Challenges and Delivery in the Higher Institution: A Survey of University Autonomy in Nigeria.

Olakunle Folami


Public universities are owned either by the federal or state governments. Corruption, strike, funds and economic doldrums limit the research and teaching capacity of universities in Nigeria. These affect the contribution of university system to the development of the nation. McClelland’s Learned Needs Theory was employed in this paper to explain the desire of the universities to accomplish successfully research and teaching delivery in a competitive environment. Quantitative method of data collection was used in this paper to collect data from the respondents. Questionnaires were administered among one hundred and thirty six respondents from six states and federal universities across the nation. The paper found that both state and federal universities could not meet their financial obligations. Paucity of funds has led to incessant strike, student unrest and brain drain. It was also found that scarcity of funds has affected research and development in the universities. The paper therefore, recommended autonomy and external source of funding for the universities. Internationalisation of the universities research, and public/private partnership were also recommended.

 Keywords: Autonomy, Funding, University, Research.


Education, most especially the university education is central to the national development and its importance to individual growth and wellbeing cannot be overemphasised. There is a link reaction between individual development and education. According to Aluko (1996) university is a place where human potentials are developed and refined for the utilisation of national development. Universities provide manpower needed by the nation. The quality of manpower available to a country is largely determined by the standard of its education (Jega, 1994). Funding is a major instrument which determines how well a university achieve its objectives. No matter how lofty the objectives of a university are, inadequate funding is capable of hampering its realisation. Adequate funding promotes research and development, qualitative teaching, good learning environment, and ability of the university to contribute to national development adequately. Education generally in Nigeria receives low attention from government. Olorode (2005) claims that unstable university calendar, strikes, brain-drain, lack of autonomy and low morale among the lecturers contribute to the quality of universities outputs in terms students and research.

In recent times, university system has been overwhelmed with strike, brain-drain, student unrest and closure due to lack of adequate funding. The ability to generate fund privately is hampered by the status that created the university system in Nigeria. Section 106 of the nation’s education policy recognizes that the financing of education is a joint responsibility of the Federal, State and Local government (Onyekwu, 2011).  But in practice the funding is left solely to the owners. It has become difficult for university to secure funds from private organization to support research. Scholarships, grants and bursaries for students and researchers are difficult to come by. Olorode (2005) says that the culture is not simply there among the business organisations to support research and scholarship in Nigeria. The Tertiary Education Fund and Petroleum Technology Development Fund are created by Acts of Government  as compulsory contributions from the business organisations to finance education in Nigeria through a fixed percentage tax deduction from the source ( n.d).

The proposition the paper seeks to explain is that; first, inadequate funding could result to brain-drain in the universities; and second, there is a relationship between university funding, research and teaching in the universities. The study therefore, sets to examine the extent of funding available to the public universities in Nigeria. It seeks to know the sources of funding available to Nigerian universities. It also examines alternative means available to universities in Nigeria to generate more fund. The study like others in the field of sociology of education and management attempts to link paucity of funds to challenges such as brain-drain, strike, ineffective research and absent of season lecturers in the Nigerian universities.  This article is divided into the following sections; one, needs theory and challenges facing universities; two, strike, brain-drain and university system; three, private sector and funding of university; four, method; and five, results and conclusions.

Needs Theory and Challenges

McClelland’s Learned Needs Theory is used in this study to explain the desire of universities in Nigeria to accomplish moderately performance goals, be successful in competitive situation, assume personal responsibility for fund sourcing and internationalisation of programmes. Three motivational needs were identified by McClelland (1969) including achievement motivation (n-ach); authority/power motivation (n-pow); and affiliation motivation (n-affil). First, the n-ach person is ‘achievement motivated’ and therefore seeks achievement, attainment of realistic but challenging goals, and advancement in the job. There is a strong need for feedback as to achievement and progress, and a need for a sense of accomplishment. Second, the n-pow person is ‘authority motivated’. This driver produces a need to be influential, effective and to make an impact. There is a strong need to lead and for their ideas to prevail. There is also motivation and need towards increasing personal status and prestige. Third, the n-affil person is ‘affiliation motivated’, and has a need for friendly relationships and is motivated towards interaction with other people. The affiliation driver produces motivation and need to be liked and held in popular regard. These people are team players (Businessballs, 2015).

The need for autonomy by the universities to meet the current challenges explains why power with limited moderation over activities by external agencies like state or federal government is desirable. The desire by the universities to conduct their businesses with interferences requires a high ‘socialized power’ in which they seek power for autonomous purpose (Rue and Holland 1986). According to Smelser (1962) universities with a strong affiliation need to form positive relationships with outside world. Donnel and Gibson (1987) says that universities with a high need for achievement make better entrepreneurs because they are able to work autonomously towards the challenging goal of establishing a new source of funding (Sergiovamni and Carver, 2003).

In the modern era, university should encourage partnership with private sector of the economy through research and development. This will provide a strong economic base and a better source of finance for the university (ICAN study kit, 1998). The research output of a university could be sold to a private sector or government agencies (Croft 2004). University must be ready to seek grants and endowed research chair for professors who can attract funds (Olorode, 2005).  These could go a long way to finance its budget if not for lack of autonomy that hampered such ingenuity in Nigeria (Olorode, 2005).

In Nigeria, the annual budgetary allocation to education has dropped from 19.6% in 1993 to 12.4% in 2010. In 1996, OECO countries accounted for 85% of the total R&D investment; China, India, Brazil and East Asia represented 11% and the rest of the world (inclusive of Nigeria that is) only 4% … Nigeria has only 15 scientists and engineers per million persons. This compares with 158 in India and 4,103 in the United States (World Bank, 2002).  Nigeria’s number of scientific publication for 2005 was 711 significantly less than its 1991 output which was 1,062 (Task Force 2010). The country’s low research output probably reflects the low priority accorded to research and development by government. Nigeria’s federal university system spends only 1.3% of its budget on Research (Harnett, 2000).

The introduction of a special agency “Education Trust Fund” to generate funds to finance education in Nigeria has not recorded desired results. Obikwe (2006) said that the funding of Nigeria universities is at all time low, despite the purported efforts of successive government, no much can be shown for the efforts. Onweh (1997) states that there is an urgent need for stakeholders in the country’s education sector to align their different objectives to rescue university system from total collapse. On education, Nigeria spends an estimated 2.4% of its GNP while sub-Saharan Africa as a whole spends 5.1%…. school drop out have continually risen and also, the education standards have reportedly declined. Between 2000 and 2007, for example, the Government Allocation for higher education declined by 27%… even as enrollment grew by 79%. The result is a dramatic fall in the quality of University education and research as implied by the 62% drop in the real value of recurrent expenditure per student during this period (Saint, 2010).


Strike, Brain-drain and University System


University system continues to experience problems such as strike, closure, irregular academic calendar, brain-drain, low level of research and other problems as a result of small budgetary allocation to education by government in Nigeria. Research into the financial ability of universities has not been taken the central stage until it becomes clear that Federal and State government could not cope with the financing of the nation’s Universities as a result of global economic meltdown and a need to develop decades of infrastructures neglected by successive military governments in Nigeria.  According to Aluko (1996), low academic salaries coupled with more frequently university closure which linked to students’ unrest and government interferences on a number of campuses have prompted numerous university staff to forsake the academic calling. The World Bank notes that some 23,000 qualified academic staffers are emigrating from Africa each year in search of better working conditions. It is estimated that 10,000 Nigerians are now employed in the United States alone. More often, however, it is a neighboring country which beckons, South Africa attracts staff from Malawi, Zambia, and Nigeria, and the universities in Botswana and Swaziland attract Zimbabweans (Aluko, 1996).

The economic doldrums which the country currently witnessed have had serious effects on the university system in Nigeria. The budgetary allocation declines led to the rationalization or cancellation of a number of services rendered by the universities (Olorode, 2005). The services that were affected included support and sponsor of staff to conferences, both local or overseas; inadequate and epileptic supplies of stationary items and other academic materials such as books for the library, chemical for laboratories, drugs for health centers and clinics (Adelemo, 2001). Chalk, in some instances, could not be provided. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are obviously more expensive and would seldom be among the priority items to preoccupy the attention of the various managements of the universities (Okebukola, 2002). The culmination of the shortage of fund and simultaneous expansion in students’ enrolment, universities had to contend with shortage of accommodation, classrooms, inadequately library books (Olajuwon, 2004). According Salmi (2004) lack of facilities led to lower morale among the staff and those who felt that they could not cope either left Nigeria universities for overseas universities or found a well-paid job in the other sector of the economy. Jega (1994) emphasizes at this juncture that the struggle embarked by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASSU) to save the universities in the eighties and the nineties were preceded by those of the students in the sixties and the seventies.

Academic standards have no double measure. Its measurement is international, Olorode (2005) says there is no hide out for Nigerian society than to improve its education standard if it will remain among fast growing economy and fulfill its 2015 Millennium Development Goals. It has become a duty for Academic Staff Union of Universities to fight for better pay and better conditions of service for academic in order to direct government attention to education and to retain the academic staff that are still remain within the system and attract new ones. It is worrisome to note that the perennial strikes embarked by the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) in Nigeria were as a result of inadequate funding for the universities from the government. Research and teaching become almost non-existing in the universities as a result of paucity of funds. Truscott (1946) described a university as a society of scholars, all of whom are learning, but the more senior scholars spend part of their time teaching the junior scholars, and they also increase their own knowledge by adding to the store of human knowledge. This they do through research.

Private Sector and Funding of University


Funding of education in Nigeria, most especially the university education should not be a sole responsibility of government. Challenges before government to provide social facilities make it problematic to fund education as expected.  The contribution of private sector to the education sector is very important. However, private organisations have not seen education as their primary responsibility.  Private organisations in Nigeria do not patronise home grown knowledge. Research out-puts remain in archive of knowledge begging for adoption by the government and private organizations. According to Flexner (2000) the conservation of knowledge and ideas is and has always been recognised as the business of universities, sometimes, perhaps, as almost their only business. Thus, a university must seek to increase the bounds of knowledge through research, must act as a repository or store of such knowledge through research, and must also disseminate it.

Scarcity of fund in the nation’s education sector calls for public/private partnership which is aimed at injecting private sector know-how into failing public schools. University can choose to contract out specific educational services to private companies in order to access more fund. Paucity of fund can be resolved by a strong based private-sector ideology, competition, experimentation, and incentive. For- profit companies to run school systems more efficiently and produce better outcomes by applying private sector logic. Good teachers would be attracted to teaching and retained-by performance based pay schemes, while under performing teachers could be removed more easily. Composition within and between schools would lead to higher levels of innovation, privatized schools would have more liberty to institutionalize the result of successful research (see Giddens, Duneier and Appelbam, 2005).


This study was carried out in Nigeria. Nigeria is the largest black nation in the world. It has the population of about one hundred and forty million (140million) (see 2006 national population report). Nigeria is divided into six geo-political zones such as Northeast, Northwest, Northcentral, Southeast, Southwest and Southsouth.

Sampling method

Two universities each were selected from the three out of the six geographical zones of the country; Northwest, Southwest and Southeast. Each of these zones has at least a Federal and a State university. The total number of Universities in the country is one hundred and seventeen (2011 UMT Brochure University): Federal Universities twenty-five (36); State Universities twenty (36); and Private Universities twenty-five (45). The following universities were randomly selected: Northwest (University of Sokoto also known as Uthman Dan Fodiyo University and Nasarawa State University); Southwest (University of Ibadan and University of Ado Ekiti); and Southeast (University of Nigeria and Imo State University).


Selection of Participants

Participants in this study were drawn from Bursary Department, Registry Department and Academic Planning of the selected Universities. Letter of information was sent to each university administrative council to intimate the university administration about the purpose and objectives of the study. The approved letter with the consent form was given to head of each unit which was signed and passed on to the selected participants. Each participant was also allowed to fill the consent form before filling the questionnaire. The following participants were selected based on informed consent form early signed:

  1. Bursary Department

Deputy Registrar, Chief Accountant, Accountant 1& 11, and Account Technicians.

  1. Registry Department

            Principal Assistant Registrar, Assistant Registrars and Administration


  1. Academic Planning Unit

           Chief academic Planning Officer and Administration Officers.

No name was written on the questionnaires but serial numbers were provided for easy coding and analysis. The participants were given the opportunity to withdraw from filling out the questionnaires. Their responses were immediately destroyed upon withdrawal of intention halfway. The well filled out questionnaires were packed in a sealed envelope and transported to the researcher office for analysis. The Quantitative method of data collection was employed to gather data from one hundred and thirty six respondents out of the two hundred questionnaires that were administered. One hundred and thirty-six returned questionnaires which represented 68% of the total administered questionnaires is adequate for data analysis.

Structured questionnaires that consist of open-ended and close-ended questions were distributed. The followings distributions were obtained: University of Sokoto 27 (55.77%); Nasarawa University 21 (44.23%); University of Ibadan 28 (63.46%); University of Ado Ekiti 20 (36.54%); (University of Nigeria 26 (57.69%) and Imo State University 14 (42.31%). Pilot survey had earlier been carried out in three Universities in the three selected regions to test the reliability and validity of the research instruments. Permission of National University Commission was taken before embarking on the field work. It took the researcher one year and nine months to complete the study. Data collected were analyzed with the aid of simple percentage, cross-tabulation and chi-square. The summary and finding of the survey was sent to the selected university administration and library for documentation.






The results obtained from the analysis of data were presented here. Tables of percentages and chi-square were presented as well. Interpretation and conclusion on each table and chi-square were also presented. The paper presents results on the following: years of experience; number of students; amount of subvention in naira; grant received from government and others agencies; grant received from local and international agencies; effects of paucity of fund on the public universities; sources of fund; funding and brain – drain; and funding and teaching.

None of the Universities selected was established less than 10 years ago. The oldest University in Nigeria, University of Ibadan was established sixty-three years ago, University of Nigeria was established fifty-six years ago and also, Uthman Dan Fodiyo University was created thirty-six years ago. These Universities are owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria. They have no autonomy in terms of administration and funding. The other selected three universities such as Nassarawa State University, Ekiti State University and Imo State were established ten, twenty-nine and thirty years ago respectively by the State Government. They also lack autonomy, in spite they were created by concurrent status.

Number of students in each of the universities in the three regions is as follow: Southeast has the highest figure 57,000, University of Nigeria 36,000 and Imo State University 21,000; follow by southwest 24,654, University of Ibadan 12,000 and Ekiti State University 12,654 and, Northwest 21,123, Uthman Dan Fodiyo University 12,007 and Nassarawa State University 10,116.

The above table provides the number of both academic and non-academic staff working in the selected universities. The University of Ibadan has the highest number of staff with 4,197, follow by The University of Nigeria with 3,271 staff and the Uthman Dan Fodiyo University 2,512. The State owned universities have the lowest number of staff: Imo State University 2,752; Ekiti State University 2,223; and, Nassarawa State University 2,512.


UDU- Uthman Dan Fodiyo University

NSU- Nasarawa State University

UI-University of Ibadan

ESKU-Ekiti State University

UNN- University of Nigeria, Nnsuka

IMSU-Imo State University

The amounts of subventions such as grants, donations and others accrued to the selected universities are stated below. State owned universities are poorly funded. Their subscription is less than one billion naira ($7million) while the federal Government owned Universities collect a little above one billion naira ($7million for) for both capital and recurrent expenditures in a year.

It is clearly indicated from table one that funds available for Universities are not sufficient 75(55.15). Funds from the Federal and State government, internally generated revenue and funds from other donors are not adequate to run the universities. Also, both the Federal and State Universities demonstrate that funds are lowly sufficient 53 (38.97), sufficient 06 (4.41) and, averagely sufficient 02 (1.47).

Universities are poorly financed in Nigeria. From the above table 04 (2.9%) of the respondents said they received little grant from local and international agencies such as Education Trust Fund, National University Commission, UNESCO and other international donors while 18 (13.3%) of the respondents said that these grants were not sufficient. However, the largest percentages of the respondents 114 (83.8) said that grants are not available at all.

The effects of scarcity of funds on the public Universities are extremely enormous. Table II shows that the effects as follows: Research and Development 33 (24.27), strike 28 (20.59), Brain-drain 25 (18.38), Student Unrest 08 (5.88), teaching capacity 13 (9.56), Sponsorship 09 (6.62), external links 13 (9.56), and community development 07 (5.15).

The possible means by which Universities in Nigeria source for funds were examined in table III. Apart from running grants from governments, 43 (31.62%) of the respondents agreed that funds could be sourced by buying and selling of security, bonds and shares. Also, 29 (21.32%) of the respondents believe that funds could be sourced internally by selling of admission forms, increase in the number of in-takes, increase in school fees, deregulation of accommodation fees and commercialization of universities’ halls of residence. Public/private partnership is another way by which funds could be generated, 28 (20.59%) of the respondents supported this idea. About 19 (13.97%) and 17 (12.50%) of the respondents said that funds could be made available to the universities by the internationalization of university programmes and commercialization of research output respectively.

Funding and Brain – drain

                        Federal                        State                           Total

Yes                              68 (82.93)                    38 (70.37)                    106 (77.94)

No                               14 (17.07)                    16 (29.63)                    30  (22.06)

                                    82(100)                        54 (100)                       136 (100)

x2                                 = 2.36

d.f                                = 1

a                                  = .05

Critical value   = 3.84

The acceptance region for this test using a = .05 and d.f = 1. The critical value is 3.84. Since the critical chi-square value exceeds the observed value of x2, I accept the null hypothesis of independence of the classification and conclude that inadequate funding could lead to brain-drain in the Universities.

Funding and Teaching 


                                    Federal                        State                            Total

Yes                                          66 (80.49)                    40(74.07)                     106 (77.94)

No                                           10(12.20)                     08(14.82)                     18 (13.24)

I don’t know                 06 (07.31)                    06(11.11)                     12 (8.82)

 Total                          82 (100)                        54(100)                        136 (100)

x2                                 =          1.86

d.f                                =          2

a                                  =          .05

Critical value   =          5.99

In this text, the chi-square is accepted using a = .05 and d.f = 2. The critical value is 5.99. Since the critical value exceeds the observed value x2 =1.86, I accept the null hypothesis of dependence of the classification and conclude that there is a relationship between University funding and teaching capacity of academic staff.

Conclusion and Recommendation

This study was set to examine the funding of universities in Nigeria and other problems confronting the system. It was found in this paper that grants from the government to the universities either from the federal government or state government was crossly insufficient. The insufficiency of fund for universities has actually led to the inability of the universities to meet with the challenges of education in this globalization era. However, for a university to compete favourably with its counterparts all over the world it must be adequately funded. Education generally in Nigeria is not adequately founded. It was reported that budgetary allocation to education in Nigeria continuously dwindling in the last two decades (Duyilemi, 2007).

The effects of paucity of fund on the universities administration were also examined in this paper. Inadequate funding has bandwagon effects. Regrettably, research and development is grossly affected in the Nigerian universities. Universities lack fund to sponsor research. Private organizations have also failed to help in this direction. Lack of research fund has push some lecturers out of the Universities this actually led to brain-drain experienced in the nation’s ivory towers. Incessant strikes by the university staff – both the academic and non-academic, many of the strikes boiled down on the inability of the university management to meet the demands of its workers as a result of paucity of fund.

It was also concluded in this paper that inadequate funding has led to students’ unrest and the inability to secure capable teaching hands. This is supported by the chi-square test that stated that there is a strong correlation between funding and teaching capacity (see hypothesis 2). Sponsorship for teachers and students to attend conferences, workshops, seminars and training both locally and internationally were also hampering by insufficient funds. However, new development could only be leant by the university professors without attending conference, workshops, seminars and training. More so, external linkage/exchange programme would be difficult to establish because university needs enough fund to accomplish this task. Inadequate fund has affected the ability of universities to contribute meaningfully to the community development because funds available could not go round.

This paper examines way out of perennial shortage of fund in the universities. It is important for a university to source for fund; this could be done both locally and internationally. It was concluded that, practically, universities could raise fund internally from establishment of enterprises, increase in school fees payment, accommodation payment. Also, commercialization of research outputs could be used as a viable source of funding. Research outputs could be sold to private organizations, government and interested international buyers.Buying and selling of government security, shares and bonds could generate funds for universities. Though, this recommendation is not popular with public universities. The autonomy of universities could make this possible. Public/private partnership is a new global initiative that could brings development to moribund institutions in the country. Universities could enter into partnership with private individuals, business organizations and international consortium. Finally, this paper recommended internationalization of university’s degree. The more foreigners patronize a university, the more increases her income. Globalization of the world has made internationalization of education possible and practicable.


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