This blog entry highlights some key discussions from my research which examined the outcomes of the accreditation exercises conducted between 2005 and 2015 by the National Universities Commission (NUC) of Nigeria, the perspectives and lived experiences of professors in the Nigerian University System (NUS), the academic standard documents in use, the process of conducting accreditation, the scoring system as well as the importance of accreditation of undergraduate programmes to the NUS. This research has since influenced my PhD study on the impact of student voice on quality in higher education.
The Federal Government of Nigeria through the NUC developed a system of academic programme accreditation in 1991 to ensure conformity with laid down minimum standards and to promote quality in the NUS. The Department of Accreditation was first created at the NUC in 2005 following concerns of the Ministry of Education about the state of universities in Nigeria, the observed need to restructure and strengthen the capacity of the Commission to monitor and ensure the quality of universities and by implication their academic programmes. Since 1960, the number of universities in Nigeria has rapidly increased to 260 (NUC, 2023). This increase has raised questions about how to assure the quality of universities particularly the recently approved private ones, which is especially important in a region that desperately requires professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve national development. This reality has, therefore, revealed the need for the implementation of effective and responsive quality assurance systems.
Instrument and performance indicators
Elements of quality in university education are the essential structures, resources and services for achievement of the university’s vision and mission, and there might be a possible relationship between these elements and the quality of university education. There are a variety of data gathering instruments and performance indicators used for internal and external accreditation exercises across various countries. While some academics and other stakeholders in higher education believe that these instruments and performance indicators encourage objective measurement, comparability of quality and encourage improvement in the university, others view them with suspicion because they have encouraged the manipulation of data and have failed to evaluate the underlying issues such as the perception of academic staff and the lived experiences of students. Essential elements of university education delivery are comprised of those structures and services that must be emplaced to enable a university successfully carry out its functions of teaching, research and community service. The vision and mission, skills and competence of the teaching staff, quality of the library and laboratories, access to the Internet, management and relevance of the curriculum are some of the elements that impact quality in universities. An important measure of the effectiveness of the accreditation process is the rating awarded to the programme (Hayward 2006; NUC, 2014).
One of the findings of the study showed that the accreditation standing of all universities recorded some improvements within the period under review because universities have been compelled to provide and maintain the resources used for teaching and learning. This compliance might have been propelled from the fear of the sanctions that come with the inability of a university to meet the stated minimum academic standards and not the confidence in the accreditation instruments and process.
While the above-mentioned elements considered by the NUC in determining the quality of programmes are crucial for effective teaching and learning, it has become increasingly necessary for university managers to ensure that QA is embedded into the everyday activity of the university in order to tackle the repeated concerns about the insincerity of QA processes in higher education and the attitude of many staff who find it overwhelming. Also, the NUC should further strengthen its accreditation processes through regular review of the instruments and performance indicators; prioritize monitoring after accreditation exercises and set up an effective student feedback system particularly on the pedagogical skills of academic staff and access to physical resources.
Hayward, M. (2006). Quality assurance and accreditation of higher education in Africa. Paper prepared for presentation at the Conference on Higher Education Reform in Francophone Africa: Understanding the Keys of Success, June 13-15, 2006, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/EDUCATION/Resources
National Universities Commission (2014). The National Universities Commission and university education in Nigeria: Perspectives on the development of a system, (pp.210-211). Yaliam Press Limited.
National Universities Commission (2023). Monday Bulletin: A Publication of the office of the Executive Secretary, 12(35), 28th August. http://nuc.edu.ng/about-us/