INTERNATIONALIZATION OF THE UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS: THE PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES by Gbarada Oluwasogo

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We are aware that globalization doesn’t mean global friendship but global competition and therefore, conflict. That doesn’t mean we will destroy each other, but it’s no happy village either. – Rene Girard

The University of Lagos was established by an Act of the Federal Parliament in April 1962. Its development was planned to take place in three phrases but as a result of the University and National Crisis of 1965, 1967-1970 it took a different turn. The University has about nine (9) faculties which are equipped with standard educational equipment. Our great University is known by students in and outside Lagos and the nation at large as the “University of first choice”, this has been an unshaken pride throughout the years due to the standard of the university and the alumni it has produced into the work force, even I am a product still in process of the system.

Questions have risen on the next step for the university in impacting knowledge to not just citizens of Nigeria but to students outside Nigeria who would like to be a product of the Nigerian system to elevate internationalization. Why Embrace Internationalization? Internationalization is the process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale. The university is mainly concerned with the production and dissemination of universal knowledge. The University of Lagos has dual characteristics, national and international while the ownership, structure and organization may always be national, the content and knowledge impacted is universal and international.

Higher education provides economic, social and political benefits, both to individuals and the public, produces qualified human capital and professional development, adapts and generates knowledge through research and innovation, brings about equitable opportunities and access provisions, supports other levels of education, promotes international cooperation and improves competitiveness in the global knowledge-based economy. These provisions are what the Nigerian university system needs to survive. Internationalization is the less theorized term for globalization, Internationalization is not a monolithic force but an evolving set of consequences – some good, some bad and some unintended. It is the new reality, hence the prospects and challenges of internationalizing the University of Lagos.

The prospects of internationalizing the University of Lagos includes; attainment of world class status, competitive environment and expansion.

Attainment of world class status is no doubt the ultimate goal of every higher institution since it is the only way to strategically compete among overseas counterpart. Some categorical rationales have been advanced as likely under-tones for internationalization of certain university programmes, projects and activities. This is often expressed with laudable pronouncements such as ‘to be a top class institution for the pursuit of excellence in knowledge through learning and research, as well as in character and service to humanity’ (University of Lagos press, 2011), this reform process takes into account the future orientation, current global actions to be tackled for improvement, maximization of resource output leading to attainment of goals and objectives. This change indispensability brings about reforms and innovations in the areas of curriculum development, structural and teaching method upturn, resulting in standard improvement, meeting future expectations, organizational effectiveness in goal accomplishment as well as increasing desire for more creativity and innovations.

The second prospect is competitive environment. We must create a kind of internationalization that works for everyone and not just for a few. The system to be adopted should be programmed in a way to suite everyone and not leaving few out of it. Competition happens to be useful in achieving such as the Lagos Model United Nation and National Model United Nation.

The third prospect of internationalization of the University of Lagos is expansion. There will be expansion, enhancement and extended lines of communication between individuals, groups, teams, institutions with enriched multi-directional patterns in order to ensure fast-tracked results, intermittent adjustments and or change introduction.

Internationalization is therefore, a living process born out of paradigmatic pressure which has become imperatively compelling. Since education is a primary factor of development through which changes are brought about, entrenched and perpetuated, in the wake of global competitiveness, the internal efficiency of any university in Nigeria should show evidence of her sufficiency components in terms of admission, registration, study assessment techniques and processes. Admission into all programmes offered by University of Lagos, at post-graduate level, is through online applications by a visit to spgs website www.unilagsps.edu.ng. A click on the session of ‘application’ for example, 2017/2018 application likes one up. One can equally log in with payment reference numbers as username and provide surname in lowercases as password, and there you go, very simple. Only institutions that are electronically connected can confidently portray her process as UNILAG, School of Post-Graduate Studies. This does not end at e-admission but e-registration form, use of data capturing for issuance of student identity card (ID cards) all backed up with adequate support services available to students with log-in problems. Any student elsewhere in the world can apply.

The Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), has long expanded her operations to include polytechnics and colleges as her bunch of service beneficiaries’ particularly for undergraduate admission. There is the need to reach Nigerians in diaspora whose children would prefer to school in Nigeria as a means of being integrated into our culture, knowledge orientations, her leadership and people. This may call for certificate harmonization as done for America by the International Board of Evaluation. A secondary school in New York and Manchester may easily produce learners as feeders who will be eligible for admission in University of Lagos (UNILAG). In the same vein, many secondary schools in Nigeria have been subscribing to the services of American, South African and Ghanaian higher institutions of learning through online information thereby using the internet as an unbeatable globalization tool for internationalization of education, skill acquisition and general exchange of items of value.

Internationalization is a democratic approach that can be regarded as property of modern organization requiring conscious and careful entrenchment to make local institutions to reach out to the outside world. This occurs through exchange programmes for learners, having collaborated study scheme, foreign research supervision, and collaborated research conduct by scholars, exchange of course teachers such as visiting professorship as well as sharing of administrative models, personnel and facilities. With internationalization, institutional planning and decision-making will take integrative pattern with each networked institution involved in the creation, coordination, stimulation of ideas, values, technical specialties and resourcing.

Internationalization can be a great opportunity and a downcast, hence the challenges facing the internationalization of the University of Lagos. Paucity of funds allocated to the University of Lagos in the national budget has become a hydra-headed monster to growth and development of universities in Nigeria. This, with the increasing deplorable state of the university’s carrying capacity regulation have impacted negatively on the university’s services especially between 1981 and 1991. There is often no periodic review of institutional structure, academic programmes, and facilities in line with the current global sophistication. At one of her meetings, the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU, UNILAG Branch), deliberated on the need for structural review after which it reasoned that when such criteria is designed and used for assessment of the 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. Also the University of Lagos battles the expensive incapability to align some courses of study with labour market demand. This is followed by the indiscriminate upsurge in several departments of new courses in a copy-and-paste manner, renaming of courses in various faculties without adjusting content and outlines, hasty floating of centres or boards for new programmes, total lack of conformity to international standard as well as unsellable nature of some courses.

Suggestion as to strategies for internationalization in answer to the problem of internationalization will be appropriate to solve University of Lagos education problems are; In order to internationalize the entrance into Nigerian universities, a one-time, online examination programme of global standard should be put in place to encourage foreigners access the university  with the minimum required qualification because it is said that arguing against internationalization is like arguing against the law of gravity. In improving the training and skill acquisition of UNILAG students for internationalization, international cooperation should be exploited at institutional level using the partnership model where universities partner and network with foreign ones who are world class in known field of study to run e-workshops/conferences and seminars in the required fields.

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