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More universities needed to bridge gap-NUC

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By Abraham Adekunle

Commission says that the current number cannot meet demand-and-supply gap.

Nigeria’s higher education sector is at a critical juncture, marked by a significant gap between the demand for university education and the available supply slots. As the nation grapples with the challenges of population growth, economic development, and globalization, the need for accessible, high-quality higher education has never been more pronounced. In this context, the role of the National Universities Commission (NUC) becomes paramount. Led by Dr. Chris Maiyaki, the Executive Secretary, the NUC is tasked with regulating, accrediting, and overseeing the establishment of universities across Nigeria. In a recent media interaction with the Education Correspondents’ Association of Nigeria (ECAN) in Abuja, Dr. Maiyaki shed light on the pressing need to bridge the university gap and outlined the NUC’s strategic initiatives to expand access, enhance quality, and promote excellence in higher education.

One of the most glaring indicators of the university gap in Nigeria is the disparity between the number of aspiring students and the available slots in tertiary institutions. Annually, close to 2 million candidates apply for admission into Nigerian universities. However, the capacity of existing universities falls short, with only between 500,000 to 700,000 candidates securing admission. This discrepancy not only underscores the immense pressure on students and their families but also highlights the strain on the resources and capacities of universities nationwide. Dr. Maiyaki emphasized the urgent need to address this gap by approving the establishment of more public and private universities across the country.

Strategic solutions regarding expanding access and enhancing quality.

Contextualizing Nigeria’s university gap, Dr. Maiyaki offered a comparative analysis with countries of similar population sizes. While Nigeria boasts a population exceeding 213 million, it lags behind in the number of universities compared to nations like the USA, Brazil, and Indonesia. For instance, the USA, with a population of 331 million, hosts over 1,000 universities, highlighting the disparity in university density. This analogy underscores the imperative for Nigeria to expand its university infrastructure to meet the growing demands for higher education. Dr. Maiyaki stressed that Nigeria’s under-subscription in universities reflects a structural imbalance that must be rectified through deliberate policy measures and strategic interventions.

To address the accessibility challenge, the NUC has adopted a multifaceted approach. Firstly, it has embraced Transnational Education (TNE) guidelines, which encourage foreign countries to establish high-standard universities within Nigeria. This initiative aims to provide globally competitive education locally, thereby reducing the outflow of Nigerian students seeking education abroad. Additionally, the commission is facilitating the establishment of distance learning centres, overturning previous bans on such programs to ensure quality education delivery beyond physical campus boundaries. Moreover, recognizing the financial constraints faced by many students, the NUC is launching a student loan scheme, supported by a comprehensive unit cost analysis of tertiary education.

Collaborative efforts and recognition towards a brighter future.

This scheme seeks to make higher education more financially viable for students while promoting accountability and transparency in cost structures across universities. Dr. Maiyaki emphasized the significance of adhering to updated academic standards, such as the recently released 2023/2024 Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standard (CCMAS), to enhance the global competitiveness of Nigerian universities and their graduates. Despite these strides, the NUC faces formidable challenges that threaten to impede progress in the higher education sector. Incessant strikes by university unions disrupt academic calendars, prolong students’ time to graduation, and undermine the stability of higher education institutions. These strikes often stem from labor disputes related to salary arrears, working conditions, and other grievances.

Additionally, financial constraints hamper the rapid deployment of information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure, which is essential for modernizing teaching and learning environments and enhancing research capabilities across universities. Dr. Maiyaki highlighted the importance of collaborative efforts among stakeholders to overcome these challenges and propel Nigeria’s higher education sector forward. He applauded the removal of tertiary institutions from the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) as a significant step towards granting universities more autonomy and flexibility in financial management. This move allows universities to manage their payroll systems independently, thereby streamlining administrative processes and fostering a conducive environment for academic and research excellence.

Related Article: NUC introduce tech-related disciplines in Uni

In recognition of the NUC’s efforts, the ECAN presented Dr. Maiyaki with an award for excellence, underscoring the commission’s commitment to advancing the quality and accessibility of higher education in Nigeria. Dr. Maiyaki, in turn, attributed this achievement to the collective dedication of NUC staff at all levels and reiterated the commission’s unwavering commitment to upholding standards and promoting excellence in higher education. As Nigeria charts its course towards educational inclusivity and excellence, it must confront structural imbalances that hinder progress in the higher education sector. Ensuring that new institutions meet rigorous standards of accreditation and quality assurance is essential to safeguarding the integrity of the education system. Moreover, efforts to improve funding mechanisms, resolve labor disputes through constructive dialogue, and enhance technological capacities are crucial for sustaining long-term growth and excellence in higher education.

Related Link

National Universities Commission: Website

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