Education is significant to the foundation of a decent, vibrant, and prosperous society. It is education that provides members of the society with the requisite values, norms, skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed for development and economic growth. Education shapes the personality of individuals in society. Thus, the quality of education determines the quality of the individual component of a society or nation. An educated individual is believed to be equipped with the ability to make good choices. Education provides an individual with the ability to think and proffer solutions to personal and societal problems.
Besides, education is vital for sustainable economic development. Since human capital is a critical factor for economic growth and human capital is a function of education. Some economists have theorised that the human capital level of a nation determines her ability to utilise the existing physical capital. This implies that an increase in physical capital without a corresponding increase in human capital will hamper a nation’s economic development.
Thus, the role of education in societal and economic development is pivotal. This fact is even more pertinent in the 21st century where nations are transiting from agricultural and industrial economies to a knowledge – based economy. Therefore, there is no underscoring the fact that the current trend in economic growth globally, is knowledge power. However, for a nation to achieve a knowledge – based economy, it must be positioned first as a knowledge – based society. Emphases should be on the key elements of a knowledge – based society; human capital and intellectual property. These elements will drive innovative ideas, creativity, improved information, and enhanced best practices. Thereby leading to a knowledge revolution that will translate into (high) – technological innovation, so that our economy will become globally competitive.
However, achieving this stride will require substantial investment in education. It will also require the commitment, dedication, and sacrifice of all stakeholders in the country. Including (all tiers of) government, private sector, religious and traditional institutions, and the research community. These critical players must realise that education is fundamental to our collective survival as a nation. They must also accept the fact that increase investment in human capital is the surest means of sustainable economic growth in the 21st century.
Furthermore, effective, and efficient tertiary education is essential for achieving a knowledge – based economy. Tertiary education does not only provide the required human capital for development, but it also serves as the hub for research and innovation. Achieving these fundamentals in our tertiary institutions, require funding. Funding for higher institutions has been in the core struggle of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria. The 2009 agreement between the federal government and ASUU has captured the basic funding requirements for the public universities in the country. The funding needs as captured in the agreement is either for the revitalisation of infrastructure (structures and facilities) or improved conditions of service. Therefore, there is a clear need for increased funding to the institutions to meet these obligations. However, the point of contention is where and how to source for the needed increased funding to achieve these goals. Thus, proposed here is a two – step strategy that can be adopted as a model for funding tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
Strategy Step 1: Allocation of 6% Total Annual Tax Income for Tertiary Education Funding Needs.
As outlined above, the critical funding needs for tertiary education in Nigeria are funding for infrastructural development and improved conditions of service. The tertiary education trust fund (TetFund) is an existing agency of government established with the mandate for the rehabilitation, restoration, and consolidation of tertiary education in Nigeria. Specific mandates of the agency include provision and maintenance of; essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning, instructional materials and equipment, research and publications, and academic staff training and learning. Thus, this agency is already addressing one aspect of the funding need for tertiary institutions. The second aspect of the needed funding (conditions of service), as spelled out in chapter three sections 3.2 to 3.3 of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement also needs to be addressed.
So, it is proposed here that the government should provide additional funds to the existing fund for Tetfund (tertiary education tax). The source of this additional fund should be 6% of the total annual tax income (from all tax income sources) generated by the government. Since the generated tax income is for all the tiers of government, this 6% should be deducted before the distribution of the accrued tax income amongst the tiers of government. The advantage of having a common source of funds from all the tiers of government for this purpose is to allow for unified funding and policy regulation for both federal and state-owned institutions. This is very critical if we are to achieve a uniform set of academic standards for both state and federal institutions. It should also be clear that this additional funding is without prejudice to the existing statutory allocations for these institutions by both the states and the federal governments.
For this funding to come into effect there will be a need for amending the act establishing TetFund. The amendment will allow for the inclusion of the additional funding source (6% total tax income) and expanding the mandate of the TetFund. The additional mandates should accommodate the two critical funding needs.
Strategy step two: Structured/Controlled Undergraduate/University Education Tuition Fee Subsidy and Postgraduate Education Loan.
There is a need for universities to generate income to meet their day-to-day running cost. The first aspect of the running cost, is for teaching services, conducting, and translating research (operating expenditure) for the benefit of the society. The second is for maintaining and expanding physical infrastructure and research facilities (capital expenditure). Tuition fees charged by public universities form the largest source of income for most universities across the globe. To meet the capital and operating expenditure requirements of the universities, the need for tuition fee increment becomes necessary. Thus, universities can be allowed to have a regulated (determined by the NUC) tuition fees increment particularly for postgraduate and foreign students. The Universities will use this fund for their expenditure requirements and any surplus thereof should be reinvested to generate more income. A stable significant income for the cost of running the universities will also allow for the management of the institutions to borrow for the execution of priority projects. Doing this will further improve the quality of services and researches by the universities.
However, the fee increment will have a negative impact on the students and parents. So, to cushion the effect, an undergraduate tuition fee subsidy regime should be introduced by the government. The subsidy should take care of at least 70% of the undergraduate tuition fee. While a postgraduate loan scheme should be provided for the postgraduate students. The loans should be payable postgraduation only after the beneficiary has secured a reasonable paying job.
The administration, management, and disbursement of the subsidy and loan should be by an agency to be established by an act of parliament. This agency will have the mandate of ascertaining and verifying the list of students submitted to it by the respective public Universities across the country. The Universities are to make yearly submissions of the total number of students in their respective institutions to the agency. The agency will then make the subsidy payments to the respective universities based on the verified figures of students. On the aspect of the loans, prospective beneficiaries (postgraduate students) are to apply directly to the agency for a loan after securing a postgraduate admission. The agency upon approval of the application then makes direct payments of the beneficiary’s fees (tuition and bench) to the respective university on behalf of the student.
Sources of fund for the subsidy and loan scheme:
4% total annual tax income generated by government.
25% of the total annual revenue generated by the following agencies of government;
National Examination Council (NECO).
Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).
National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB).
National Board for Arabic and Islamic Studies.
10% of the total annual Zakat fund (to be agreed after negotiation with the respective states).
10% of the total annual funds generated by churches across the country.
35% of recovered looted funds.
3.5% of annual funds generated by NGOs and CSOs.
Endowment and charity.
To bring this subsidy regime and loan scheme into effect, the national assembly needs to enact an act establishing the agency. The agency will then be given the powers and the mandate to manage the funds appropriately.
Also, it should be understood that there will be need for amending certain provisions of the law to allow for the establishment or amendment (as the case may be) of the proposed agencies. Similarly, there is need for further negotiations and deliberations between and among relevant stakeholders.
Finally, it is expected that the implementation and effective management of this two-step strategy will serve as a model for tertiary (university) education financing in Nigeria. Thereby ending the incessant industrial dispute between university lecturers and the federal government in Nigeria.
Yakubu Raji Egigogo can be reached at