•Scrap diplomas in varsities
•Close down unviable programmes – NUC
•Tackle issues of 2009 ASUU/FG agreement
•Task varsities on research policy

By Dayo Adesulu

The National Universities Commission (NUC), in collaboration with vice chancellors of public and private universities, have taken far-reaching decisions on the university system to make it one of the world best. Having delebrated extensively for three days in a meeting held from Monday to Wednesday last week  in Abuja, it was agreed that sub-degree diplomas in universities be scrapped.

Cross section of Vice Chancellors of federal, state and private universities in Nigeria during a meeting with National Universities Commission held in Abuja.

Scrapping of Sub-Degree Diplomas: Just as they also concurred to the close down of unviable programmes in varsities, with a view of  coming up with new courses and programmes that would address emerging societal challenges.The lingering issue of the 2009 ASUU/FG Agreement and quality research policy among others were addressed as well.

Sub-degree diplomas

On the scrap of sub-degree diploma, Executive Secretary, NUC, Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, said; “Running sub-degree diplomas was not originally the business of Universities, but that of Polytechnics. More so when the Federal Government, as far back as November, 2001,  issued a circular stating that such diplomas could not be used for employment or promotion purposes in the Public Service, it further crippled the sub-degreeb diplomas.’’

Rather than stretch their facilities to run sub-degree programmes, the universites, he noted, should direct their energies towards their primary function of producing high level manpower for the economy, by strenthening their part-time programmes, in addition to offering high quality undergraduate degrees as well as postgraduate diplomas and degrees.

According to Professor Adamu Rasheed, other decisions taken during the meeting include; revamping institutional accreditation, commencement of accreditation of part-time programmes and resumption of the Nigerian University System Annual Review Meeting (USARM).

Institutional Research Policy: He said universities are charged to develop and implement an Institutional Research Policy adding that universities must establish a Research Administration Directorate, to be headed by an academic, not below the rank of a Professor; with appropriate human and material resources to run an Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer (OIPTT).

The former VC Bayero University Kano added: ‘’The issues of accreditation of academic programmes by professional bodies, shortfalls in personnel emoluments and incorporation of universities into the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information Systems (IPPIS) and matters arising from the 2009 agreement between the Federal Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) were also extensively discussed.’’

In view of the increasing cost of Ph.D training abroad and the need for Nigerian universities to continue to develop their staff and produce more PhDs for the economy, NUC encouraged all Nigerian Universities to identify their areas of strength/comparative advantage and collaborate among themselves to mount joint Ph.D programmes.

While counselling the Vice Chancellors to be courageous enough to close down any unviable programme, Professor Rasheed also tasked them to be creative and innovative enough to come up with new courses and programmes that would address emerging societal challenges. He expressed NUC’s readiness to work with them to develop the BMAS for such new programmes.

Review of university curricula: For the comprehensive review of the university curricula, he disclosed that NUC would engage a mix of old, experienced, young and vibrant academics to come up with curricula that would not only be  dynamic and responsive to national needs, but also conform to global trends.

Reacting to the constant criticism of Nigerian universities’ poor showing in global ranking, Professor Rasheed submitted that many of the variables, parameters and indicators of those rankings are outside the control of   Nigerian universities and the NUC.

According to him, “we, the managers of the universities are satisfied with the quality of our degrees and graduates because our good students, from good universities, who make 1st Class, 2nd Class Upper, even good 2nd Class Lower, go abroad for their masters and come back with distinctions and merits. Most of our graduates are qualitative and they can hold their own any where.”

He expressed regret that whereas the positive things happening in the NUS were largely under-reported, the negative ones, like when a few semi-illiterates graduate from the system, either through cheating or some other forms of corruption and were unable to defend their certificates, dominated the air waves.

Dissociation from global rankings

Rankings stimulate competition among different universities and programmes, and contribute to the definition of quality. The NUC Scribe, however, dissociated the Commission from any reported ranking of Nigerian universities in the mass media, saying it had not embarked on any such exercise in the last 15 years. It is, therefore, embarking on next year’s ranking to put an end to the spurious claims and innuendoes about the academic standing and quality of Nigerian universities.

The exercise is expected to be done in line with global best practices, with emphasis on the selection of performance indicators that would take cognisance of the Nigerian context and its peculiarities as well as the need for its universities to be globally respected.

Institutional and programme accreditation: He warned that any university that failed to present its programmes for accreditation, as and when due, without satisfactory reasons, given well in advance, would earn denied accreditation and the relevant agencies (JAMB and NYSC) would be duly notified.

According to the pioneer Pro Chancellor of Jigawa State University, “Accreditation would now be programme focused, such that a team would consist of panel members in a core subject area, who would visit the same programme in three to five contiguous universities, while regular post accreditation visits would ensure continuous improvement in quality.

“Institutional Accreditation would address the overall quality of institutions without making judgments about specific programmes. The accreditation of part-time programmes would ensure that they are of the same quality as the full-time programmes, thereby restoring public confidence in them.”

On the frequent visits by several professional bodies to universities for accreditation purposes, the Commission reiterated the fact that it is the only body empowered by law to lay down Minimum Academic Standards and accredit programmes in the NUS, with entrusted powers to close down defaulting programmes and universities.

It added that the training leading to the award of degrees is the responsibility of universities, while professionalism could come after graduation. Professional bodies were, therefore, advised to wait until after the graduation of students to introduce them to further professional qualifications or certifications.

Renegotiating agreements with FG: Following exhaustive deliberations on the matters arising from the 2009 Federal Government/Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Agreement, such as the Nigerian University Pension Management Committee (NUPEMCO), Earned Allowances, Needs Assessment, among others, NUC assured the VCs that it is articulating a position paper to the Federal Government on the need to constitute its renegotiating team to address all matters pertaining to the Agreement.

It called upon the Union to do the same, adding that the Commission would continue to work with all parties in the best interest of the NUS.

 

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