“The average Nigerian has come to believe that everything must be free and that government must provide all. Unfortunately, Nigerians were fed, by successive governments, with the wrong notion of who should fund university education.”
The National Assembly, a few days ago, passed the 2017 Budget with the sum of about N455 billion allocated to education. However, of this amount, only about N50 billion is earmarked for capital expenditure while the rest will be gulped by recurrent expenditure. In the same budget about 140 Billion is earmarked for capital projects under Defence. This only confirms that education in Nigeria will still continue, as has been the case in the past, to be badly affected due to paucity of funds thereby negating the thinking of one of the world’s most famous philosophers, Aristotle, who once said that: “education is the creation of a sound mind in a sound body. It develops man’s faculty, especially his mind so that he may be able to enjoy the contemplation of supreme truth, goodness and beauty of which perfect happiness essentially consists”. However, quality education is a very expensive enterprise. When education is not properly funded, institutions of learning will be ill-equipped in terms of teaching facilities and staff, the products of such poorly funded institutions are bound to be poor materials.
I have addressed the issue of poor funding over the years. UNESCO recommends that at least 25 per cent of the national budget of every country should be dedicated to education. Whilst this level of funding may not be easily achievable by developing countries which have to grapple with other matters such as health care delivery, security and infrastructural development, funding of education must nonetheless be accorded prime of place by any serious government. The unpalatable reality in this country is that budgetary allocation by successive governments over the years has always been about a third of UNESCO’s recommendation. As a matter of fact, the average budgetary allocation for education by the Federal Government of Nigeria has always been about 7% which is the least in Africa. In order for us to better appreciate the inadequacy of funds allocated to tertiary education. I wish to compare what California State University spends on education with what Nigeria spends on education.
North California State University budgetary expenditure in 2012 was $7,130,137,243 which translates to N1,212,123,331,310. The Federal Government of Nigeria’s budget for 50 Federal Universities and UBE (Universal Basic Education) is N495,456,130,065 which translates to 40.88% of the budget allocation of California State University.
In Nigeria, the first university, a public university, was established in 1948. The standard was high and compared favourably with the standards in Europe and America. Thereafter, both Federal and States established universities which were funded solely by government. However, the overall budgetary provisions of most states of the federation and the federation itself for education dwindled to the effect that the amount actually budgeted were far below the 26% which the UNESCO directed governments to allocate for education.
In 2013, the combined budgets of Plateau State, Nassarawa State, Bauchi State, Taraba State and Gombe State for 2013 was N559 Billion. These states allocated about 8% to 10% of their individual budgets to education. Yet the 2012 budget for the University of California was $4.4Billion amounting to about N640Billion. In 2012 the North California State University budgetary expenditure in 2012 was $7,130,137,243 which translates to N1,212,123,331,310. In the same period, the Federal Government of Nigeria’s budget for 50 Federal Universities and UBE (Universal Basic Education) was N495,456,130,065 which translated to 40.88% of the budget allocation of California State University.
In 2014 the total allocation of 89 federal higher institutions was N336,570,071,309. If converted to dollars at N199 it would come to $USD1,691,306,891 which would still be far below the annual revenue of only one private university in the USA.
OPERATING REVENUES OF SELECTED UNIVERTIES IN THE USA 2014/2015
UNIVERSITY 2014 2015
HARVARD (est. 1636) $4,408,665,000 $4,525,550,000
PENNSYLVANIA (est. 1740) $6,610,000,000 $7,119,997,000
PRINCETON (est. 1746) $1,566,267,000 $1,621,075,000
COLUMBIA (est. 1754) $3,842,982,000 $4,020,887,000
BROWN (est. 1764) $ 771,305,000 $808,665,000
YALE (est. 1701) $3,116,099,000 $3,297,677,000
CORNELL (est. 1868) $3,321,027,000 $3,514,390,000
DARTMOUTH (est. 1769) $981,000,000 $1,000,000,000
STANFORD (1885) $5,100,000,000 $5,500,000,000
Nigeria 89 higher institutions $1,691,306,891 converted at N199 = N336,570,071,309 $1,711,787,695 converted at N199 =
This problem of inadequate funding which did not start in the years referred to had overtime led to the inability of the existing universities to absorb the huge number of candidates graduating from secondary schools a number of which had increased exponentially due to population growth.
However the average Nigerian has come to believe that everything must be free and that government must provide all. Unfortunately, Nigerians were fed, by successive governments with wrong notion of who should fund university education.
Successful funding of universities require attitudinal change.
Government cannot fund education alone. Therefore, universities worldwide have overtime evolved numerous ways of sourcing funds such as donations, endowments, professional chairs, gifts, grants etc. All these are also as old as education. Most successful universities have utilized these means of funding to great effect. The fact of the matter is that the staggering revenue of the nine selected private universities stated above was due to the generous donations, endowment and gifts from selfless Americans. See the donations, gifts and endowment earned by three selected private universities in 2014 and 2015:
Harvard $1,691,253,000 $1,735,151,000
Yale $1,860,662,000 $1,911,920,000
Stanford $1,181,396,000 $1,291,747,000
I do not see why Nigerian universities cannot or should not follow suit. Universities whether public or private like any other enterprise need time to develop and break even. In order to grow, Nigerian Universities must reduce their dependency on government funding. They must enlist the interest of the rich and selfless Nigerians. To achieve this however, there must be a change in the attitude of Nigerians towards giving for educational purposes.
To be continued…
AARE AFE BABALOLA SAN, CON, LL.D, D.Litt