The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC) Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, mni, MFR, has reiterated that accurate data collection and management were essential for national planning and development. He stated this last Thursday at a One-day interactive meeting with Directors of Academic Planning of Nigerian Universities (CODAPNU), held at the NUC secretariat, Abuja.

The Executive Secretary said that for the Nigerian University System (NUS) to be respected globally, it must live above board by managing an effective and reliable information system that would guarantee accurate, reliable and timely data that could be used in advising government on issues of national planning. He observed that without accurate data, effective and strategic planning would not only be difficult for the university but also for the government.   He said that as Ivory Towers, Universities were expected to have adequate and reliable information across all variables such as total number of students enrolment; total number of students by programme; faculty; gender;  age; mode of entry into the university; Local Government of origin; State of origin; nationality; geo-political zone;  distribution in term of PhD, Masters, PGD programmes and students.

The NUC Scribe said that such information when provided would enable the Commission publish the 2017 Nigerian University System Statistical Digest that would be a reliable reference document for not just researchers alone but also for government and the entire world. He said that such data when provided would also help the NUC to know those programmes that were over-subscribed and or under-subscribed, with a view to addressing the imbalance based on national needs. He observed that situation where most information was based on assumption was not healthy for the system.

Professor Rasheed observed that the absence of reliable data had denied the country of some foreign interventions. This, he said, was due to the fact that most foreign intervention agencies could only invest based on accurate and reliable information.  He, therefore, called on the DAPNU to rise up to this responsibility as the engine room of the university by virtue of their positions as custodians of the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS). He observed that if DAPNU did what was expected of them by advising their Vice-Chancellors and Senate rightly, the university system would function effectively. He said that the Commission was prepared to issue letters of credence to them as Ambassadors of the NUC. He charged them to be good ambassadors of the NUC in their various universities by guiding and informing their universities of the workings of the Commission, adding that the NUC was open to positive criticism that would enable it improve on its activities.

The NUC Scribe disclosed that the Commission had introduced some flexibility in its curriculum such that universities were now allowed to innovate and initiate new programmes where they possess the critical mass of both human and material resources. Interested universities, he said, were expected to formerly submit proposals to the Commission upon which the NUC would assemble experts to develop a BMAS to guide in the teaching and learning of the programmes to other institutions that may wish to commence such programme. This, he said, was to allow the universities to explore new and relevant areas of knowledge, particularly, at the Postgraduate level. He said that the Commission could not afford to be waiting for foreign countries before mounting new programmes.  He observed that in most universities in the world, Postgraduate programmes were tied to availability of professors in the field, such that when the professors were moved to other universities, their students also moved with them.  He said that the Commission would not be a stumbling block to any university that wants to expand its frontiers of knowledge.

The Executive Secretary also observed that knowledge was dynamic, hence the constant introduction of new programmes to address 21st century needs. He said that some years back, there were no programmes such as Cyber security, Software Engineering, Computer Science. He disclosed that the Commission had increased the number of disciplines taught in the NUS from 13 to 14 with the upgrading of information Science as a discipline that could be mounted in a faculty, adding that computing science was still evolving with potentials in different branches. He advised universities that where ready to separate it from the faculty of Science to first seek for the approval of the Commission.

Earlier, in his welcome remarks, the Director, Directorate of Academic Planning, Dr. Gidado Bello Kumo, said that the essence of the meeting was to deliberate on how to forge a common understanding on the best way to move the NUS forward.  He expressed the hope that at the end of the meeting there would be implementable outcomes.