I read a post on LinkedIn, where the writer said she studied Law in a Nigerian university for 9 years. She gained admission when she was 16 years and graduated at the age of 25. A lot of people may not believe her but I can quite relate with her. I didn’t study English in UNIZIK for more than 4 years, but it took 2 good years after my final exam for my result to be ‘computed’ and released.
The undergraduate students are actually enjoying, if compared to the postgraduate ones. Because of the need to send out students to NYSC, the undergraduates seem to be treated a lot faster than the postgraduate students. In postgraduate schools, regular students are given a duration of 18 months to complete their studies while the part-time students are expected to finish up within 24 months. Anyway, that is just for the admission letter, because in reality, both part-time and full time programmes last as long as God knows when. If you complete your programme in 36 months, my dear, you are fast.
This seems to have become a culture in Nigeria. People going for their master’s degree spend the same amount of time those going for PhD do. And those that are going for their PhD already know that they are to relax and wait for the school to get tired of them and push them out. This is quite unfortunate, and it’s not helping our system in any way.
Based on my experience and that of others, the reasons for the prolonged duration of postgraduate programmes in Nigeria include:
1. Inadequacy of Personnel: Believe me when I say that the number of lecturers in our tertiary institutions is not enough. The one that causes more concern is when institutions have to ‘borrow’ lecturers from other schools to teach some courses. If they fail to find lecturers, students will have to wait till one is found for the course – there is no waiver for any course so they may have extra year because the school couldn’t find a lecturer for them on time.
Another major concern here is that the lecturers that are in the school are over tasked. The same set of people will teach the regular undergraduates, part-time undergraduates, postgraduate diploma students, master’s students and, if available, PhD students. And each of these classes contains large number of students. So, what this means is that these lecturers will teach several courses, mark scripts and assignments, supervise projects and still struggle for their personal researches and publications. To be honest, the workload is too much for them.
2. Strike Actions: I know a lot of people that are still battling with their PhD for more than 7 years now because of different strike actions experienced for some years now. The strike action most people hear of is the one carried out by Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) and Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU). But most schools still experience internal strikes done by the staff – academic or non-academic – of a particular school. Strikes can last for months; and by the time they are suspended, it will take another few months for the school and the students to readjust and continue with their academic works. Sometimes, as one organisation is suspending their strike, another one is resuming theirs. Honestly, strike is becoming a monster that is destroying our academic world.
We know that the delay of an academic programme comes with its consequences. These consequences include:
- a. Students’ Drop Out: A lot of students get discouraged along the line as a result of the prolonged duration of academic programmes. This usually happens when the students get to the thesis writing level. This period can last for as long as two years without any tangible reason. This can easily make these students less motivated to continue with their academic pursuit.
- b. Release of Half-Baked Certificate Holders: Because semesters, or rather lecture periods, are too short, students do not have enough time to study their courses properly. What they do is more like jumping in and jumping out of schools.
- c. Extra Expenses: If you ask most people that did their master’s degree in Nigerian state and federal universities, you will find out that they spent about a million naira, or even more, in the programme. This extra expenses came as a result of the prolonged period of time spent on the programme. The painful thing here is that the school compels students to pay for those extra years, even though it wasn’t their faults.
- d. Time Wasted: The time that would have been spent on other productive things is spent on running a master’s or doctorate programme. It is hard to decide how long you can spend in a school. You know when you enter, but you can’t tell when you will finish. This is quite unfortunate. If the time for these postgraduate studies are well managed, students can plan their lives better. What is more, people that spent so much time in school find it hard to go back for further studies.
We have seen the major causes of the prolonged duration of postgraduate studies in Nigeria and their effects. But something has to be done. It is left for the school authorities to make adequate adjustments to bring an end to this. I will make the following suggestions in this case:
i. Schools should engage a lot of part time and contract lecturers so as to balance up the ratio of lecturers and students in the school. This way, the school can save cost and still ensure that the works are well done. However, these part time and contract lecturers should be paid in due time (most federal and state higher institutions are known to owe their part-time lecturers).
ii. Two project supervisors should be assigned to a student. I know some schools do this, but others need to imbibe it as well. The essence of this is to ensure that students’ project works are well supervised and done in time too.
iii. School management should set up academic calendar for the PG school and ensure that it is adhered to. The place that needs more focus here is on seminar and thesis defence; this is usually the time most delays happen.
iv. Lecturers should be encouraged to embrace technology while doing their works. It is quite disheartening that supervisors do not allow their supervisees to submit drafts of their project works through email. They expect them to come to the office to submit hard copies. This would have been ok if the students are still in school. But in a situation where the course works have been completed and the students now work from home, I think it will be better if they communicate with their supervisors electronically. If such method is accepted for journal and textbook publications, it can also be applied to thesis writing. Besides, this method can allow supervisors and their supervisees to communicate from any part of the world. In other words, supervisors can comfortably travel for conferences and still be doing their jobs.
I believe that rounding off postgraduate studies within the time frame given in admission letters is possible in Nigeria. All that is needed is adjustment by the school and the lecturers. If a student decides to delay himself, he then can be made to pay for it. But it is improper for schools to tax students for extra school fees that they didn’t accrue. Let Nigerian universities, and other institutions of higher learning, start emulating their foreign counterparts.