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The role of NUC in shaping quality university education in Nigeria

The National Universities Commission (NUC) of Nigeria is an independent body that was created with the responsibility of regulating, coordinating, and promoting quality assurance in tertiary institutions across the country.
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The National Universities Commission (NUC) of Nigeria is an independent body that was created with the responsibility of regulating, coordinating, and promoting quality assurance in tertiary institutions across the country. Since its establishment in 1962, NUC has been enforcing global competitiveness, monitoring the development and growth of Nigerian universities as well as their academic excellence. However in 1974, it became a statutory body and the first Executive Secretary, in the person of Prof. Jibril Aminu was then appointed. Here are the roles of NUC in Nigerian tertiary institutions

NUC is in charge of curriculum development within Nigerian tertiary institutions. It conducts curriculum review and design new initiatives that can put students ahead in the global market. The NUC integrates global education trends and practices such as information and communication technologies (ICTs) and vocational courses into the curriculum. An example is entrepreneurship courses that have recently been adopted by many universities.

This will help to equip students with knowledge and skills needed to thrive in the labour market after graduation. NUC also promote relevance in tertiary institutions and ensure they are aligned with national development policies. In a study conducted by Adeoti in 2015, he stated that in the 1970s, when the Federal Government took over all universities and the NUC became statutory and more powerful, the orientation of academic programmes in Nigerian Universities to Nigerian needs was pursued with vigour. The University of Benin,for example,changed its original philosophy into the mainstream of the new Science/Humanities orientation with the provision that the constituent ratio would be 60:40 in that order. By the early 1980s, what the University of Benin began in the 1970s had begun to yield positive results in the establishment of universities of technology in the country. This was accelerated by the establishment of Iron and Steel Industry in Ajaokuta and the need to diversify the economy toward a technological balance (Tamuno!and!Atanda,!1989:297).

In addition, NUC is also saddled with regulatory functions when it comes to tertiary institutions. This includes monitoring, supervision, and evaluation of tertiary institutions to ensure compliance with established standards, rules, regulation, and guidelines. The NUC is also solely in charge of the accreditation process of Nigerian universities. This role was vested in NUC’s Amendment Decree No 49 of 1988. Through accreditation, the NUC assesses the quality and relevance of academic programs offered by universities, ensuring they meet specified benchmarks and criteria. Accreditation is a quality assurance mechanism. It safeguards the integrity of degrees and diplomas awarded by Nigerian universities. It also enhances their recognition and acceptance in the career world and in the global market. Along with accrediting universities, the NUC also accredits each course offered in the university. There is always a periodic accreditation for courses to be sure that the students are being taught in line with the curriculum. They also do this to ensure that lecturers are moving and incorporating new trends and topics as directed. The NUC also regulate the fee charge in schools and controls the enrolment of studnets.

The NUC is a catalyst for research and development (R&D) in Nigerian tertiary institutions. This body advocates for more collaboration, and capacity building in this critical area in the university. They help to pinpoint the role of research in driving innovation, advancing knowledge, and addressing societal challenges in higher institutions.

The NUC encourages universities to prioritise research and development activities, foster interdisciplinary research partnerships, and leverage external funding opportunities. The NUC is also in charge of monitoring the funds released to universities for the purpose of research. This will help check and balance the institution and avoid corruption. By promoting a culture of research excellence and providing support for research infrastructure, the NUC seeks to position Nigerian universities as the home of knowledge creation and dissemination. This will drive global competitiveness and position university lecturers among the best in the world.

NUC also promotes cross-border collaboration, student and faculty exchange programs, and partnerships with international universities and research institutions. The body facilitates the recognition of Nigerian qualifications abroad. It also fosters cultural exchange, and promote global citizenship. One of the goals of the NUC is to enhance the international visibility, reputation, and competitiveness of Nigerian universities, positioning them as key players in global knowledge.

Despite its significant contributions to the Nigerian higher education sector, the NUC faces its share of challenges. Some of these challenges include inadequate funding. In 2023, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU) in a conference lamented that inadequate funding remains one of the major challenges militating against the effective growth and global ranking of public universities in Nigeria.The body does not receive enough funding from the government to help carry out its responsibilities adequately. The Commission relies heavily on government allocations for its operations, which may fluctuate or be insufficient to meet its needs. NUC is also faced with infrastructure deficits as many universities lack the necessary infrastructure needed due to lack of fund.

Just like every other public sector, NUC is also experience shortage of skilled personnel and expertise. In 2018, the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar
Adamu Rasheed, submitted that “the Commission’s staff numerical strength as of2018, was 688
and that it dropped to 642 in 2019 and 628 by the year 2020 due to retirement of some staff and
movement by others.” The Commission requires a dedicated workforce with specialised knowledge in areas such as accreditation, curriculum development, and quality assurance.

Keeping pace with technological advancements and innovations in Nigerian universities is a pressing challenge for the NUC. While technology has the potential to revolutionise teaching, research, and administrative processes, many institutions lack the necessary infrastructure, resources, and expertise to fully leverage digital technologies. Most Nigerian universities are still doing things the traditional way. A nursing student from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife confirmed that some of their classes were still being done using marker and white board instead of projector and other technology infrastructures. Additionally, the body is faced with keeping up with global trends and ensuring they are incorporated timely into the Nigerian curriculum.

Corruption is another major problem facing the supervision of higher institutions in Nigeria.
Corruption is an endemic problem preventing effective supervision of the universities in Nigeria. Ogunode & Ahaotu (2021) noted that corruption has penetrated into the bones and marrows of ministries of education and other agencies, commissions and departments under the ministry of
education. Funds released for supervision of programmes are not prudently used for the
supervision, part of the funds are looted or diverted into personal accounts and mismanaged. Some
staff of the National Universities Commission sometimes compromise with university officials to
influence accreditation of programmes in universities. In a report by Vanguard in 2019, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC) said, the Commission has dismissed one of
its staff over academic corruption during the accreditation programme of universities.

To solve the challenges faced by NUC, the government should increase the budgetary allocation of the body. This will help them to carry out their functions effectively. Also, the government should direct for immediate recruitment in all the supervisory levels of NUC to help improve their strength to deliver their mandate. Adequate supervisory materials should be provided for personnel of supervisory
commissions to enable them carry out their functions. Compromising officers of the commissions should be showed way out. Riot act of each commissions should be read for all the staff going for supervision.

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