Internationalization of the University of Lagos; An Analytical Approach by Obiora Samson Faithful

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Abstract

Internationalization of university education is the major phase of international relations among universities and it is not only a means to improved quality education, but also a goal in itself.1 This conviction is particularly true for the University of Lagos. This aspiration, reflected in newly-crafted vision and mission statements which adorn the website of the institution, is recognition of the fact that the status provided access to wider resources and unique opportunities for developments. Using Knights four generic dimensions which indicated shortcomings in the activities, competencies, ethos and processes in the internationalization of university education, a lucid profile highlighting on the insight of the university’s internationalization process was elaborated upon. This paper does not present an empirical model, but illuminates very significant facets of internationalization of the University of Lagos, the challenges and prospects with a sanguine hope that the captains of the institution will ponder upon these aspects and would incorporate long term strategies to overcome the potential threats in this arena.

Introduction/Background

‘Internationalization’ is not a new nomenclature, nor is the continuing debate about its meaning. The term has been justified, defined and measured through various theories, hypothesis and models, many of which are divergent; but a key principle is that it respects and is guided by local cultures, values and needs. The key concept of inter-nation implies relationships between and among countries people, system and cultures. Thus, in its broader sense, the term internationalization can be defined as the action or effect of making something spread out to several nations. However, in order to establish a context, one must take into account internationalization’s dimensions.2 Central to understanding internationalization is to see it as an ‘-ization’ or a process. Internationalization is not an ‘-ism’ or ‘ideology’- it is a process of change.3 This position was emphasized upon by Knight (2008) in his classical definition of internationalization of universities thus: “as the process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of post-secondary education”.4 Therefore, it could be said generally that internationalization is unquestionably a multi-dimensional process and for the purposes of this paper, this definition shall be adopted.

The Profile of Internationalization of the University of Lagos: An Analytical Approach- Knights Four Generic Dimensions

Using the four generic perspectives of activity, competency, ethos and process, Knight in Delgado-Marquez, Hurtado-Torres & Bonder (2011) explained the different approaches to internationalization by different researchers, practitioners and higher education institutions. The approaches and descriptions are as shown in table 1.5

Table 1: Approaches to internationalization

Approach Description
Activity Categories  or  types  of  activities  used  to  describe  internationalization  such  as curriculum,  student/faculty  exchanges,  technical  assistance,  international students.
Competency Development  of  new  skills,  knowledge,  attitudes  and  values  in  students,  faculty and  staff.  As  the  emphasis  on  outcomes  of  education  grows,  there  is  increasing interest  in  identifying  and  defining  global  international  competencies.
Ethos Emphasis  is  on  creating  a  culture  or  climate  on  campus  which  promotes  and supports  international/intercultural  initiatives.
Process Integration  or  infusion  of  an  international  or  intercultural  dimension  into teaching,  research  and  service  through  a  combination  of  a  wide  range  of activities,  polices  and  procedures.

 

Activity Approach

Since education is a primary factor of development and for creating positive changes, in the wake of global competitiveness, the internal efficiency of any University in Nigeria should show evidence of her sufficiency in terms of admission, registrations, study assessment techniques and processes. According to Onyene (2013), admission into all programmes offered by UNILAG, at postgraduate level, is through online application by a visit to spgs website www.unilagspgs.edu.ng. Any student elsewhere in the world can apply.6 The same is true for undergraduate studies in the university. However, some activities drawing from extraneous consideration have undermined the admission process making it most unfavorably. For instance, the central examination system by JAMB and other sets of exam organized by the university has become for access of higher education into the institution. Furthermore, the activity of strike actions and the university’s intermittent closure is anti-internationalization and does not augur well for the life strategic plan of international students and their sponsors.

Competency Approach

The FGN 20:2020 (2009) document noted that the declining quality of education, training and skills has posed serious impediments to the employability of Nigerian undergraduates (of which the University of Lagos is inclusive) and has grossly undermined the competitiveness of the Nigerian labour force globally.7

Ethos Approach

The academic atmosphere of Unilag so far does not encourage it to be addressed as the ivory tower where the intellectual preoccupation will result to innovation. The motivational relationship that encourages mentoring and capacity building among staff is hardly in existence as staff and faculty strive for survival as they are starved of funds. Using the research culture, as example, only a few of the University’s lectures can afford to attend international conferences from their salary expenditure without sponsorship. The intervention of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TertFund) sponsorship of research, development of infrastructural facilities have recently improved the culture of teaching and research in the university even if it is like a trickle where an ocean is needed.8

Process Approach

Internationally, the process of lecture delivery has become digitalized resulting in massive open online courses (MOOCs), yet it is only the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) that has introduced it on a minimal scale due to the challenge of technology adaptation and power problems. The process of research within the university has not resulted in its inclusion among the first one thousand by the world’s ranking organizations. This shows that the quality of most research within the university are not of international standard, hence, the urgent need for a review of the research process.9

Challenges to Internationalization of the University of Lagos

On a general scale, higher education in Nigeria (of which UNILAG is inclusive) has persistently faced severe challenges, particularly with growing societal demands with a few resources, inadequate capacity and a history of neglect, the sector has been struggling over the years to respond to these increasing demands, leading to ongoing capacity lacuna at the global level. The sector has also suffered from inadequate funding weak governance and leadership, low quality of academic programmes, and stifled academic freedoms.10 More so, the absence of periodic reviews of institutional structures, academic pedagogy and facilities in line with the current global sophistication has undermined our prospects in this arena. Commenting on this dire state, at one of her meetings, the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU, UNILAG Branch) according to Okebukola (2007) deliberates on the need for structural review after which it reasoned that when such criteria is designed and used for assessment of organizational health of Universities, a lot of adjustments will be carried out to ensure balance. Absence of such comparative assessment tool have rendered many Universities unfit with obsolete and irrelevant programmes being sold to their immediate environment, and to the country as a whole.11 These challenges require urgent intervention if the sector is to play a meaningful role in the Internationalization process.

Prospects for the Internalization of the University of Lagos: Road map to Global Relevance

The following have been suggested as roadmap in answer to the university’s vision as to becoming an everlasting prototype for the reformation of the world at large.

  1. Funding is always a big agenda for restructuring. At least the UNESCO standard of 26% annual national budget should be strictly adhered to if the deplorable state facilities and infrastructure can be stemmed.
  2. One-time, online examination programmes of global standard should be put in place to encourage foreigners access the university with the minimum required qualifications.
  3. The effect of incessant closure of the University can be reduced if formal agreements are entered into for twinning model with foreign universities among MOOCs as advocated by the National University Commission Guidelines (2010) such that as students are at home because of closure, they can be studying and running the programmes at the university.12 However, the best as observed by Robert-Okah (2014) is the avoidance of closure at all such that unions device alternative strategies to make demand on government.13
  4. Cross campus network and joint research activities with foreign universities will help in fostering global standard research process. There is therefore the need for the redesigning of the communication lines. E-university will play the magic transformational wand for prompt reach to foreigners and their various forms of educational programmes.
  5. Open Education Resources should be encouraged by the university with a review policy back-up such that curriculum content of courses in the institution should be tandem with international standards.

Conclusion

Education is recognized as a necessary condition for development and for creating positive change. In this era of change, and uncertainty, universities are trying their best to meet public expectations by augmenting their functions,14 and in turn getting more innovative, competitive and global.15 The University of Lagos should not be left behind for there is need for her to work together with other parts of the world to address global challenges.

OBIORA SAMSON FAITHFUL is a 300level student of the Faculty of Law in the UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS. obiorasamson98@gmail.com (08185528865)

 

References and Footnotes

1.) Tahira, J., and Masha, A.K. (2015). Internationalization of Higher Education: Potential Benefits and Costs. International Journal of Evaluation and Research in Education (IJERE). 4(4), 196-199.

2.) Raul, C., Ana, P.S., Machado-Santos C. (2012). Dimensions of Internationalization: A Review. Research Gate.

3&10.) Knight, J., and Sehoole, C. (2013). Internationalization of African Higher Education: Towards Achieving the MDGs. Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

4.) Knight, J. (2008). Higher Education in Turmoil: The Changing World of Internationalization. Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

5.) Delgado-Marquez, B.L, Hurtado-Torres, N.E, Bondar, Y. (2011). Internationalization of Higher Education: Theoretical and Empirical Investigation of its Influence on Unversity Institution Rankings in Globalization and Internationalization of Higher Education. Revista da Universidad Sociedad Delconocimiento (RUSC). 8(2), 14-24.

6.) Onyene, V. (2013). Issues in Internationalization of Higher Education in Nigeria: Repositioning Towards Global Relevance. Lagos: Sam Orient Publishers.

7.) Federal Government of Nigeria (2009). Vision 20: 2020: Economic Transformation Blueprint FGN

8.) Okojie, J. (2008). Developing Strategic Partnership in the Nigerian Universities. A Presentation at the British Council Global Conference, London, 2nd-5th December, 2008.

9&13) Robert-Okah, I. (2014). Internationalization of University Education in Nigeria: Responding to New Realities and Global Relevance. Developing Country Studies. 4(23), 146-153.

11.)  Okebukola, J. (2007). The Status of University Education in Nigeria, A Report Presented to the National Summit on Higher Education, Abuja.

12.) National University Commission (NUC). Guidelines for Cross-Border Provision of University Education in Nigeria, NUC mimeograph.

14.) Mary Henkel (2005). Academic Identity and Autonomy in a Changing Policy Environment, Higher Education 49, no. 1-2, 155-176.

15.) Sorin E. Zaharia and Ernest Gilbert. (2005). The Entrepreneurial  University  in the Knowledge Society; Higher Education in Europe 30, no. 1, 31-40

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