STRATEGIES USED BY NIGERIAN UNIVERSITIES IN THE MANAGEMENT OF INTERGROUP CONFLICTS

Abstract

This paper examined the strategies used by Nigeria universities in the management of inter-group conflicts. Survey research design was used for the study while questionnaire was employed as data gathering instrument. Two research questions guided the study. The population of the study comprised all the individuals in Nigerian universities from which six universities and 520 subjects were drawn through stratified and cluster sampling techniques. Mean and standard deviation were used for data analysis. The analysis of the data showed that university authorities in Nigeria use communication, process, structural and formal dispute strategies in the management of inter group conflicts. Formal dispute strategy is utilized most, followed by the process strategy and next is the communication strategy. The structural strategy is perceived to be utilized by university authorities by the least number of respondents. The study therefore recommended among others, that the National Universities Commission should train university management in the acquisition and appropriate utilization of inter-group conflict management strategies. The intended training could be in the form of workshops, seminars and conferences on the subject matter at regular intervals.

Keywords: Strategies, Nigerian universities, Management, Intergroup conflicts

Introduction

The university is the highest level of educational institution where students study for various degrees and where research work is carried out to advance frontiers of knowledge. However, the aims of the university cannot be achieved without group of individuals who interact with one another to ensure the well-being and stability of the system. There are four defined subgroups in the university system. These are the students, academic staff, non-teaching staff and the university management. Though the above subgroups have different functions, yet they aim at achieving the overall goal of the university.

Conflict is a phenomenon that is an important part of human existence (Faleti, 2007), and a natural part of our daily lives (Ughamadu, 2009). It is natural that when a group of individuals come into contact with other groups, conflict may arise. Conflict in this context is mutual hostility in inter-human relationship. (Ezegbe, 1997). Inter-group conflict is an integral feature of a complex organization such as the university. Therefore, it is not possible to eliminate such conflict completely in the system. However, a major responsibility of an organization is to keep the intensity of inter-group conflicts as low as humanly possible. Effective managers provide structural arrangement and develop other strategies aimed at building a coordinated team work for the smooth functioning of the subgroup in an organization.

A lot of conflicts have been recorded in Nigerian universities and the effects have been very devastating. For instance in 1962 the students of the University of Ibadan protested to prevent the then prime minister of Nigeria, Alhaji Tafawa Belewa from signing the Anglo-Nigerian defence pact, since then, Nigeria has continually witnessed violent students demonstrations as well as endless strikes by academic and non-academic groups. Such conflicts have resulted in the loss of human lives and properties, rustication and expulsion of students, wastes in academic calendar and closure of the universities. The society stands to loose in such conflicts.

The university administration that has been the target of most demonstrations and protests has adopted some measures or strategies to cope with them. Some of the measures include closing down the universities for months or year, inviting the university security agent or police to quell riots, disbandment of students union, rustication or expulsion of some students. Other strategies include requiring students to pay for the vandalized properties, to tender a letter of apology and promise of good behaviour, as well as compel parental guardians to vouch for the conduct of their wards. Aliu (1992) maintained that the above strategies have been repetitive over time and rather then alleviate the problems of conflict, have aggravated them.

In spite of the management strategies adopted by the university authorities, conflicts persists in our universities. It could be that majority of university authorities are ill equipped in administrative skills to handle the emergent inter-group conflicts in the universities. In many instances, where university authorities were directly involved in conflicts with a group, security agents were freely invited into campuses to intervene in such crises. In instances where groups other than the authorities were involved, university authorities were alleged to be openly in support of a group rather than being an umpire.

Some inter-group conflict management strategies have been adopted in educational institutions and other organization to minimize the incidence of conflicts. The incessant’ inter-group conflicts experienced in the Nigerian universities since the late eighties seem to suggest that appropriate strategies are not being utilized in the management of inter-group conflicts in these institutions. It was on this note that the study examined the strategies used by Nigerian institutions on the management of inter group conflicts

Purpose of Study

The study was conducted to:

(1) Explore the intergroup conflict management strategies of university authorities in Nigeria.

(2) Ascertain whether university authorities in Nigeria adopt certain intergroup conflict management strategies more than others.

(3) Find out whether gender is a significant factor in the perceptions of the respondents.

Research Questions

The following research questions were asked to guide the conduct of the study.

(1)     What are the strategies adopted by university authorities in managing intergroup conflicts?

(2)     Are university authorities perceived to adopt certain intergroup conflict management strategies more than others?

Hypotheses

In order to make decisions on the issues investigated in the study, this hypothesis was tested at 0.05 level of significance.

(1)     There is no significant difference in the perceptions of male and female respondents with regards to the inter-group conflict management strategies adopted by university authorities.

(2)     There is no significant difference between university authorities in conventional and specialized universities in the utilization of inter group conflict management strategies.

(3)     Authorities in Federal and state universities do not differ

significantly in their inter-group conflict management strategies.

(4)     The sub-groups in the universities do not differ significantly in their perceptions of the inter-group conflict management strategies adopted by the university authorities.

(5)     University authorities in the first, second and third generation universities do not differ in each of their inter-group conflict management strategies which they adopt in the institutions.

Research Method

The study adopted a survey research, design which was conducted in Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Uli, Anambra State, Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Enugu, Benue State University, Makurdi, Imo State University, Owerri; University of Uyo, and Abia State University, Uturu. The choice of these states for the study was informed by the fact that the different universities used for this study are sited in them.

All the registrars, deputy registrars, Deputy Vice Chancellors, Deans of student affairs, Hostel wardens, Deans of faculties or provost of colleges, Heads of departments, lecturers, students and non teaching staff of all the universities chosen for the study constituted the population.

The sample of the study consisted of 520 subjects. The total figure was made up of 143 students, 138 academic staff, 119 non-academic staff and 120 respondents who were representatives of university management. The 520 respondents were drawn from six universities in Nigeria. Through stratified and cluster sampling techniques.

An instrument named “Questionnaire on University Authorities Intergroup Conflict Management Strategy (QUAICMS), was used in collecting the data of the study. The QUAICMS was validated by two experts in educational administration and measurement and evaluation of Faculty of Education, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam Campus. The reliability of the instrument was determined with the Cronbach alpha technique. The researcher administered copies of the QUAICMS to 15 administrative staff, five officials of NASU, five officials of ASUU and five officials of SUG in three universities which were not used in the main study. The data elicited were used to compute coefficients of internal consistency of the QUAICMS hence, 0.77, 0.87, 0.82 and 0.93 respectively were obtained.

The instrument was administered on the respondents by the researchers with the help of three trained research assistants. The data generated were statistically analysed using mean, standard deviation and Z-test statistics.

Results

Research Question One: What are the strategies adopted by university authorities in managing intergroup conflicts?

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