ASUU And Varsity Governing Councils

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Like most Nigerians, I wonder why the federal government is foot-dragging in constituting governing councils for universities. The councils are the top decision-making body saddled with the responsibility of overall management and direction of universities. It helps the citadels of higher learning to work in compliance with their mandates and regulatory rules.

As a matter of fact, the council is saddled with the responsibilities of approving the university’s annual budget, supervising staff recruitment and promotion, approving new academic programs, and ensuring that the university functions in accordance with its goal and objectives.

The Council is composed of a chairman who is appointed by the president in the case of a federal university and by the governor if it is a state-owned university.

Of course, the varsity’s Vice-Chancellor, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Registrar, and other prominent members from diverse fields of expertise are members of the council. These experts are always appointed by the varsity’s visitor – president or governor for federal and state-owned varsity, respectively.

We are talking of a body whose primary mission is to establish policies and make decisions affecting the institution’s academic, administrative, and financial issues.

 

One year without councils

In June 2023, barely one month after he assumed office, President Bola Tinubu dissolved the governing councils of federal universities, creating a vacuum that has remained unfilled since then.

According to LEADERSHIP, ‘52 federal universities are operating without councils: 42 were dissolved in June last year, barely one and a half years to the end of their tenure on June 15, 2025, while the remaining 10, which were established in 2021, are yet to have councils’.

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To the consternation of many, especially the academics, almost one year after the dissolution, the government has maintained a sealed lip as far as reconstitution of this very critical organ is concerned.

The delay is patently unjustifiable bearing in mind that, to a large extent, running the affairs of the universities rises or falls with the councils. Why should the government remain silent about the constitution of an organ that is very critical to the success or otherwise of the universities?

As should be expected, the absence of these councils is affecting smooth the running of these varsities. With the plethora of challenges facing varsity education in the country, the government’s failure to urgently reconstitute the governing councils is a great disservice.

Perhaps it is time to ask the federal government, what’s responsible for the delay in constituting governing councils for the federal universities?

 

ASUU spoils for war

Disturbed by the continued and unjustifiable delay, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is spoiling for another strike which will for yet another time, disrupt the schools’ academic calendar and worsen the woes of our students,

Earlier this week, the union, while rejecting what it described as illegalities and flagrant violation of the autonomy of public universities as a result of the non-reinstatement/reconstitution of their governing councils, gave the government a two-week ultimatum to address it or risk industrial action.

ASUU decried the gradual erosion of universities’ autonomy, noting that with the councils not in place, the running of the universities rest squarely with the vice-chancellors who often take decisions in cohort with the ministry of education.

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Universities in Nigeria, especially public ones, are beset with enormous challenges, including inadequate funding, poor infrastructure, poor pay for the academics, among others. All of these have continued to impact negatively on the quality of teaching and research.

Of course, the recurring strikes by ASUU and other staff in the universities have also had a telling impact on teaching and learning in the nation’s ivory towers, further eroding the confidence parents and students have on the nation’s varsities.

One clear implication of this recurring strike is that it has engendered a mad rush for foreign universities, with some Nigerians settling for very low-quality universities in neighbouring countries simply because of the guarantee of an uninterrupted academic session.

The least the government can and must do is to ensure concerted measures are taken to guard against further industrial actions.

 

Varsity autonomy non-negotiable

Without any fear of contradiction, the delay in constituting governing councils for the universities and ASUU’s threat to embark on strike among other seemingly intractable issues bedeviling the nation’s public universities underscore the need for university autonomy.

As the citadel of learning, for varsities to effectively function, they must benefit from academic freedom which presupposes that academics must be free to choose what they will put forward in their teaching, research, or publications. Secondly, and most importantly, universities must be guaranteed autonomy.

Tellingly, anything short of granting the varsities the right to fully exercise and practice academic freedom and self-governance pertaining to internal activities is a disservice to research and learning.

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The universities must be free from interference by the state and by any other external power as regards its operations and affairs. Unless these basic rights-academic freedom and autonomy- are guaranteed, it will be difficult for universities to fully accomplish their responsibilities.

Essentially, universities have obligations to contribute to the development of the nation and to play active roles in shaping the society. The question then arises as to what extent have universities in Nigeria been playing this role? Without sounding defensive, lack of institutional autonomy has made it either impossible or terribly herculean for varsities to play this critical role.

Therefore, for us to have a university system that will effectively deliver on its mandates of teaching and research, and actively contribute to economic growth and development of Nigeria, there has to be an unconditional autonomy.

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