The article focuses on the role of higher education in generating or mitigating inequality among ethno-regional groups and its impact on ethnic relations with evidence from Nigeria. It shows that access to education in Nigeria has been politicised. This is because of the perceived role of education in engendering political and socio-economic inequalities. It assesses the intervention mechanisms of successive Nigerian governments at federal and state levels to expand access to and enhance equity in educational opportunities as well as the responses of the different publics to such programmes. The article shows that although educational inequalities persist, state policies have enhanced the ability of the different ethno-regional groups to produce qualified personnel to occupy critical public service positions. Thus, conflicts that were historically traced to the domination of the public sector of some regions by personnel from other regions have been averted. The Nigerian case study therefore suggests that while policies aimed at equalising access to education may create incentives for ethno-regional mobilisations, they are nevertheless necessary to prevent violent conflicts that arise from perceived ethno-regional domination of the public sector. This paper was presented at 'Conflict Prevention and Peaceful Development: Policies to Reduce Inequality and Exclusion', a CRISE policy conference held on July 9-10, 2007 at Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford.
International Journal of Educational Development, volume 27, issue 3, May 2007, 266-281 (subscription required)