No fewer than 20 polytechnics and colleges of education have been converted to universities primarily by state governors, the Senate and the Federal Government, according to Sunday PUNCH analysis.
However, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics and education reform activists tagged the move as a plan to “bury” the essence of technical education in the country.
Recently, governors and members of the National Assembly came under fire over what was tagged as the unlawful proliferation of universities in the country.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities in a statement warned against the establishment of new universities due to the paucity of funds for the sustainability of the established institutions.
Experts argued that the trend of upgrading polytechnics and colleges of education to universities was becoming worrisome considering the function the two cadres play in producing middle-level manpower.
Polytechnic education provides technical and vocational training, technology transfer and skills development to enhance the socio-economic development of the country, 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.
Recently, the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, announced the upgrade of the state-owned Emmanuel Alayande College of Education to a university of education.
Earlier, the immediate past governor of Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola, announced the conversion of the Osun State College of Education, Ilesha, to the University of Ilesha.
Similarly, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwoolu, announced the conversion of the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education and the Michael Otedola College of Education to the Lagos State University of Education.
The governor also announced the upgrade of the Lagos State Polytechnic to the Lagos State University of Science and Technology.
In March this year, the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, received approval from the National Universities Commission to upgrade the state-owned Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, to a university.
The Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, in 2021, announced the conversion of the College of Education, Agbor, to the Delta State University of Education, and the Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro, to the Delta State University of Science and Technology.
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.
Though the Executive Secretary, 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, the National President of ASUP, Dr Anderson Ezeibe, described it as a frivolous upgrade and a “manifestation of lack of consistency in pursuit of vision by proprietors of public polytechnics in the country.”
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 raised the alarm that the future of that level of tertiary education was at risk.
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.”
An education reform activist, Ayodamola Oluwatoyin, lamented that the nation’s leaders did not understand the philosophy behind the institutions.
“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.