NUC BEGINS ASSESSMENT OF VARSITIES IN NOVEMBER
Prof. Julius Okojie
The decision of the National Universities Commission to embark on institutional accreditation of universities stirs another round of debate on the need for a cost sharing formula in the nation's public university system. SEGUN OLUGBILE reports
The National Universities Commission will, from November this year begin institutional accreditation of all universities in the country. This, according to the NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Julius Okojie is one of the quality assurance measures being taken by the supervisory body to raise the standard of the nation's university system. Okojie however said that the existing programme accreditation would not be abandoned. He added that a pilot scheme that involved the accreditation of six universities was successful.
From the Instrument of Institutional Accreditation distributed by the NUC to the vice-chancellors who attended the just concluded Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities hosted by the University of Osun State, Osogbo, two weeks ago, any Nigerian university that fails institutional accreditation will lose its license. The implication of this is that such a university will cease to operate in the country, while its students will be redistributed to other institutions. But Okojie said that this would depend on government's posture.
'Such university may not be closed down because, in some foreign nations where institutional accreditation is in practice, what governments of such nations do is to award grant to such universities and scholarships to the students to rescue them. But I can tell you that our intention is to grow the system and not to destroy it,' he said.
Before now, high premium was placed on programme accreditation for the continued existence of a university in the country. But Okojie said in order to sustain the health of universities with a view to enhancing standards, the NUC had designed an instrument for institutional accreditation. 'This is one of the quality assurance measures being taken by the NUC to enhance standard in the nation's 104 universities,' he said.
According to the Instrument of Institutional Accreditation memo, the priority areas that the NUC will measure in the universities include institutional vision, mission and strategic goals; institutional governance and administration; institutional resources; quality of teaching, learning and research and institutional efficiency and effectiveness.
Other criteria that the NUC will be measuring before giving a university a clean bill of health include extension services and consultancies; transparency in financial management and stability and general ethos. The memo stated that all these eight criteria would be scored. However, while others would be scored 10, the criteria on institutional resources, including learning resources and student support and quality of teaching and research, would be awarded 20 marks each.
Under institutional resources, a university will be measured in terms of learning resources and student support. The accreditation team, the memo stated, would assess academic infrastructure and facilities such as classrooms; laboratories; workshops; library; office spaces for members of staff; health care facilities; cleanliness of environment; IT infrastructure; hostels; electricity and water supply on campus; network of roads; guidance and counseling services; and intercom facilities.
Also, the team will assess the general teaching and learning interactions, that is curriculum delivery in the university, in relation to producing national relevant and globally-competitive graduates; quality and relevance of research undertaken by members of staff and students; level of deployment of e-learning and use of new technologies for teaching, learning and research; research ethics; code of conduct; regulations on plagiarism and intellectual property rights. The NUC explained that any institution that scored between 60 and 100 per cent would be given full accreditation.
The memo, however, explained that those who score 70 per cent and above would be allowed to operate for 10 years before they would be subjected to another round of accreditation. Those who score between 60 and 69 per cent would enjoy a life-span of eight years; universities that score between 55 and 59 per cent would have an interim accreditation with a five-year life span; while those who score between 50 and 54 would only be allowed to operate for three years. Universities that score between 40 and 44 per cent would be allowed to operate for just a year, while those that score less than 40 per cent would be denied accreditation. This category of universities would cease to operate in the country.
Should NUC carry through the exercise, only very few universities may pass the test, as inadequate funding has foisted rot on most of the nation's universities, particularly public universities.
Stakeholders in the university system, particularly from the public-owned institutions, noted that as good as the quality assurance measure is, inadequate funding could frustrate it.
'If you look at the totality of what the measures aim to achieve, you will agree that it is good. However, there is one area that I doubt if any of the public universities will pass. And that is in the area of physical facilities and funding. Those ones that have acceptable facilities, such as the first generation universities, do not have functional utilities such as toilets, regular supply of water and electricity, functional sports facilities and enabling environment for learning,' a lecturer at the Faculty of Education, University of Ibadan, Dr. Kehinde Kester, said.
A parent, whose daughter is a 100 Level student at one of the first generation universities in the South-West, Mrs. Biodun Komolafe, corroborated this. She said that the state of hygiene in the toilets of some of these universities was appalling. She said, 'I went to see my daughter in her hostel at a first generation university. I was not happy with what I saw. Or how do you describe a situation whereby a grown up girl is defecating in a an empty paint bucket because the toilet is an eye sore, as there was no water to clean up the place?'
But when asked whether the exercise would not lead to the death of some universities in the country, some vice-chancellors, including those of the University of Maiduguri, Prof. Muhammad Daura; and Crawford University, Prof. Moses Ige, said that rather than lead to the death of institutions, it would enhance healthy competition and betterment of the sector.
The VCs, however, advocated increased funding to the universities. They also called on the administrators of these institutions to limit their admission to the quota given to them by the NUC to eliminate the problem of overstretching of facilities.
The Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof. Olufemi Bamiro, said maintenance of facilities on campus in the face of minimal resources was a challenge that should be eliminated.
Using UI as an example, Bamiro said the institution spent over N322m per annum to sustain and maintain its halls of residence, while a student pays N10,000 per session for accommodation. The university accommodates 9,200 of its students. This, he said, put a lot of pressure on the lean resources of the institution.
Though most of the vice-chancellors applauded the institutional accreditation exercise, they called on the federal and state governments that are proprietors of these institutions to allocate adequate resources for the running of these universities.
But the Chairman, Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, Dr. Wale Babalakin, who also declared support for anything that would raise the standard of the nation's university system, urged the management of universities and the workers' unions to join efforts at ensuring that government adopts a new funding formula for the sector.
According to him, stakeholders in the sector are not sincere enough when issues of funding are tabled for discussion at any level.
He advised the vice-chancellors and the workers' unions in the nation's university system to embrace a cost-sharing formula among the government, the industry and students who are the beneficiaries of higher education.