The National Universities Commission (NUC), on Monday 9th July 2018, held a two-day retreat for Vice-Chancellors of all Nigerian Universities, public and private.

In declaring the retreat open the Executive Secretary, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, mni, MFR, FNAL gave an overview on the operation of the commission, the level of reform, some charges introduced in the operation of the NUC and current state of university education in Nigeria.

He reminded them of two earlier retreat he held with Vice-chancellors and Pro-chancellors last year and said the aim was to rub minds and find solution  to problems in the NUS.

He explained during those earlier retreats, participants agreed that such retreats should be held regularly to critically assess the NUS and to have common goal.

He said that the Commission and the university system had embarked on an ambitious reform agenda as it was expected that the retreat would also serve as a forum for collaborations and partnerships among the universities, stressing that if the NUS was to remain relevant and have a greater future, such interactions were inevitable.

The Executive Secretary said that in the past few years, NUC had renewed its commitment towards strengthening its regulatory functions and repositioning the NUS to ensure quality and standards.

He stated that university education in Nigeria was still in its infancy as the oldest was only 70 years and most of the universities were less than 20 years, compared to those in other climes which had been in existence for thousand of years. He, however, said that the NUS was impressively growing with a total number of 164 universities and about two million students enrolment.

He noted that despite the progressive status, there was need to embark on radical approaches towards ensuring that the NUS met the standards for global competitiveness.

The NUC Scribe further informed the retreat that as part of strategies to advance the NUS, last year, the Commission constituted an Advisory Committee chaired by former NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Peter Okebukola and other distinguished academics to work on a comprehensive documentation of database for the NUS.

He said that the Committee had successfully come up with a compendium and directory on the NUS which had all the details of the NUS and information on full Professors as well as monographs on the university system. He however expressed dismay on the failure of some universities to be captured in the compendium.

He said that the publications would be reviewed annually for in-depth information on the NUS, urging all universities and academics to ensure being part of the subsequent editions as it would provide the opportunity to be recognised both nationally and internationally.

The Executive Secretary also pointed out that the Advisory Committee under the auspices of NUC had come up with a blueprint on the rapid revitalisation of university education in Nigeria from 2018-2023, which he said was part of the Commission’s contributions to the nation’s Vision 2050 and to also serve as means of portraying the relevance of academics and universities to Nigeria’s development.

He therefore, solicited the cooperation of the academics towards the Advisory Committee members which might be contacting them for some information in the course of their assignments.

Prof. Rasheed decried the lack of access to university education for teeming qualified candidates due to limited spaces.

He said that with the increasing number of private universities, there were still daunting issues to be addressed and noted that though the private universities were focused and had the right mix, there was the issue of low enrolment, while the public universities lack the carrying capacity to accommodate all successful candidates.

According to him, the NUC was finalising quality assurance protocols to address the challenge of access by strengthening Open Education through collaboration with the University of London on Open and Distance Learning (ODL) models, as it had been practicing the system for over a century.

He said that the policy document on Open Educational Resources (OERs) had been completed and waiting for the approval of National Council on Education. He assured that NUC would not compromise quality and standards in the quest for providing access, calling on the participants to support the protocol on Distance Learning in order to enhance access.

On major developments in the NUC and the NUS, he informed that the Commission was reviewing university¬† curriculum, urging the participants to contribute to the exercise, as the draft was being sent to various stakeholders for contributions. He also revealed that the NUS had recently been enriched with new programmes especially on ICT-related courses and other fields that would address the nation’s peculiarities.

He reiterated that NUC would continue to be supportive and flexible towards mounting of new programmes and not minding which faculties they were being domiciled in the universities. He further pointed out that in the last one and half years, NUC had conducted more accreditation exercises and resource verifications for new programmes in the NUS than what had been done in the past five years. He then announced that henceforth, accreditation of programmes in universities would only be conducted once a year from October to November.

He challenged Nigerian academics to develop more interest in research, being one of the tripartite mandates of the university system. He emphasised that the many postulations and statistical reports on Nigeria’s political and economic status had provided the basis for further research on those areas which would help the nation in developmental planning.

He stressed that it was the responsibility of universities to put some thoughts on key areas of development as they were catalysts of nation building and development. He also harped on the need to make convocation ceremonies to be solemn events devoid of any political influence.

On NUC policy brief, Prof. Rasheed stated that the Commission in collaboration with University of London (UoL), was planning to establish one of the biggest libraries in the NUS, which he said would be enriched with the best books and resource materials especially on higher education which were lacking in the system.

He further informed that NUC was also planning to be organising a similar version of the British Council’s Going Global which had been an impactful forum for academics and relevant stakeholders in the education sector. He further reemphasised that NUC had not done any ranking of universities in the NUS, but it was on the process of undertaking the exercise. The Executive Secretary then called on the Vice-Chancellors to use the forum as an opportunity to be on common ground towards rebuilding the NUS.

Earlier in a welcome remark, the Chairman of the organising Committee, NUC,  Director of Research, Innovation and Information Technology, Dr. Suleiman Rahmon-Yusuf, commended the participants attending the retreat and wished them fruitful deliberations in the course of the retreat;

In a goodwill message, the representative of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors (CVC) for State Universities, Prof. Samuel Oye Bandele appreciated the laudable performance of NUC, saying that the academia and the general public recognised the remarkable achievements of the Commission especially in ensuring quality and standards in accreditation of programmes in a bid to move university education to greater heights.

The CVC Chairman for private universities, Prof. Debo Adeyewa noted that NUC had revolutionised the NUS and brought confidence and prestige to the system. He added that the Commission’s principle of inclusiveness had given a sense of belonging and participation to all the universities and the will to move the system forward.

In the same vein, the Chairman, Association of West African Universities (AWAU), Prof. Abdullahi Ribadu thanked the Executive Secretary and the entire Commission for the unflinching support to AWAU. He also used the opportunity to invite the participants to the 6th AWAU Conference coming up in November.

The CVC Chairman for Federal universities Prof. Joseph Ahaneku said that the appointment of the Executive Secretary at the helm of affairs of the Commission had come with many innovations and great expectations. He noted that those distinct programmes would enhance the operations of the NUS by motivating teaching, research and community service.

The two-day retreat covered all aspects of quality assurance and standards mechanisms in Nigeria University System.