The Nature and Implications of SDGs Deficit in Nigerian Universities Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards

The Nature and Implications of SDGs Deficit in Nigerian Universities Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards

Nigeria and other countries in the world have less than 10 years for the realisation of 17 Sustainable Development Goals accepted by the political and business leaders in 2015. In one of our previous article series on sustainable development, our analyst stressed the place of academics and academia in the attainment of the Goals.

In the analysis, it was specifically stated that academic publications such as peer reviewed journal articles, chapters in books and whitepapers would go in a long way of calling attention of relevant stakeholders to the need to priorities the Goals and their specific targets before 2030. Similar submissions have also been made in other analyses, especially on the place of strategic partnership and lack of data for evaluating and measuring progress.

As one of the key stakeholders, academics, development specialists and other professionals who are connected with the path of realising the Goals directly or indirectly have hinged that universities and other higher education institutions have teaching, collaborative, evidence-based knowledge, measuring and evaluating, and advocate roles to play if countries, nations, cities, towns, villages and communities would ever realise the Goals by 2030.

Teaching role requires that HEIs have appropriate academic curricula that disentangle each of the Goals for the students and members of the Institutions’ immediate community. This role also requires that the teachers of the trainees or trainers of the teachers have adequate knowledge, skills and experiences that would enable them to transfer necessary knowledge, skills and experiences associated with effective problem identification and provision to targets/beneficiaries of each Goal.

Since teaching cannot be a single approach to educating relevant stakeholders about the significance of attaining the Goals, universities cannot do without collaborating with other key stakeholders. For instance, our analyst notes that universities-industry partnerships in Nigeria needs process and people reengineering. This is premised on the recent experience which shows that both the gown and the town are collaborating less towards solving varied issues in the two climes.

From publications, universities are in a better position to ensure evidence-based solutions provision and application. With the appropriate understanding of how researches fuel development and shape societal issues and needs, universities cannot do without creating necessary and relevant metrics for monitoring and evaluating progress of each Goal before 2030.  While performing these roles, strategic advocacy and civic engagement cannot be jettisoned. This is needed whenever research outcomes show grey areas in the private and public sectors’ activities related to the Goals. It is also important that universities engage policy makers and implementers on the need to consider the outcomes for emergent policy formulation and implementation in the key industries and sectors that align with the Goals.

As debates about the roles of universities continue, in this piece, our analyst examines effectiveness of academic programmes’ number of aims and objectives in the sciences and social sciences on the reflection of the SDGs’ related courses. For the two faculties, analysis suggests possible teaching of climate change as topic more than sustainability and environment.

Applied Geophysics, Biochemistry, Biology, Biotechnology, Botany, Brewing Science and Technology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Criminology and Security Studies, Demography and Social Statistics, Development Economics/Studies, Economics, Economics and Development Studies, Environmental Management and Toxicology, Geography, Geology, Industrial Chemistry, Information Science and Media Studies, International Relations, Marine Science, Mass Communication, Mathematics, Meteorology, Microbiology, Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution, Petroleum Chemistry, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Science Laboratory Technology, Science Laboratory Technology (Biology), Science Laboratory Technology (Microbiology), Social Justice Studies, Social Work, Sociology, Statistics, Tourism Studies and Zoology are the programmes chosen for analysis.

Analysis specifically considers some of the premises for the inclusion and teaching of SDGs in schools. For instance, Professor Sahagian Dork recently noted that “there are at least two key aspects of incorporating SDGs, and sustainability in general, into courses and curricula at the college level. The first is through sustainability and environmental degree programs, whose students plan to pursue these topics as a career and whose faculty have already made this their career. The second, and more difficult, aspect is incorporating SDGs throughout the entire college curriculum to reach those students who may not be pursuing sustainability as their life’s work.”

Our analysis shows some levels of alignment with Professor Sahagian. We found that none of the programmes in the two faculties is specifically designed for teaching of sustainability and environmental issues. We only discovered courses within programmes that suggest the possibility of teaching SDGs related issues and needs. However, Environmental and Sustainable Development is a course in the General Studies Programme and being taught in twice in 200 levels. Majority of the courses within the selected programmes that align with the SDGs partially are being taught in 200, 300 and 400 levels.

Our analysis reveals that Environmental Management and Toxicology, Development Economics/Studies, Marine Science, Geology, Meteorology are more aligned with SDGs than other programmes. We equally found a strong association of the number of aims and objectives with the courses that establish possible teaching of climate change and sustainability as topics, but not for environment as topic. For sustainability and climate change to be taught as topics significantly, analysis shows that a programme needs between 5 and 11 strategic aims and objectives.

Exhibit 1: Number of Aims and Objectives in Selected Programmes in Relation to Selected Courses Per Select Faculties

Source: National Universities Commission’s BMAS, 2015; Infoprations Analysis, 2021

Key: Number of Aims and Objectives are repeated when a programme has more than one course that aligns with SDGs [fully or partially]

Exhibit 2: Severity of SDGs Reflected Courses by Faculties


Source: National Universities Commission’s BMAS, 2015; Infoprations Analysis, 2021

Key: 201 SDGs reflected courses for sciences; 155 SDGs reflected courses for social sciences

Source: National Universities Commission’s BMAS, 2015; Infoprations Analysis, 2021

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