminable possibly that the concerned stakeholders (the government, lecturers, and teachers, parents, and students) have failed to do their works or have not adequately performed them. It is in light of these realities that it is worthwhile to highlight some of these challenges in order to provide workable and pragmatic ways of improving the seemingly decreasing quality of our tertiary education.

1) Challenges of access and carrying capacity:

The carrying capacity of a tertiary institution is the total allowable number of students it can conveniently accommodate taking into cognizance the available infrastructure, teaching-learning facilities as well as standard teacher/student ratio.

According to Ejiogu et al, since 1999/2000, universities have exceeded their carrying capacities by over 10% 5. This might have skyrocketed even in recent times following the overwhelming number of candidates seeking and getting admission into these universities and other tertiary institutions.

This non-adherence to the stipulated carrying capacities has the attendant consequence of creating undue pressure on the available meagre resources in place. Both the students and lecturers are at the receiving end, all struggling to meet up their expectations.

2) Insufficient funding of schools: 

This is another huge challenge facing tertiary education in Nigeria. The tertiary institutions are underfunded or even not funded at all. This has resulted in decay in infrastructure and the insalubrious dilapidation of other structures in these institutions.

It is a reality that without funds, no meaningful development can be affected whether in schools or elsewhere.

3) Absence of checks and balances and monitoring of projects awarded by the government or the institution’s authority: 

The issue of checks and balances is a problem that confronts every sector in the country. No one monitors the completion of projects awarded. A common scene when one embarks on a tour in these institutions is the deteriorated and awful outlooks of abandoned projects- hostels, classrooms, roads, and so on.

4) Brain drain: 

The consequence of insufficient funding is the overwhelming and significant exodus of skillful and capable human resources from these institutions abroad or other jobs where their value and services are better appreciated and rewarded. This is a major challenge of a 21st Century developing nation like Nigeria.

The lecturers/ academics are not adequately remunerated, they are endlessly owed! Brain drain negatively affects the development of a nation since a tertiary institution is the bedrock of research and research is indispensable in the actualization of sustainable development.

5) Incessant strikes and disruption of academic calendars: 

The academics resort to strikes when their demands are neither met nor agreements fulfilled. These demands are genuine especially when the actualization lingers endlessly. The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU has in recent times embarked on strikes and these strikes persist longer than anticipated making the academic activities to be disrupted. This has caused untold problems and hardship for the lecturers and the students.

One can go on and on but the solutions or ways of improving the quality of tertiary education become much more important now.

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Improving the quality of tertiary education in Nigeria: The Way Forward

The quality and standard of tertiary education in Nigeria can be ameliorated if the following suggestions, though inexhaustible, are painstakingly and religiously implemented.

1) Massive provision of infrastructure:

The government and other stakeholders should collaborate to provide more classrooms, lecture halls, hostels, and its facilities like toilets, bathrooms, better road networks, constant water and electricity supplies, internet services- WIFI, recreational and sports facilities, functional medical centers/sick bays et cetera.

These infrastructures are necessary and sacrosanct for the holistic formation and training of the students to become intellectually, morally, psychologically, and physically informed. The TETFUND program in the tertiary institutions is commendable and it is good that its perpetuation is sustained.

Furthermore, infrastructures still in manageable conditions should be meticulously maintained and rehabilitated to pre-empt dilapidation and deterioration.

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2)  Strict adherence to stipulations guiding admission processes: 

When these institutions adhere to the regulations guiding the admission of students in recognition of the available facilities, the challenge of superfluous exceeding of the carrying capacities will be overcome.

National Universities Commission, NUC, is the body regulating all the universities in Nigeria and provides these guidelines and so must be adhered to likewise other regulatory bodies of other institutions.

When the number of students allowable is admitted, the existing infrastructures are better maximized and the undue pressure on them reduced remarkably.

Furthermore, admission should be primarily on merit before other criteria of selection are even contemplated. This has the advantage of increasing the quality of students admitted and hence the ultimate quality of graduates turned out. Also, academic excellence should be based on merit and performance and not on connections or affiliations.


3) Adequate funding is imperative in order to promote teaching, learning, and research: 

The government as the chief proprietor of most of these tertiary institutions especially the government-owned ones has the primary responsibility of funding them while cooperating with the institutions.

Funding of the schools will catalyze the establishment of the needed infrastructure key to teaching, learning, and research. Government over the years has not been doing as expected in this regard as seen in the pitiable conditions of these institutions across the nation.

No effective growth or development can be achieved when the requisite wherewithal is lacking. Funding ensures the concretization of abstract ideas and plans into realities.

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4) Investment in research: 

Following adequate funding, the institution can embark on research. Research is a key goal of any sustainable tertiary education. Universities are the seats of research and research gives birth to innovation and growth. Institutions should be encouraged and motivated to embark on aggressive research.

When research becomes a custom in these citadels of higher learning, the creative powers of the academics and students are challenged, and when this happens, Nigeria will join the bandwagon of industrialized nations.

This is because problems are solved and new ways of doing things discovered. Scientific research should be at the fulcrum and epicenter of every tertiary education especially in universities and polytechnics.

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5) Institutionalization of quality assurance programme: 

The goals are to monitor, oversee, evaluate, and improve on the programs in the institutions to ensure that there is a steady or constant yield of positive outputs. Okoro et al 6, while highlighting some of the benefits of quality assurance notes that it makes the universities competitive both nationally and internationally. Quality assurance also connotes the standard of a phenomenon 6.

Quality assurance programs are very pertinent in our institutions of higher learning to ensure standardization of the services provided and improvement of the already existing structures in place. Furthermore, it guarantees that the programs of a particular school are in order and conformity with international practices and the domestic needs of the society.

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6) Upgrading the quality of teachers/lecturers by encouraging aggressive career advancement through continuing education and training: 

The quality of lecturers and academics in our schools of higher learning has continued to dwindle that if nothing drastic and pragmatic is done, our students might one day be under the tutelage of averagely enlightened people.

Opportunities for advanced education should be made accessible to all the academic staff. This will equip them with the needed intellectual strength and exposure to proffer solutions to the legion of problems facing the country; as well as impart better on the students under their tutelage and mentorship.

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7) Swift implementation of all the agreements reached between the lecturers and the government to bring to a termination the perpetual incidences of strikes: 

Prompt payment of salaries, allowances, and provision of research grants or sponsorships must be prioritized. Also, all the push factors that necessitate brain drain should be supplanted by the pull factors that attract retention and service delivery to the country.

Furthermore, the quality of teaching and learning should be improved by providing the necessary facilities.

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8) Potentiating of student-teacher relationship that is gradually becoming eroded:  

This is a very great step towards improving the quality of tertiary education. In the past and still present, cases of non-cordial or strained relationships have been noticed between the students and lecturers.

The latter subject the former to all forms of dehumanization, intimidation, and sexual violations in order to award certificates or pass the students or to do things that ordinarily can be done without much ado. Some of these lecturers sell handouts and other materials at exorbitant prices which are made compulsory or the student face the music.

Moreover, we advocate a more cordial, respectful, and godly relationship between the two parties so that the full potentials of each party are beneficially harnessed and fanned into flames.

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9) Provision of robust and formidable security structures in our institutions to see to the safeguarding of the lives and property of both the students and the staff:

Incidences of thefts, kidnappings, rape, murder, cult clashes have been witnessed in our citadels of learning attributable to an internal break in the circuitry of security especially those within the confines of the school environment.

The institutions should erect embankments to secure their territories, construct street lights to provide adequate illumination within the schools, and finally equip the security personnel with all the intelligence and sophistication to carry out their duties.

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10) Incorporation of workable and pragmatic entrepreneurship curricula in the institutions:

Entrepreneurship will improve the quality of education as well as the quality of the students synthesized. It makes them self-reliant and independent not merely certificate bearers by equipping them with necessary skills.

Moreover, established entrepreneurs in diverse fields should be contacted and in liaison with the institutions help students develop entrepreneurial skills and practice them

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The task of improving the quality of tertiary education is one that that is all-encompassing. It involves the collaborative efforts of the government, the society, the institutions themselves, teachers, parents and the students.

Since as a civilised society, we appreciate the limitless importance of a tertiary education; all must join forces and work together to ameliorate the quality of our tertiary education, so that it can attain global competitiveness with other systems elsewhere.

When this occurs, the hopes of the students, parents and everyone will be raised; the confidence on the tertiary education system will be further reconsolidated and innervated.


 1 Wikipedia [Internet]. San Francisco USA: Wikimedia Foundation Inc; 2020. What is tertiary education; updated September 2020; retrieved Sat September 5. Available from:

2 World Bank [Internet].  The Context of Higher Education; Updated: October 5, 2017; Retrieved: 2020 September. Available from:

3 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisations, UNESCO [Internet]. 2020. Tertiary Education; Retrieved: September 5, 2020. Available from:

4 Otonko, J.  University Education in Nigeria: History, Successes, Failures, and the Way Forward. International Journal of Technology and Inclusive Education. 2012; 1(2): 44-48

5 Ejiogu A, Sheidu S. Sixty-five years of University Education in Nigeria: some Key Cross-Cutting Issues. Higher Education, Lifelong Learning and Social Inclusion.257-264

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Victor Ugwuike
Student of Medical Radiography and Radiological Sciences, University of Nigeria. Enugu Campus (UNEC) | Graphics Designer | Creative/Freelance Writer.


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