As the federal government’s dispute with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) remains unresolved, a new report by The Punch has revealed a dire situation in the universities’ academic workforce.
The inability of the school authorities to recruit much-needed hands has resulted in a severe shortage of professors and other academic staff members in federal universities. The issue has become so critical that some universities, which rely on visiting professors, have lost accreditation for some courses, while others got interim accreditation from the National Universities Commission (NUC). According to sources in various universities, the FG’s insistence on using the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) as the payment platform for lecturers has only worsened the situation.
What’s the role of IPPIS in this?
Stakeholders in the university system say that IPPIS does not recognise adjunct/visiting professors, which universities usually turn to in the absence of the required hands in various departments. To address this, ASUU developed the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as an alternative payment platform, but the FG has rejected it. Various departments that already lack the required hands are left to watch helplessly as the few available professors retire without replacement. In addition to those retiring, there are others moving abroad, and the schools can’t recruit replacements.
Why are they unable to recruit?
There has been a restriction by the FG on recruitment in the universities, the report said. According to some lecturers quoted in the Punch report, without restriction, recruitment of academics is complicated by a lot of bureaucratic bottlenecks. To recruit new academics, Vice-Chancellors must go through the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Budget Office of the Federation, Federal Character Commission, and Office of the Head of Service – with each process taking a minimum of three months. For short-term reprieve, universities turn to visiting lecturers who are engaged temporarily, but that has been hampered by IPPIS.
The Deputy Executive Secretary of the NUC, Chris Miayaki, had recently appealed to the Senate for the ban on recruitment to be lifted, to allow the recruitment of academic and non-academic staff members. When contacted on the issue, the Federal Ministry of Education’s spokesman, Ben Goong, referred the inquiry to the NUC. “The NUC handles matters that have to do with universities,” he said. Data from the NUC showed that all universities are affected by the shortage of hands, as no federal university has the required number of full professors they require.