Ever since independence there are few things Nigeria has gotten right. From the fall in the value of our currency, to divorcing agriculture for a hasty marriage to crude oil; ours has been a constant tale of decline.
There’s hardly any facet of our national life spared by the rampaging wind of retrogression, not even Education!
Education particularly at the tertiary level has had more than its fair share of bad times. Dilapidated infrastructure, incompetent administrators, corruption, etc are some of the challenges tertiary education especially universities are grappling with. These catalogues of challenges combine perfectly in team work fashion to deal knock out blows on the quality assurance of university programmes.
To stem this negative tide, the NUC which was established as an advisory agency in the cabinet office in 1962 following the recommendations of the Ashby commission, was in 1988 vested with the powers to lay down minimum academic standards for all programmes being taught in all Nigerian Universities by the NUC’s amendment decree No. 49 of 1988. Some of the criteria laid down include philosophy and objectives of the programme to be accredited, the curriculum, teaching staff quality and quantity, student admission, retention and graduation, standards of degree examination, financial support, physical facilities, administration of department and employers rating of graduates.
Experts overtime have lauded the initiatve to accredit university programmes. Recently, the Vice Chancellor of Adekunle Ajasin University, Prof Igbekle Ajibefun opined that accreditation of programmes has helped in keeping academic programmes in Nigerian Varsities in good standing and has also helped to standardize them.
What the condition of academic programmes would be without the regular supervision of the NUC is better imagined. Especially at a time when University management has been liberalized and has become an all comers affair.
Also, the comments and recommendations given by NUC teams to universities which are mostly comprised of accomplished academics, are a goldmine of free but quality advice which any serious institution can bank on to improve its quality delivery.
Another commendable policy of the NUC is the establishment of the carrying capacity of programmes offered in Nigerian universities. This refers to the minimum number of students that the human and material resources available in a university can support for quality delivery.
The most significant impact of the NUC’s accreditation efforts and oversight on Universities generally could be seen in the standard of the private Universities available in the country today. Federal Universities in the past dominated the ranking of top universities in the country, but today according to the latest university ranking Covenant University emerged the best university in Nigeria and also broke into the top 800 universities in the world, all within 15 years of its establishment! In 2017, a joint study by Stutern, Jobberman, and Budgit revealed that Covenant University students are the most employable
in the country. Other private universities like Afe Babalola University, Landmark University, Babcock university etc are also mounting a spirited challenge to overtake government owned universities at the ne plus ultra of university rankings.
The role of NUC cannot be divorced in these achievements as it is the body responsible for granting licences for the establishment of these institutions.
Inspite of the commendable successes of the NUC as a body and particularly its accreditation programme, it is not yet uhuru as far as quality assurance is concerned in Nigerian Univerities.
A number of stakeholders in the educational sector have criticized the NUC handling of accreditation of programmes, Professor Oyewale Tomori, a former vice-chancellor of redeemers university accused the NUC of aiding and abetting corruption in its accreditation exercise, and said there were allegations that some people conducting the “receive brown envelopes” – a euphemism for for bribes – which also undermined the credibility of NUC accreditation.
Tomori said it was “clear and glaring” that many lecturers were “hirelings” who peddled their certificates to numerous newly-created staff-starved universities”.
He continued: “when universities hire lecturers for accreditation purposes, like building contractors hire artisans on a daily basis, then you wonder what type of accreditation we are getting in our universities which led to the production of the “half-baked and undercooked meat pies we call graduates of our university system”.
Similarly, the management of Obafemi Awolowo University recently criticized the NUC regulations which does not allow for back to back interim status resulting in the disaccreditation of five of its courses which included its law and dentistry programme.
It is clear from the above criticisms that while there might be some lapses with the way the accreditation is done in some cases, there is a silent consensus on the need for a regulator to set the benchmark for Universities to meet up with before they are allowed to carry on with academic programmes. A role currently being played by the NUC.
It must however be said that NUC must also look into the criticisms of its accreditation programme from relevant stakeholders and address same promptly in order to sustain the relevance and efficacy of its accreditation programmes.
Oriloye Fuad, an intern with the Information Protocol and Public Relations Unit (IPPRU), Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko writes from Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State. He can be reached via Omooriloye01@gmail.Com