The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC) Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, mni, MFR, FNAL, last Monday, constituted a National University Ranking Advisory Committee (NURAC) saddled with the task of working out the modalities and strategies for a yearly ranking of Nigerian Universities by the Commission, chaired by Prof. Peter Okebukola, OFR.
Inaugurating the Committee, Prof. Rasheed remarked that the idea of the Advisory committee was conceived late last year following a meeting of the NUC Strategy Advisory Committee (STRADVCOM) which ruminated on building a strong quality assurance mechanism in the Nigerian University System (NUS), in line with the functions and mandates of the Commission.
He also recalled that it was one of the outcome of the first distinguished lecture series organised by the NUC in December 2016, for the Nigerian University System (NUS) on Ranking of Higher Education Institutions, delivered by Emeritus Prof. Ayo Banjo, the immediate past Board Chairman of the Commission. He said at the lecture series which had in attendance academics of repute that could be described as living ancestors, Prof. Banjo had recommended the establishment of a National University Council on Ranking. He said as good as it was to do it became pertinent that such a Council would require rigorous process of the law.
The Executive Secretary said members were carefully chosen to reflect all strata of the academia, including representative of state universities, legal, education, agricultural and medical professions and based on their wealth of experience, national spread as well as antecedents.
He noted that the issue of ranking had remained an important segment of any university’s recognition, reputation and rating, not only in Nigeria, but in the whole world. He explained that six years after that lecture series, ranking had continued to resonate in the way and manner universities were placed and accorded recognition, hence the need for the NUS to be repositioned to enjoy such huge mention.
According to him, NUC in 2019 tried to explore and experiment the ranking system using the outcome of an existing accreditation template and was not able to put the result into a public discourse because the management felt that the instrument used for the ranking was a bit faulty. He said it took another two years to review the instrument based on the robust debate and inputs generated by the NUC Sub-Committee on Quality Assurance headed by Prof. Joseph Ajienka, which formed the basis for a new developed template.
Prof. Rasheed acknowledged that no ranking system could ever be water-tight, controversy-free, or generally acceptable by all especially by lower ranked institutions who would always want to critise the outcome. He however, said it was one culture that needed to be embraced by Nigerian universities if any meaningful impact would be made in the coming years based on universally-adaptable instruments. He explained that NUC was basically shooting for a good internal quality assurance mechanism and system to be instituted in the universities beyond the accreditation visits, so that they could do self-assessment and evaluation and ensure continuous quality improvement.
While highlighting his recent engagement with the Senate at the National Assembly, the Executive Secretary recounted his explanation to the Lawmakers about the need for a National Summit on Higher Education in Nigeria as it was unrealistic to expect Nigerian Universities to compete favourably with their foreign counterparts with only an average of N11mllion monthly, being the highest overhead to any university in Nigeria. This, he argued, was not even enough for energy costs in the universities, less to think about conduct of research and generation of outputs. He lamented that what used to be given as Direct Teaching and Laboratory Costs (DTLCs) was no more available and even when it did was barely anything for meaningful research, to attract mention in the league of top 100 universities.
He said, these were part of the basis upon which NUC thought it wise to constitute the committee made up of scholars to change the status quo to enable the universities gain global higher education presence and visibility.
He therefore, urged the team to follow global models in formulating the strategy for the ranking and to be objective in the assignment, expressing confidence that with the caliber of individuals in the committee they would do a good job.
Responding, Chairman of the Committee and former Executive Secretary NUC, Prof. Okebukola, commended the Executive Secretary for the innovative steps taken to ensure that the system remained quality assured. He expressed appreciation for their choice, acknowledging that the team as constituted had eminent scholars had been working for the Nigerian university and has the requisite expertise as well as the experience to justify the confidence repose in them. He noted that they accepted the responsibilities with a lot of vigour and assured that work had begun with an inaugural meeting to follow subsequently.
Others in the committee included: Former Vice-Chancellors of: Lagos State University (LASU,) Ojo, Prof. Olarenwaju Faboha, (who represents the Southwest and state universities); University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), Prof Joseph Ajienka, (South South); Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike, Ikwo, (AEFUNAI), Prof. Chinedu Nwajiuba (South East); Bayero University Kano (BUK), Prof. Muhammad Yahuza Bello (Northwest); Federal University, Dutse (FUD), Prof. J.D Amin (North East); Federal University Lokoja (FULOKOJA), Prof. Angela Freeman Miri (North Central) as well as the NUC Director, Academic Planning (DAP), Dr. Noel Saliu, who serves as the Secretary of the Committee.
At the event were the Deputy Executive Secretary (DES) Administration, Mr. Chris J, Maiyaki; Directors of: Finance and Accounts (DFA), Mr. Sam Onazi; Establishment of Private Universities (DEPU), Mrs. Constance Goddy-Nnadi; Human Resources, Mr. Boniface Odum; Open, Distance and E-learning (DODel), Engr. Kayode Odedina; Students, (DoS), Mr. Sunday Essien; Executive Secretary’s Office (DESO), Mr. John Mairafi. Others were the Acting Directors of Research, Innovations and Information Technology (DRIIT), Mal. Farouk Lawan; Inspection and Monitoring, Mrs. Lydia Imorua and the Director of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship, Mr. Ashafa Ladan.