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Nigerian universities churning out “internet professors” – Academic

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Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka

Former Vice Chancellor of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Prof. Ikenna Onyido on Monday blamed the drastic drop in the quality in Nigerian universities on lazy Professors, who he described as “internet professors.”

Onyido, delivering the keynote lecture of the 55th Meeting of the Committee of Deans of Postgraduate Schools in Nigerian Universities (CDPGS) holding at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU), Awka, said that quality control and adequate sanctions regimes must be put in place to curb what he called counterfeit PhDs which, he said, is a greater threat to the country than that posed by Boko Haram and killer herdsmen in the long run.

The University Don who is the present Director, Centre for Sustainable Development, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, lamented that postgraduate students do not give time to research as they indulge in plagiarizing materials, hence universities turning out described as the unfortunate new trend of “Internet Professors.”

The academic said that “The difference between my borrowing Sachs’ phrase to couch my title and what some of our colleagues do these days in their quest to become professors overnight is that while I acknowledge my source, these dubious, crooked colleagues of ours do not. In fact, a reasonable proportion of the theses which pass through some of our Postgraduate Schools contain massively plagiarized material, just as some of our latter day professors in the Nigerian university system are Internet Professors – they plagiarized their way up the promotion ladder by downloading materials from the Internet and claiming the authorship of articles they know nothing about.”

Corroborating him, the Vice Chancellor NAU and Chief Host, Prof. Joseph Ahaneku noted that research was what stands out the university from other tiers of education, but regretted that there have been negative reports about the quality of research, particularly as it relates to originality, emanating from Nigerian universities.

“Sadly enough, some university teachers are now making devious use of the internet to manufacture research publications; publications which have neither broken new grounds nor expanded the frontiers of knowledge. It is possible that this could be attributed to their poor research competencies arising from the poor supervision they had received during postgraduate studies from teachers/supervisors, themselves lacking in the necessary skills,” Ahaneku observed.

“Herein lay the challenge for the Schools of Postgraduate Studies: to articulate appropriate curricula for in-depth postgraduate studies; to formulate the necessary rules and regulations and enforce same for the training of postgraduate students; and to shore-up the research competencies of the academic staff. It is in the purview of the Deans under the supervision of the Boards of the Schools of Postgraduate Studies of the universities to ensure a realization of this,” he advised.

Speaking on the theme, “The knowledge paradigm in the age of sustainable development: the relevance of the Nigerian Postgraduate School”, Prof Onyido said that universities the world over are key knowledge centres whose major preoccupation is to generate, process, share, disseminate and transmit knowledge.

He said, “The modern university must therefore be intimately bound with its society and its challenges and fortunes. It must be proactively analytical and diagnostic to identify the challenges of its society, creatively prescriptive to chart the pathways for meeting those challenges, and sufficiently innovative and resourceful to provide solutions to the identified needs and challenges of society in the quantities, qualities and times they are needed.”

Questioning the manner in which professors are frequently produced in country, the keynote lecturer said, “Traditional rulers and men of influence in society are known to have led delegations to Vice Chancellors in order to plead for their son or daughter to be made a professor. Some Vice Chancellors have played dirty politics with the making of professors. The speed with which some candidates’ papers are said to be assessed by external assessors makes one wonder whether the papers were assessed at all, whether the candidates’ papers left the campus at all.

“In one of our universities, an academic staff whose admissibility into a Ph.D. programme was settled by external arbitration in 2015, was by 2017 a professor already, to the consternation of a crosssection of the university community, for the magical way in which that professor was manufactured. Now, tell me, what can that type of professor profess?

“In fact, in many public universities, nobody fails external assessment for professorship these days, which makes one wonder whether everyone on our campuses has suddenly become a genius, exceptional human beings, which runs contrary to the distribution of gifts by Nature which operates by the Gaussian distribution, shown in Figure 3. One of our universities in the South-East has recently added to the typology of professors by producing professors who are now called ‘China Professors’. There is incredible impunity, unrelenting depravity and unconscionable perversity on some of our campuses.

“…It is the responsibility of the Boards of Postgraduate Schools to ensure that doctoral graduates produced in Nigeria are of the standard to compete locally and globally. Anecdotal evidence suggests that, in certain instances, the process for the award of higher degrees has been “Nigerianized”, i.e. corrupted and abused. The danger posed to the nation by producing counterfeit doctoral graduates would be an existential threat in the long run more than that posed by Boko Haram.”

In conclusion, Prof Onyido said, “I have raised a number of issues which have weakened the Nigerian university system, of which is the wholesale erosion of academic culture and tradition. These negative forces have also threatened the process for the making of professors, producing mixed results system-wide, with severe implications for the capacity of the university system to engage in mission-oriented research, which is a sine qua non for sustainable development.

“I have argued that our Postgraduate Schools should take on the responsibility of managing university-wide research efforts in addition to its responsibility for postgraduate training and the research that goes with it, as is done in many universities in the developed countries. For this to happen, I have recommended the metamorphosis of the Postgraduate Schools to Schools of Postgraduate Studies and Research, contemporaneous with universities evolving their Research Philosophies and Plans that focus on short, medium and long term research priorities and goals.

“I have also argued the need for mainstreaming sustainable development into our universities’ teaching, research and outreach activities, and for our Postgraduate Schools and Centres for Sustainable Development, where they exist, to lead the charge in this regard. I have ended by charging the Deans and Boards of our Postgraduate Schools to evolve iron-cast quality control and adequate sanctions regimes to curb abuses that result in counterfeit PhDs, which are more of an existential threat to the country than Boko Haram and herdsmen, in the long run,” the academic said.

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