Some African countries establish mushroom varsities to swindle Nigerians ― NUC boss

• Says quality assurance major challenge in Africa

The Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission, Professor Abubakar Rasheed has lamented that some sister African countries have continued to establish mushroom universities targeting students from Nigeria.

He also vowed that the Commission would be more aggressive on promoters of illegal universities in Nigeria.

Rasheed spoke at the 11th International Conference and Workshop on Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Africa, which was declared open by the Minister of State for Education, Mr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba on Tuesday in Abuja.

Nwajiuba, noted in his address that despite the growth and the number of higher education in Nigeria, the challenge of access, particularly to university education, has continued to be formidable.

Accordingly, he said the federal government has taken measures to improve the access without compromising quality.
He explained that some of these measures include the expansion and improvements of material resources to improve the capacity of the university and licensing of more private universities.

“The federal government has continued to encourage universities to set up quality assurance unit on directorate that will promote efficient effective internal quality assurance in the system,” he said.

Speaking in his keynote address on the theme of the conference, “Towards sustainability of the continental harmonisation agenda of higher education in Africa”, the NUC Executive Secretary condemned the practice in some African countries where students were graduated with degrees in less than two or three years.

He noted that some of such mushroom institutions were established purposely to swindle Nigerian students who leave the country in droves to study in some neighbouring countries because of lack of space and the desire to study abroad.

There have been reports of many Nigerians who go to Ghana, Togo, and many other African countries to study in mushroom universities that are predominantly Nigerian students.

Rasheed insisted that anybody who goes outside to acquire a degree in less than three years would not be recognised in Nigeria, disclosing that some of them who return to do the one year compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme was rejected.

He quoted United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) statistics which indicated that the global academic mobility is on the increase with more than 4 million students studying outside their home countries.

According to him, it was estimated that in the next two years to figure would be doubled to over 8 million students that would be studying abroad.

He noted that quality assurance remains a major challenge in Africa, adding that this was why the issue of harmonisation becomes very important to the Commission.

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Rasheed said: “We are pained when we are confronted by employers of labour in this country trying to get us to interpret qualification. In Africa, many countries allow their universities to graduate their students with degrees in less than two years.

“Unfortunately, some of our sister countries allow universities to be established for nationals of other countries and when we write to some of these countries, the reply we get is that the institutions are legally registered.”

He said the Commission would also be more aggressive against those coming into Nigeria to promote illegal universities.

NUC boss disclosed that a lot of them come into the country and advertise in national dailies asking people to apply for Ph.D programmes that could be awarded them in one year or one and half years.

He said: “Our intention in this Commission is not to impose uniformity of everything on the university system, but to offer guidelines, benchmarks, on which individual universities can operate giving their peculiarities, identity, and character so that a programme in one university in Niger Delta could be different in many respect from the same programme in another region.

“But we will continue to promote harmonisation which we are trying to do across the continent,” he said.

He noted that in order to improve quality in the Nigerian university system, NUC signed memorandum of understanding with Nigerian Economic Summit Group, the umbrella body of the organised private sector, to foster university-industry linkage for the prodution of graduates that are fit for the world of work.

According to him, part of the agreement was to get their inputs on the holistic review of the university curriculum and to help get outlets for university academics to spend part of their time in industries for their sabbaticals.

Rasheed equally urged universities across the country to set up English Language Clinics in their various institutions for training of foreign students from non-English speaking countries just as it is done in China and some other countries of the world.

Emeritus Professor, Ayo Banjo, who is the Chairman Governing Board of NUC, in his brief remark, called on the universities to always think about the quality of product of the system.

He said it was not enough to talk about the quality of teaching and learning facilities or lecturers, stressing that what is uppermost is the product of the system churned out into the labour market or the society.

Banjo, argued that if all graduates of the system were people who could reason logically, the myriads of challenges confronting the nation should have been reduced.

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