No fewer than 20 polytechnics and colleges of education have been transformed into universities, mostly by state Governors, the Senate, and the Federal Government.
The move, according to the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics and proponents of educational reform, is an attempt to “bury” the core of technical education in the nation.
Governors and National Assembly members have recently been under fire for what some claim is the illegal growth of colleges in the nation.
Due to the lack of funding for the viability of the existing institutions, the Academic Staff Union of Universities issued a statement warning against the creation of new universities.
Given the role that polytechnics and colleges of education play in developing middle-level talent, experts stated that the trend of upgrading these institutions to universities was growing unsettling.
While colleges of education are tasked with producing professionally trained teachers for vocational and technical secondary schools to meet the nation’s requirements for technological take-off as provided in the National Policy on Education, polytechnic education offers technical and vocational training, technology transfer, and skills development to enhance the socioeconomic development of the country.
Seyi Makinde, the Governor of Oyo State, recently declared that the state-owned Emmanuel Alayande College of Education would become a University of Education.
Former Osun State governor Gboyega Oyetola had previously stated that the Osun State College of Education, Ilesha, would become the University of Ilesha.
The Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education and the Michael Otedola College of Education will now be part of the Lagos State University of Education, according to the announcement made by Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwoolu.
The Lagos State Polytechnic will henceforth be known as the Lagos State University of Science and Technology, according to the governor.
The National Universities Commission granted Aminu Tambuwal, the governor of Sokoto State, permission to transform the state-owned Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto into a university in March of this year.
Ifeanyi Okowa, the Governor of Delta State, stated in 2021 that the Delta State Polytechnic in Ozoro would become the Delta State University of Science and Technology, while the College of Education in Agbor would become the Delta State University of Education.
Some of the other affected polytechnics and colleges of education are the Abia State Polytechnic; Abia State College of Education; Abia State College of Health Sciences and Management Studies; Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro; Federal Polytechnic, Ofa; Yaba College of Technology; and the Kaduna State Polytechnic, among others.
Although the National President of ASUP, Dr. Anderson Ezeibe, called the upgrade a “manifestation of lack of consistency in pursuit of vision by proprietors of public polytechnics in the country,” the Executive Secretary of the NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, noted that the reason for the upgrade of the institutions to universities was to increase access to university education for citizens.
Ezeibe stated, “Polytechnics were established to produce professionals in technical/technological and vocational education, which should address national manpower needs in such a direction. This is why the practical component in the curricula for polytechnics is higher as they are expected to produce people with hands-on expertise. This is not the same with universities.
“The question for those who are on this voyage of conversion like the Lagos State Government is whether the need for such manpower has been satisfied. The principal reason for the poorly thought out conversion is just because the enrolment figures are dropping across polytechnics due to the discrimination against the polytechnics and their products as well as the rustic and anachronistic policies of the government on degree-awarding status for the polytechnics.”
The ASUP president warned that that level of tertiary education’s future was in jeopardy.
He added, “That’s the reason why our union is crying out as the future of the polytechnics is at stake. Our proposal of allowing polytechnics to attain degree-awarding status will resolve all these issues: satisfy the quest for degree-level certification, deepen technical/technological education through curricula enhancement, retain the expanding pool of qualified manpower in the polytechnics, attract funding and stop the HND/degree dichotomy.
“We are saying that polytechnics should retain the OND certification as middle-level manpower and use the same as feed for a bachelor of technology certification to be awarded by polytechnics in their names as polytechnics if requirements to be set out for this are met.”
Ayodamola Oluwatoyin, an activist for education reform, bemoaned the lack of understanding of the institutions’ underlying ideology by the government.
“The philosophy of polytechnics is to produce practical-oriented graduates who will go to the workplace and hit the ground running, while colleges of education focus on training teachers, but we have a country that doesn’t appreciate that philosophy. China in 2018 converted over 600 universities to polytechnics,” he said.