Abolition of sub-degrees, diplomas narrows revenue, admission opportunities

A cross section of Nigerian students

A cross section of Nigerian students

Last week, indications were rife that that the sledgehammer may soon drop on Nigerian universities offering diploma programmes at the undergraduate level.

The strongest hint to that effect came from the Executive Secretary of the commission, Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, when he received the Executive Secretary of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Dr. Masaudu Kazaure, in his office, in Abuja.

On that occasion, Rasheed maintained that only polytechnics had the statutory right to run diploma programmes.

Rasheed told his guest, “We are going to formally put a deadline on it, that there should be no diploma again, to be run by universities. Let us allow those that are statutorily allowed to run diploma programmes, the polytechnics, to continue with them,” he said.

Whoever thought that the pronouncement may be long in coming to fruition was clearly mistaken as Rasheed, barely a week after the initial hint, announced the ban, and instructed universities to leave the running of such programmes to polytechnics and concentrate efforts on producing human capital in the core undergraduate, part-time and postgraduate courses

Expectedly, the announcement has sent ripples across Nigerian universities, where it has been received differently.

In the announcement, which followed a meeting Rasheed held with vice chancellors of the 143 federal, state and privately owned universities, the institutions were directed to begin the process of winding down the affected programmes immediately.

The scribe, who also disclosed plans for a comprehensive review of the university curricula to set the benchmark minimum academic standards, added that a new ranking of Nigerian universities would be released in 2017, and accreditation of academic programmes scheduled to hold in May and November, while resource verification is slated for March, July and December every year.

Additionally, the meeting resolved to restart institutional accreditation of part-time programmes and resumption of the Nigerian University System Annual Review Meeting (USARM), as well as consider accreditation of academic programmes by professional bodies.

Still discussed at the meeting was the issue of shortfalls in personnel emoluments and incorporation of universities into the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information Systems (IPPIS), and matters arising from the 2009 agreement between the Federal Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

The universities were advised that rather than stretch their facilities to run sub-degree programmes, they should galvanise their energies towards their primary function of producing high-level manpower for the economy, by strengthening their part-time programmes, to offer high quality undergraduate degrees and postgraduate diplomas and degrees.

Even though discrepancies of diverse sheds characterised some of these very expensive diplomas and pre-degree programmes, run by consultancy units of most universities, a good number of these institutions made hundreds of millions of naira from running such programmes. These are the ones that the stoppage is coming to as a rude shock to.

On the other hand, a reasonable number of Nigerian youths have also gained entry into degree programmes in these institutions, ridding on the backs of these diploma and pre-degree programmes. Needless to say that millions of youths angling to do these programmes would be jolted to their marrows by this development.

One of those really excited about this development is the Rector of Kogi State Polytechnic, Lokoja, Isah Muhammed, who has already commended the NUC for taking the bull by the horn.

Muhammed who spoke to The Guardian in Lokoja, said the NUC’s action was a major leap in correcting a major anomaly in the educational system, which has led to the multiplicity of half-baked diploma holders, stressing that the quest for monetary gains forced most institutions to do what is ethically wrong and unthinkable.

“To my mind the award of diploma is strictly the mandate of polytechnics, it has nothing to do with universities, but the quest for money is compelling some of them to take actions that those in academics and members of the public condemn as an illegality.”

The rector explained that the problem most of such diploma holders face upon graduation is that they are overcome by frustration “because most employers of labour will never employ them since it is an illegality. Secondly, their prospect for further studies is jeopardised because a lot of them would want to come to the polytechnic for their Higher National Diploma and the polytechnic is conscious of the fact that universities don’t have that mandate to award national diplomas and so will never accept them.

“We have our own ethics, which is different from the mandate of the universities. So, these so-called diploma holders from the universities are always half-baked. So, there is the tendency for us to reject them. Incidentally the universities that produced them never allow them to go for further studies in their own system that is the amazing thing.”

Muhammed, who wondered why graduates of diploma programmes from universities are not allowed to get into the degree programmes in the same field, by some schools, said, “I commend the NUC for wielding the big stick in streamlining the education system, and correcting that oddity. As a regulatory body, the NUC is carrying out its mandate well.”

Vice Chancellor, Redeemers University (RUN), Ede, Osun State, Prof. Debo Adeyewa, understands the concern of stakeholders in this regard, but that notwithstanding, he wants universities to be allowed to function in accordance with the law that established them.

He noted that over time, many universities have used funds accruing from such programmes to shore up their internally generated revenue (IGR), in the midst of paucity of funds and mounting economic hardship.

He said, “I understand the concern of the stakeholders and they mean well… but you see the law setting up universities empowers them to hold examinations, grant degrees, diplomas and certificates and other distinction to persons who have completed courses of study, approved by the senate of such institutions, and have satisfied such other requirements as the university may lay down. So, it can also award medals, honourary degrees and other prizes.

“My take, therefore, is that universities should be allowed to run in accordance with the status, or law establishing them. However, it should do so with a sense of responsibility. In other words, whatever programme you are running, you should offer excellent services. The certificates, diplomas you are awarding should rank among the best internationally. Many universities, especially at the state level use diploma programmes as a means of generating revenue internally. A strategy for coping with the economic difficulties in the country, and some of them are not receiving money from their governors anymore. So these are some of the issues.

“So, rather than scrap sub-degree programmes and diplomas in universities, emphasis would have been on ensuring quality in the area of teaching and learning environment and the ratio of teacher to students, among others. Also, the quality of services in those centres should be checked to ensure that learning is actually taking place, because in many of these centers, you find variant of people who are accessing education and they are given certificates that are not worthwhile, I think that is the concern. But I believe we should allow universities to function in accordance with the law establishing them, however, we should be conscious of quality.”

For the Registrar, Gregory University, Uturu, Abia State, Dr. Austin Orisakwe, undergraduate and postgraduate programmes are heavy enough for universities to handle even though there are some diploma programmes that are relevant to degree programmes. But some universities create so many diploma programmes, which is not right because it is diverting their attention, and distorting the core functions of these institutions. Universities should concentrate on degree and post-degree programmes, and those diploma programmes that are relevant to their degrees, rather than create many diploma programmes like polytechnics.

“For instance, there are some postgraduate degrees that require the relevance of a diploma before one is admitted into it. If one had a lower first degree and wants to register for a masters’ degree programme, he/she is required to do a postgraduate diploma, which is a requirement to climb further. Such diploma programmes should be acceptable for universities to run.

“I believe that it is wrong for universities to use sub-degree of diploma programmes as a revenue generating means because universities by their nature are not money-making ventures. Revenue generation should be concentrated in the areas of research and selling of patents because these add value to the society and generate funds for the schools.”

Former Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof. Oye Ibidapo Obe, opines that the NUC should have examined the purpose of establishing diploma programmes before scrapping them.

“The reason for the foundation programmes is to provide access to those who could not access higher education without writing UTME. In Ebonyi State for instance, we needed to do that to give people the opportunity to access higher education by widening the space. It is like A-level. Considering the level of illiteracy it that community, every programme and project should be targeted at widening access not limiting it.

“What the NUC ought to have done was to monitor the programmes to ensure that standards are given premium and quality guaranteed. There is nothing wrong with universities running foundational programmes. And so NUC should not throw away the baby with the bathe water.”

Professor of Development Communication, University of Maiduguri, Prof Danjuma Gambo, thinks the main reason universities have interest in sub-degree/diploma programmes is because of revenue. The funding issue is a big challenge for most universities and they see such programmes as a means of IGR. It is relevant to the need of the people and it is a good source of generating revenue that is why they are attracted to it.

“So, if NUC scraps sub-degree and diploma programmes, it should also encourage the Federal Government to increase funding for universities so that the development won’t affect the smooth running of these institutions.

“On the other hand, NUC should remember that it is also encouraging polytechnics to be awarding degrees. While NUC is scraping sub-degree diploma programmes in universities, it is important for the commission to also pay special attention to the degree awarding polytechnics. This is imperative to ensure that they truly have the capacity to award degrees. If they are saying that polytechnics should be allowed to be running all the pre-degree diploma programmes, they should also ensure there is no much pressure on them in carrying out these multiple functions. It is the responsibility of government to ensure that polytechnics are prepared to award degrees,” he concluded.

Ngozi Osarenren, a professor of Counselling at Faculty of Education, University of Lagos, wants the NUC to offer further clarification as to whether university’s foundation programmes are also included in the banned programmes.

“To the best of my knowledge, UNILAG is no longer running diploma programmes, what we have now is called Joint Universities Preliminary Examinations Board (JUPEB) programme.

JUPEB is certified by the NUC and approved by the Federal Ministry of Education, and it has an executive secretary. The programme is specifically designed to provide an opportunity for candidates who cannot gain admission to regular degree programmes in Nigerian universities for one reason or the other.

Participants/candidates are prepared in different partner universities and the board organises the examination for them. Those that fail to get admission into the university where they were prepared, go ahead to buy JAMB direct entry forms and can also be admitted in other universities with that same result.

“It started in UNILAG, FUNAAB is part of it, Caleb University, OAU, Afe Babalola University, University of Uyo, University of Nigeria, Nsukka are among the 15 universities that are running the JUPEB programme, which is open to universities that are interested, and ready to prepare students. So the NUC should explain further what it means by sub-degree diploma programme because some universities have senate-approved programmes.

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