1.1 Background of the Study

University education is at the centre of human resource development. Professional and highly skilled personnel such as Engineers, Administrators/Managers, Accountants, Surgeons and Para-Medics, Lawyers, Scientist, Technicians and Lecturers in various disciplines among others are trained and developed in the Universities. The world over, the fundamental mission of Universities, according to Brubacher (cited in Anho, 2011) is to promote the life of the mind through intellectual inquiry and to generate, store and transmit specialized knowledge and sophisticated expertise, higher forms of culture and ethical bases of conduct.

The World Bank (1999) justify the usefulness of University education to a nations development and well being when it states that particularly University education, is fundamental to the construction of a knowledge economy and the society in all nations.

Given the contributions of education, especially at the tertiary level, to national development, countries, individuals, communities and corporations often invest massively in education in a bid to uplift the quality of their educational system (Akinyemi, Ofem and Ikuenomore, 2012).

The Nigerian Institute of Personnel Management NIPM (2000) noted that the quality of graduates both from public and private universities in Nigeria is on a rapid decline especially in the area in respect of valuable skills including; communication, technical abilities, human interaction, social, conceptual and analytical capacity. To collaborate this, the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association NECA (2000) asserted that companies are not recruiting but adopting employment protection strategies due to the very poor quality graduates from the public universities who do not meet the demands of industry.

In response to this, the Nigerian government has taken different measures to ensure that the quality of graduates from public universities is enhanced by strengthening external control and monitoring, thus establishing the National Universities Commission (NUC) that came up with the Maximum Academic Standards (MAS) for all undergraduate programmes. The MAS stipulates the content of the curriculum as well as the minimum entry and graduation requirements for each academic discipline.

The National Universities Commission (NUC) has remained the major government controlled external quality assurance agency. According to Okebukola (2005) the NUC emphasize that accreditation is a core component of quality assurance. This is in tandem with the United States Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA, 2005) which recommends that accreditation should be a vital mechanism for students, families, government officials and the public to be made aware that an institution or programme provides quality education.

Despite the available internal control measures in Senate and the external functions of the NUC through the use of MAS documents, and other measures, inadequacies in staff facilities and managerial quality continue to exist as most public universities in Nigeria churn out graduates in a geometric progression while nothing or little is being done to address their employability in the labour market.

Dabalen et al (2000) and Ogundowole (2002) have identified possible causes of low quality of graduates in the developing countries. According to them, one of these is decline in quantity assurance which is reflected in the high rate of human capital flight. Whether in fact quality of education is negatively or positively related to university graduates employability is an issue that remains opened to empirical studies. Thus the undertaking of this study will evaluate graduates’ employability of science based faculties in Lagos State universities.

1.2 Statement of Problem

The instructional processes in our public universities have lost their rigor as many institutions can no more function well. The adduced reasons for this problem include insufficient fund, incompetent and inadequate staff to carry out quality teaching.

The importance of quality education in the public universities system cannot be overemphasized, according to the National Manpower Board (2009) the Nigeria labour market can barely absorb 10% of the over 3.8 million persons turned out by the Nigeria educational system on a yearly basis; this lay a major importance on quality assurance in making graduates from public universities in Nigeria to be competitive with their counterparts from private and overseas institutions.

Another unfortunate development is that our school system produces “quarter” baked graduates, majority of them are unemployable. Most employers prefer Nigerians with foreign certificates. Nigerian universities produce graduates whose skills are suspect, making it difficult for them to be recruited. The reasons for this include admission overload, poor funding of universities and the “sorting” syndrome (Adawo, Essien and Ekpo, 2012).

In brief, the unemployment trends in Nigeria indicate that, without a concerted effort to tackle the problems of graduates’ employability from public universities the situation could get worse. It is against this backdrop that this study seeks to evaluate graduates’ employability of science based faculties in Lagos State universities.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The study will be conducted with the following objectives:

i. To examine the relationship between quality of education in public universities and graduates’ employability in Lagos State.

ii. To examine the differences in the employability of graduates from public and private universities.

iii. To identify current challenges hindering public universities graduates’ employability in the labour markets.

1.4 Research Questions

This study will be guided with the following research questions:

1. What is the relationship between quality of education in public universities and graduates’ employability in Lagos State?

2. Is there any difference in the employability of graduates from public and private universities?

1.5 Significance of the Study

The study will serve as feedback to the education sector especially the departments of Teacher Training and Development and Curriculum and Evaluation. The study will influence policy formulation pertaining to the training of teachers/lecturers in the future.

The outcomes of the study will also be useful to university students, like students in the field of education management when doing a likely research. The study would be significant to policy makers and implementers at large, as they would make use of the findings and recommendations of this study.