20 Jun 2014

The Idiot’s Guide to University Life.

There is nothing quite like the university experience. The one point in your life where you are fully (mostly) in charge of your finances, have a steady ‘income’, more time on your hands than you know what to do with and no responsibilities (other than passing exams, ugh). We at 9jEducation aren't part of the pack that believes that university is just a way for you to get a degree. It’s much more than that. Especially here in Nigeria where the other avenues for self-improvement are few and very far between. University should be a place where you discover yourself, apart from academics, and make friends and connections that will last you your entire life. Our secondary schools are so academics oriented that University is the only place where you get the time to find and nurture your hobbies and interests. Most of your musicians and actors found themselves in university. Maybe you could too.

Ever seen frat pack movies like American Pie and the Skulls and wondered what it would be like to have a university experience like that?

I want to let you in on a secret.

The university you choose to get your degree from determines what your university experience will become. This is true anywhere in the world, even Nigeria. This Idiot’s guide (not that you’re an idiot, it’s just a phrase) to choosing the right university. While America has Ivy League universities, prestigious state owned universities and community colleges; we have Federal, State, Technical and Teaching Colleges and Private Universities. Let’s talk a little bit about them.

The first federal university was created in Ibadan in 1945 and christened University of Ibadan. It was quickly followed by the University of Nigeria Nsukka and Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria both created just before the independence. Since the Independence for various reasons states have been created out the original twelve and Federal universities have been established in these states to encourage tertiary education. Currently there are twenty seven conventional federal universities all around the country. The big six would be University of Ibadan, University of Benin, Ahmadu Bello University, University of Ilorin, University of Port Harcourt and University of Nigeria Nsukka. Our federal universities are all ‘flavoured’ by the states they are sited in while influencing the larger community in their own way. Here are some cool things about federal universities.
   Every Federal university has a community that grows around it. Maybe this happens because of the sheer volume of students that attend our federal universities or the economic opportunities that Federal universities present, but no matter how isolated a Federal university is from its states capital cities and general population, before long it grows a community of its own, what people call a ‘university town’. If you’re a person interested in how urbanization works (sociologists and the humanities) you’ll find this really fascinating.
-          Federal universities also work as cultural and religious melting pots. As extensions of the government, they employ a quota system when admitting students, so if you go to a federal university, you are more likely to interact with people of other tribes and form long lasting friendships. It’s sort of like cultural immersion for those who love meeting new people and learning new things.

-        Federal universities are highly subsidized. Most of the expenses of a tertiary education are paid for by the government and all you do is contributing a token fee. This is great for people from lower middle class to poor backgrounds who want the best possible education. This also tracks back to the cultural melting pot, as the subsidized educations allows people from all backgrounds meet and interact and develop bonds that would be otherwise impossible.
-          Federal universities have a vibrant social and political life. Student Union governments, strongly contested elections, federal universities are nirvana for the student politician. Most federal universities have a miniature government complete with an executive (Student union government), Legislature (Student representative council) and a judiciary (student appellate court and representatives on the university disciplinary committee) the perfect place to hone your political mettle. Most federal universities are regular stops on Campus music and variety tours, the venues of concerts and plays and other social events, enough to satisfy even the most social of butterflies.

Federal universities do have their drawbacks, the dreaded strikes by lecturers, professors and non-academic staff, civil unrest and riots by students that can cause indefinite shut downs of the university campuses, irregular academic calendars and wide scale corruption. There are also the sex-for-grade scandals that pop up every now and then and inadequate security due to the vastness of the university campuses. Nothing a Nigerian isn’t already used to.

Of all the federal universities established, the technical universities are a special breed of elitist universities. Created specifically to bridge the gap between theoretical and practical academics for those people who are scared of the ‘stigma’ of polytechnics (something we’ll address another day) the technical universities serve a vital function. There are nine technical universities, six universities of technology in Owerri, Minna, Akure, Yola, Effurun and Bauchi and three universities of Agriculture in Abeokuta, Makurdi and Abia. Here are some cool things about our technical universities.

-       The technical universities have the best marriage of practical and theoretical education. Their infrastructure and curriculum is specifically crafted so that every student has a hands-on understanding of their discipline. There are also the many industrial training exercises that are undertaken to give every student a real world application and understanding of their disciplines, three semesters for most disciplines compared to the one that students in federal universities take.

-         Technical universities have a very result oriented university experience. They build, modify, practice and improve. Many off the technological innovations that Nigerian education boasts of come from the technical universities. They are also the technologically advanced offering disciplines that are otherwise missing in other universities. Ever wanted to study oceanography or petrochemical technology then technical universities are the place for you.
-          Computer based exams. This is a big one; the technical universities are the test sites for the ministry of education’s plan to shift digitize examinations. Hate long essays? You know what to do.

-          The technical universities have the best educational framework to encourage advanced learning. This is fancy speak for nerds. If you have no interest in a social or political life and want to become the next Bill Gates or Phillip Emegwali, then that’s the place for you.
Our technical universities being part of our federal university system has the same problems as our federal universities, it also has the unique problems of decaying infrastructure and a backward curriculum that doesn't include new discoveries and innovations fast enough to allow graduates compete favorably in the larger world.

We run a ‘democracy’ in Nigeria so the states of Nigeria were encouraged to establish universities to encourage their indigenes to pursue a tertiary education. Usually sited in the state and bearing the state’s name (yeah duhvious). There are thirty eight state universities; thirty two of which are conventional universities and six are universities of technology. State universities fill in much needed gap between the Federal and private universities. Here are some things to consider about state universities.

-          State universities are ‘biased’ towards indigenes of the states in which they are situated. They offer subsidies to state indigenes as well as a larger quota of admissions to indigenes. This is good news for students who have had a hard time gaining admission into their universities of choice as a result of bad results or admission quotas.

-          State universities have the added opportunity of a full immersion to a particular culture or tribe. Majority of the students will be indigenes of the state and speak the language. This is great if for indigenes that grew up away from their state of origin and want to relearn their tribe’s language and culture. No better way to learn than full immersion.

-          State universities are great for people who dislike the large federal universities and cannot quite afford the private universities. It’s a good middle ground.

-          Social and political life is just as vibrant in state universities as it is as conventional universities. Maybe even more. The fact that a majority of the student population is indigenous means problems like inter-tribal distrust and competition are virtually non-existent, so the politics is cleaner and more competitive for the right reasons. Celebration of the indigenous culture is also a good push for a vibrant social life.

State universities also have their problems. The biggest one would be the quality of student and staff body. The lack of diversity in the student body can perpetuate old stereotypes. State universities tend to become the hold all basket for students and academic staff who could cut it in federal universities. The quality of education is also not quite up to par as federal universities. This is because the education budgets of the states are significantly smaller than the federal government’s allocations for education. So less opportunities.

Private universities began to pop up as an alternative to the federal universities thanks to problems like our falling standard of education, strikes, corruption, dying infrastructure and a backward curriculum. Igbinedion University Okada was the first of the private universities, created in the 90’s. In the early 2000’s religious organisations began to establish private universities of their own to ‘protect’ their children from the social vices that were prevalent in public universities, most prominent at the time was cultism. There are about forty seven (that surprised me too) private universities in Nigeria, two thirds of which have religious affiliations. These are some cool facts about private universities.

-          Private universities are technically the most secure universities in Nigeria. Usually walled in and protected (particularly the religious ones) to keep the students instead of unwanted persons out, this ends up giving them a level of security most public universities don’t have.
-          Foreign based curricula and academic systems. Some of the private universities offer their students the option of studying an American or British curriculum instead of a Nigerian one, which makes a lot of sense if you plan on relocating abroad after university. Your degree would be admissible anywhere in the world, unlike most of our public universities’ degrees.
-          Most of the private universities have state of the art infrastructure and facilities. Also they have Wi-Fi. If any university has really good Wi-Fi (AUN, Covenant, Igbinedion), I don’t really care about anything else.

-          Private universities operate independent of the government so most of the problems that face Public Universities are non-existent in private universities. Did somebody say no more strikes?

-          Private universities are a true global melting pot, allowing you interact with nationals from all parts of the world.

Some of the problems with private universities are varied based on the ownership. Religious universities suffer serious monitoring and stifling or social and political life, which I would consider just as important as academic excellence. Private universities also request fees many times higher than public universities, which can be a serious drain on finances. But most worrying, is the fact that many private universities offer courses that have not been accredited by the Ministry of Education meaning that unless the students are transferred to other universities in their final year/semester, their results are invalid. That is really worrying.

These are the various types of universities we have in Nigeria and their pros and cons, the choice is yours now. Choose wisely.

And from us at 9jeducation, 


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