Why We Will Continue to Open New Universities in Nigeria – Maiyaki, NUC Boss

…We have gotten to a point of no return on CCMAS.

…It is not possible to acquire a varsity certificate in Nigeria in six weeks.

Nigeria’s educational system has long been plagued by challenges such as underfunding, lack of infrastructure, and low-quality delivery of learning. In an interview with African Health Report’s Gom Mirian, the Acting Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Mr. Chris Maiyaki discusses the pressing need for more universities in the country to bridge the gap between demand and supply. He also addresses concerns about the quality of education, the student loan scheme, and the implementation of the Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS).

Nigerians are concerned about the proliferation of universities in the country, worried it will compromise the quality of education, don’t you think Nigeria already has enough universities?

Because of the huge gap between demand and supply, we are duty-bound as the National Universities Commission not just to lay minimum standards, not just to ensure quality assurance of the universities, but to continue to approve additional universities and I thought I would share some statistics with you that if you take the USA with 300 million people, they have over 5000 universities.

If you take Brazil, with about 200 million, they have about 1000, Indonesia, Russia.  I told you not to even compare Nigeria with China and India because those are in the 1 billion marks because of their population size, therefore we have no choice but to as a matter of deliberate policy undertake the massif cation of universities because university education, an average Nigerian family places a lot of premiums on the acquisition of university education certificate, because of what because it is that resource that has a multiplier effect.

Your life choices as an individual as a family, or as a community as well as a nation, your life choices will always gravitate around the investments you make in education more so university education is at the heart of everything today, what separates the rest of the world and the rest of the bunch is the level of educational investment.

And you need to see the anguish, desperation and frustration on the faces of families who are desperate to make sure that their children or wards acquire a university education every admission season.

Therefore, we have no choice but to continue to approve new universities, I take serious exception to the conclusion that our procedures lack luster as you have alluded to, if you familiarise yourself with the workings of the direction for the establishment of private universities, as I mentioned, the NUC has one of the most rigorous, most stringent requirements for the establishment of private universities.

We call them the 14th stations of the cross. We would normally follow those 14 steps and I assure you that even during the interactive session, some intendant promoters make a U-turn, because they know they cannot cope, is a very serious matter.

It takes courage to establish a university. It takes ability, financial wherewithal, financial muscle, it takes so many things medically permitted, and I want to assure you that if there’s any country that has put in place a solid time-tested regime for evaluating applications for the establishment of private universities, it is the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Talking about standards of certificates issued by the universities we do find that some products of our high institutions cannot defend the certificates they were awarded. Do have a defence for this too

I agree with you. Not all private universities that have been licensed will start up on the same note. Some will wither away like any business entity.  We have seen some communications outreach I started with MTN but they’re not on today. So, this will also happen to universities that cannot stand the test of time.

There’s nothing extraordinary about that, I want you to be guided by the big picture. The fact that we have over the glorious years, enjoyed a highly regarded reputation as a university enterprise.

All of us, I went to university in Nigeria, do I speak like someone who is perpetrating quackery? Fully, I’m trained in Nigeria. I did all my university education and I am proud to have trained in Nigeria, I can face any foreign student on any intellectual platform. I want you to be proud of what we have as a Nigerian education brand.

 Sir, ASUU has made a strong allegation over the Student Loan scheme. Do you think it’s unfounded?

On the issue of the wild allegation that there’s going to be a diversion of funds from Nigerian student loans to private pockets, I want to disabuse your mind. Private universities are not even involved in the implementation.

I want to disabuse your mind that NUC is part of the incubation process of that exchange of loan funds.

And even if they were going to be involved to conclude prima facie that funds will be diverted, I think is a big disservice to the people that have been entrusted with the responsibility.

The loan fund is going to comprise the National Universities Commission and TETFund, the regulatory agencies, it is a very serious process, serious when I think about preemptive reactions to see before it launches, that the funds will be diverted. No, we wait to see.

And I assure you that the people that have been appointed, are highly qualified Nigerians, people that have been brought from very solid backgrounds. We look forward to the successful implementation of the Nigerian educational loans fund because there are people who are so deserving of some help to be able to unlock their potential in the university.

Some Nigerians think you have not lived up to your primary responsibility of regulation which is why there are high cases of certificate racketeering, forgery and quack higher institutions across the country. What’s your response to this?

This is one of the major factors for criminally minded individuals to undertake certificate racketeering,” is what I told you. The population explosion, the huge gap between demand and supply, the desperation by Nigerians to acquire this university education certificate, the inability of the system to absorb people and the fact that there are monetary benefits to be derived.

These are merely commercial ventures for mailing out certificates and there are other reasons that as parents we need to take more than a question by setting the right standards and the right goals for our kids if my child comes home after six weeks with a certificate.

He knows what will happen to him because I set goals for my kids for up to university school, and if a parent just sits back and watches his son or daughter, awards come with a certificate in six weeks.

And you haven’t seen anything that there’s a major failure on the part of the community. So, I think that the community and parents have a huge responsibility in that regard and if you haven’t said anything, then there is a major failure on the part of the community.  So, I think the community and parents have a huge responsibility in that regard.

And the issue of certificate racketeering, I’ve told you, it is not possible to acquire a certificate in Nigeria in six weeks. It’s not possible because we have put in place the Nigerian University brand, which is a very serious mind experience.

The matter at hand is extraterritorial. It has to do with a university from outside the shores of Nigeria. And we’re investigating the issues. We’re liaising with our sister regular agencies; we’re interrogating all facts and factors to be able to establish that allegation that a Nigerian can be at liberty to just go and acquire a certificate in six weeks.

The outcome of the investigation will reveal so much and I’m sure the nation will be proud that this government, this minister, has put together an inquisition into how and when, under what circumstance can a Nigerian go to acquire a certificate in less than weeks away.

 We can’t wait for the outcome statement from this investigation, I’m privileged to be a member of the committee, and a lot is happening, and I want you to, I want the nation and I call on your opinion mothers you the ones pushing opinion to be proud of what we have don’t allow this isolated case to be cloud what has turned out what has been acknowledged as to the rising profile of the Nigerian university education over the years from the advent of the university of Ibadan to the establishment of the Ahmadu Bello University all over the world and see Nigerian academics, Nigerian graduates, making waves who are trained in our public universities.

Let’s give kudos to ourselves, let us not allow ourselves to be swayed to be distracted by a test incident, which I dare to say we will investigate the matter.

ASUU has expressed its dissatisfaction over the implementation of CCMAS, and says it doesn’t meet the global standard, how do you respond to this?

The National Universities Commission is the flagship regulatory agency empowered by law and saddled with a very strategic and vital responsibility to prescribe to lay down minimum academic standards. This is a function where we are not contemplating sharing with any entity.

I want to emphasise is not a function we are contemplating sharing with any entity but I also made it very clear that because we will not have the critical mass of Professor Resident in the NUC, I mentioned to you that during the accreditation, we engage 2,621 universities professors and during the resource assessment, we had 670 professors.

Therefore, the NUC operates in a very consultative multi-stakeholder platform in a multi-stakeholder, collegial manner during our communications activities in tempo with all the subject experts involved in the Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS) from day one, how did we begin?

We began in 2018, we sent circulars to all the universities, including the University Senate. We have comments from the University Senate. We sent back the benchmark minimum of academic standards that we have just replaced.

We send them to the universities, universities set us their local implementation nodal point.  The interest the input is generated from the departments from the deaneries right to the Senate to the university authorities will also involve the academies, all the academics are university professors and who do you think are the members of ASUU?

 We were in active communication; we have records of hundreds of meetings between the National Universities Commission and all these academies. We sent this CCMAS to the universities for their comments, and we held validation sessions. We held the colloquium, and we still allowed a process of remediation, if any therefore, to get to this defining moment, to hear that the academia was not involved, is not a solid base, and is not a true reflection of what has transpired.

And let me say that the NUC does not need to abdicate responsibility in this matter. We have involved the universities and we are proud to say that constantly we have been in touch with academics with the intelligential. With the universities, all the Vice Chancellors were at the colloquium, in their own right, our professors, we’re not here to pontificate as a National Universities Commission. 

We have deliberately project consultation over CCMAS as a novel idea. It’s a signature of innovation that we should be proud of, as a university community.

 We have to compartmentalize the curriculum 70%, as put together by the academics will come from the NUC to the university for them to comply with, but for the first time in more than 40 years, the university senate and university authorities have not been given the latitude to populate 30% per cent of the CCMAS in such a manner that it will reflect their peculiarities, their past, their present and their future direction.

In general, the universities now have the window of opportunity to populate the 30% to reflect their peculiarities, and we’re proud to say that most universities have swung into action and we’re getting very good feedback.

I want to emphasise that we have gotten to that point of no return as far as the implementation of the system is concerned, we will continue to address the teething problems to emanate from this implementation but as to whether it is a matter of it not, because we have taken the giant steps to implement to activate the CCMAS as we’ve gotten to the point of no return.

We call on all stakeholders to join hands with the National Universities Commission so that we can elevate the system to the enviable height that it deserves.

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