Kings College London delegation to NUC

A delegation of King’s University, London, last week Wednesday, paid a courtesy visit on the Acting Executive Secretary, NUC, Mr. Chris J. Maiyaki, in his office, to explore collaborative opportunities in healthcare development, in Nigeria through education.

Welcoming the delegation, the Acting Executive Secretary gave a run down of the evolution of NUC, providing a concise history and outlining the pivotal role of NUC in supervising Nigerian universities since its inception in 1962. He highlighted the Commission’s growth, emphasising its current oversight of 61 Federal universities, 63 state-owned institutions, and 149 private institutions in Nigeria. The Ag. ES underscored the Commission’s commitment to upholding global best practices and adapting to emerging trends in education, while facilitating increased access to higher education for millions of students, given the palpable gap that existed between the soaring demand for university education and the capacity of the 272 universities in Nigeria to accommodate the teeming applicants. 

Mr. Maiyaki stated that NUC was the sole regulatory agency of government, saddled with the responsibility of maintaining educational standards by ensuring the availability of essential resources like learning materials, manpower, and academic support. He elucidated on the intricate process of accreditation where universities risked sanctions if they fell below a 70% rating. He stressed the importance of internal evaluations as a self-correcting mechanism to address deficiencies and uphold quality.

The Acting Executive Secretary highlighted the challenges within the education sector notably inadequate access, the persistence of illegal degree mills, funding constraints, and the complexities inherent in university administration. He noted the need for strategic partnerships to strengthen efforts of government in the advancement of the higher education landscape in Nigeria, particularly in the face of the perceived challenges.

Mr. Maiyaki focussed reflection on the overarching purpose of education, raising pertinent questions about the efficacy of the educational system in addressing the complex challenges confronting the world, citing the unrest in Russia, Ukraine, Gaza, and even closer home in Niger Republic. He, thereafter, expressed hopes that the meeting between NUC and the delegation from King’s College London would be a pivotal step towards addressing critical issues within the education sector.

In her remarks, the leader of the delegation and Deputy Vice President, Global Business Development, Professor Helen Bailey, expressed gratitude to the Acting Executive Secretary for the warm reception, while introducing her colleagues on the delegation. She gave a brief overview of King’s College’s nine faculties, with emphasis on the four health-related faculties, including Life Sciences and Medicine, Dentistry, and the Institute for Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience. Professor Bailey shared an on-going collaborative endeavour between King’s College London (KCL) and African Medical Centre of Excellence (AMCE).

She disclosed that African Export Import Bank (Afreximbank) had commenced sponsorship plans for trailblazing projects, under the African Medical Centre of Excellence (AMCE) initiative, to develop a 8-floor, 500-bed state-of-the-art hospital in Abuja, Nigeria.

According to her, the effort would offer a full spectrum of medical services in Oncology, Cardiology and Haematology, along with world-class research, education and development capabilities. The leader of the delegation said that the collaborative project also aimed to establish a medical and nursing school or research centre, to support the production of quality medical personnel in Africa, and to advance technology and innovative strategies. Additionally, she explained, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, as one of the key project partners, was involved in staffing and quality assurance.

Professor Helen discussed the concept of circular migration as a strategy to counteract brain drain, suggesting sustainable solutions within the country, as she disclosed that King’s College London was contracted to produce a six-month scoping report detailing engagement with foundational education guidelines, exploring models that range from developing a new institution to partnering with existing academic institutions in Nigeria, with options of mobility.

She added that efforts would be made to connect with diaspora groups for potential collaborations in training in various fields, such as medicine and nursing. She stressed on the leveraging local hospitals, as a common factor to facilitate collaboration while also displaying a laudable understanding of the importance of integrating local context, contributing positively to the local community, and aligning collaborative efforts with a broad global mission for a better world.

Responding, the Acting Executive Secretary, while acknowledging  the significance of the initiative and the enormous responsibility implicit, reflecting on personal experiences and recognising the transformational power of technology, attested to witnessing the efficiency and positive impact of technology in enhancing medical care. He emphasised the importance of exploring it to become part of the global movement in healthcare. Mr. Maiyaki acknowledged the game-changing nature of the AMCE initiative for Nigeria, expressing willingness to support and facilitate the project, to align with the country’s goals.

He noted the transformational potential of the collaborative project in the nexus of health and education, while he underscored the importance of leveraging the expertise of the Nigerian diaspora, to encourage the return of skilled professionals and collaboration with experts worldwide. He recalled the success of the Linkages with Experts in Diaspora Scheme (LEADS), an NUC linkage programme that engaged numerous experts of Nigerian extraction in diaspora, with the resultant effect that some of the experts chose to stay back in Nigeria at the end of the initial engagement.

Further discussions were held on the importance of partnerships in delivering excellence in healthcare, education, and research.

Both parties illustrated commitment to advancing medical education and healthcare delivery in Nigeria. Of great importance was the need to balance excellence and sustainability in medical education, touching on gender equity in the nursing profession and the broader goal of promoting equity and professional autonomy in the healthcare sector.

In his remarks, Professor Nicki Cohen, Dean of Medical Education, King’s College London, sought clarification on the workings of medical education regulation in Nigeria, citing the collaboration between stakeholders such as the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) body in the United Kingdom.

In response, Mr. Maiyaki explained the collaboration between the NUC and other regulatory bodies for medics in Nigeria the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) and the Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria (PMCN). He disclosed that the Commission was currently working on addressing quotas for medical education in Nigerian universities to meet the increasing demand for healthcare professionals.

Addressing the significance of Ph.D. programmes as accelerators for research culture and development within the institutions, Professor Michael Malim underscored the huge benefits derivable from interdisciplinary collaborations, such as partnerships between the Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine and the National Natural, Mathematical, and Engineering Sciences. The conversation delved into the significance of Ph.D. programs as catalysts for developing a robust research culture within the institution. The delegation also considered a long-term vision to include establishing a Business School, under the TNE guidelines to offer split degrees between institutions in Nigeria and London to enhance research capabilities.

Other members of the delegation included Prof. Julie Radcliff, Vice-Dean International, Nursing and Midwifery; Professor Mike Malim, Senior Vice-Dean, Life Sciences and Medicine; Mr. Chikodi Onyemerele Director of Programmes, British Council, Nigeria, Abuja and Mr. Jatau John, Programme Manager, British Council, Nigeria, Abuja.

Members of the NUC team included Mr. John Mairafi Ahmadu, Director, Executive Secretary’s Office; Mrs. Nkechinyere U. Nwaebge, Acting Head, Diplomatic Partnerships Liaison and Dr. Abubakar Tanko Mohammed, Acting Head, Special Duties, among others.