Improve the quality of postgraduate degrees

FOLLOWING a renewed campaign by education sector agencies to improve the quality of graduate degrees awarded by Nigerian universities, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund has reiterated its concerns about the threat of plagiarism and abuse. poor quality scholarships. Worryingly, the agency claims that these quickly kill the quality and credibility of research produced by higher institutions. The movement is a step in the right direction.

Recently, during a capacity building workshop for librarians, ICT directors, office managers and other relevant staff from institutions receiving its funding, TETFund Executive Secretary Suleiman Bogoro highlighted the need to deploy technology to improve the quality of university research. production and put an end to plagiarism by researchers “at all levels, including professors”.

Bogoro’s threat to sanction academics and wandering institutions receiving its funding follows such a strong complaint about bad doctoral degrees previously made by Abubakar Rasheed, the executive secretary of the National Universities Commission. Rasheed attributed the poor quality of the doctoral research produced by Nigerian universities and the enormous copyright infringement to certain avoidable factors such as incompetent supervisors, interminably long periods of doctoral research and the resulting frustration of doctoral students. . He described as “intrusive intruders” the men charged with supervising disciplines in which they lack competence, thus making doctoral students “victims of endless doctoral programs”. According to him, being a teacher does not mean that the person can supervise very well.

Rasheed added: “… in the end, the product or the quality of the school is not what it should be. And of course, if you put this in the context of the critical role that doctoral research is called upon to play in terms of innovation, by creating new relevant knowledge by generating marketable knowledge for goods and services converted into goods and services, all of these have an effect in terms of establishing the link between doctoral training and national development.

This is the heart of the matter. One of the main justifications for providing higher education is that it develops the ability to think in an abstract way. Studies by researchers at Harvard University and published by the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management have established that higher education and postgraduate degrees play an important role in promoting economic growth. For developing countries in particular, experts said that as the world moves closer to a knowledge-based economy, higher degrees “can help economies gain ground over more advanced societies. technological… ”

Acquiring quality postgraduate degrees at home and abroad has been a key part of the overall development strategy of Japan, China and the Asian Tigers – Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Since the introduction of new regulations in 1981, the number of graduate students in China has increased 50-fold, and the country had overtaken the United States in 2018 as the world’s largest producer of research publications, according to the National Science Foundation of the United States. Singapore has two types of universities: research-intensive institutions and the applied degree path, where the emphasis is on practical experience and exposure to industry. Quality is never compromised.

Where, as Bogoro claims, instead of research useful for public policy or business, plagiarism thrives, the country loses. Although possession of a doctorate is not strictly enforced by most universities around the world, a higher number of academics own the degree, thereby improving their reputation and that of their institutions among their peers. Further, according to QS World University Rankings, “earning a doctorate is about creating new knowledge,” he adds; “His discovery / invention can even change society”.

Nigeria should therefore take the issue of the quality of higher education more seriously. Like all facets of Nigerian society, doctoral studies have also been affected, perhaps made worse by official politics. The NUC may have been well-meaning when it insisted on the doctorate as the minimum qualification for teaching in universities, saying the system was short of 20,000 doctorate holders. But the ensuing rush of existing and aspiring speakers to earn the coveted certificate overwhelmed the system. Many have chosen the path of doctoral studies at private universities, some of which lack the academic specialists necessary to oversee the rigorous research expected of a doctoral thesis.

Solving the problem requires action from the public and private sectors. Funding for doctoral studies should be improved. In the United States, funding for many doctoral students comes from federal and state governments, charities, nonprofits, loans, grants, assistantships, and grants. Considerable research funding also comes from businesses through foundations and programs.

In addition, the quality of teaching and research at many Nigerian universities is outdated. The Donations do not improve their knowledge and there is little research in the field. Many academics are still operating with old methods and knowledge, failing to grasp the new era of digital technology and knowledge in multidisciplinary academic fields.

In a field like journalism, media and communication, where researchers from all over the world teach and research algorithmic journalism; interpretive journalism; Artificial intelligence in media and communication studies, Nigerian universities still teach old theories.

The frequent closure of universities caused by faculty strikes and student unrest doesn’t help either. Libraries are poorly equipped; laboratories are inadequate and lack essential equipment. Classrooms and hostels are overcrowded and living conditions on campus are miserable. In this environment, corruption thrives and there are reports of “professional” thesis writers on campuses hired to write and plagiarize theses for students.

Universities and their owners need to clean up the system. In line with global best practices, aspiring doctoral students can be admitted as research assistants, receive scholarships, and teaching assistants where they are paid and trained in research and teaching while studying for their degrees within of the university system.

The NUC should review its policy on compulsory doctorates for education. Some of the most accomplished academics in the world in various fields do not. Universities should be allowed to prescribe their own qualifications subject to a universal minimum stipulated by regulators. They should never compromise on standards. There should be a national policy on higher degrees to harness knowledge for development, technology and economy. State governments should also have their own policies. Israel, the United States, China and Singapore provide examples of countries that prioritize research, including generously funding the acquisition of postgraduate degrees by their nationals. Nigeria should follow suit and ensure global standards for the quality of its academic certificates.

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John McTaggart

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