The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, mni, MFR, FNAL, has said that activities of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) is unknown to Nigerian universities and also identified communication gap as the major missing link in the participation of Nigerian universities in the activities and programmes of the ACU. 

Professor Rasheed stated this last Monday when he received in audience the Senior Membership Officer, International for West and Southern Africa, ACU, Mr. Korede Bolade, who was in the Commission on enquiry about the priority programmes of the NUC in the year 2020 and ways to support it to carry out such activities in the Nigerian University System (NUS). 

He recalled that in his five-year stint as the Vice-Chancellor of Bayero University Kano, (BUK), nothing much was heard about the activities of the ACU in the University, even as an affiliate member.  

He told the Commonwealth universities representative that the Commission would be willing to work closely with the Association but that one of the first steps was to start sending NUC its correspondences going forward to enable the Commission keep abreast of its programmes.  He also urged ACU to provide the universities the necessary information that would enable them to understand the benefits inherent in belonging to it. On the basis of this, NUC he stated could help the Commonwealth body to enlist other new members in the universities that had not joined using the forum where it interacts regularly with the Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities to engage them. 

While expressing his delight over the visit, the NUC Scribe described the ACU as a very strategic and important Association that foster collaboration and cooperation among universities in the commonwealth. He said the delegate came at the right time when the Commission had just sought Government’s approval to discuss the greater benefits of Nigerian universities participating in the activities of such high profile bodies across the world.

He assured that the Commission would inform the Vice-Chancellors what they missed for not being part of the ACU, but stressed that the modalities for registration in terms of fees and participation in its activities and programmes should be well publicized as NUC intended to double the membership in the NUS this year.  The NUC, according to him, would also use the VCs forum as a platform to encourage those already in the membership to pay up the backlog of affiliation dues they owed. He noted that one of the areas the Commission expected support from the ACU was on the Sustainable Development Goal SDG (4) which when localised in Nigeria, harped on quality education for the higher education system. Towards this vein, the NUC would be looking at how the Association could assist in providing adequate number of teaching staff in the universities and in the right quality too.

The Executive Secretary highlighted that NUC was established to ensure that Nigerian universities produced nationally relevant and globally competitive graduates. This, he said, meant that there was need to refocus research output on solving local problems and some global issues alike such as Climate Change and Migration Crisis facing the world.

He called on ACU to help encourage universities to aspire to become members. He also recalled that under the auspices of the ACU, an Education Forum for Ministers of Education and Heads of Education Institutions was held in the month of last January, which helped to promote the activities of the Association.  There was the need for ACU to create more avenues for active engagement between Nigerian universities and other commonwealth universities of the world. Under the UK-Nigeria relationship, Professor Rasheed also noted that the University of Sussex would be hosting a workshop on boosting academic capacity for over 50 staff of Nigerian universities by June this year.     

Earlier in his remarks, Mr. Kolade disclosed that ACU had over 500 membership institutions in its fold across over 200 countries. He said the essence of his visit was to build active relationship among members in the West and Southern Africa, especially Nigeria in the West African region.  The ACU was interested in strengthening higher education systems in the societies and had influence in some countries such as Canada, Cyprus, Asia and Africa. Nigeria, he said, has poor enlistment in the membership with only about 26 universities among the 172 potential member universities.

On the activities of ACU, he explained that since 2014, about 29 Nigerians have received the Queen Elizabeth Special Scholarship geared towards promoting scholarly research in critical emerging areas of knowledge that were encouraged to come back home and contribute to the development of Nigeria. The ACU is also involved in the Fellowship research work including the Chevene Scholarship which it moderates which many Nigerian students had benefitted from as well as the ACU Summer Schools taking place in the University of Cape Coast with over 58 Nigerians participating.

According to him, about 65 Nigerian academics had received grants to undertake research works in various areas in the UK universities under the platform of the ACU.   More Nigerians also get offers to study for MSc and PhD under the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. 

Harping on the SDG initiative, Mr. Kolade said the ACU had been working on ways to forge better development around the world, including by establishing a network meeting in the Southern African region on Peace and Conflict Resolution, Good Governance and Development, Climate Change, among others. He revealed that 20 universities in 11 countries were involved in the area of Climate Change studies.

The ACU, he further said, had a network in Human Resources that supported universities with one already in Jamaica, and another expected to take place in India this year. This year, the ACU intended to enhance blended learning to meet the high demand for learning especially in the offline. The ACU is interested in bringing this blended learning initiative in Nigeria to support academic development in Nigeria.

The ACU Senior Representative stated that the Commonwealth body would in collaboration with universities in Southern Africa look at issues affecting research landscape in their respective countries and employs the outcome to encourage development in the region.

Other programmes executed by the ACU include Gender Development Studies in 39 universities across 20 countries for students to embark on MSc and PhD, in research areas relevant to their environment and take same back home to develop their society. The ACU has about 600,000Pounds support for studies to students.  The body also established an Endowment fund with 14 governments responsible for the funding including Australia and UK, while encouraging other countries to contribute in the scholarship and research funding scheme.

The ACU also boast of a training scheme in the form of capacity building aimed at producing the next generation of leaders in countries of the commonwealth. This scheme also support academic landscape researches which help academics build some structures around their career paths. 

He submitted that the ACU would need to know the priorities of NUC in the current year 2020 in order to build the right support system that would help it actualise same in line with the vision of the Association.  

Both sides agreed that ACU would need to present its 2020 work plan for the NUC to understudy and see where the Commission could fit in.

At the meeting were the NUC Deputy Executive Secretary, Academics, Dr. Suleiman Ramon-Yusuf; the Directors of Finance and Accounts, Mr. Sam Onazi; Executive Secretary’s Office, Mr. Chris Maiyaki, Skills Development and Entrepreneurship, Mrs. Constance Goddy-Nnadi; Human Resources, Mr. Boniface Odum; Acting Directors of Students, Mrs. Lauretha Achor; Research, Innovation, Information and Communication Technology, Mal. Farouk Lawan; and Establishment of Private Universities, Mal. Aminu Abba; the Deputy Directors of Internal Audit, Mrs. Rita Kenny-Ugwu and Corporate Services, Mr. John Mairafi  as well as Chief Legal Officer, Barrister Pascal Eruaga.