By Edidiong Esara
Ritman University in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State has hosted a seminar to orientate staff and students on National Universities Commission (NUC) requirements for accreditation. Chairman of NUC Standing Committee on Private Universities, Prof Akaneren Essien; and an NUC Consultant, Prof Udo John Ibok were guest speakers at the training session.
Prof Essien said that with the human and material resources available in that institution, Ritman University (RU) is in a good position to target and earn full accreditation for all its degree programmes. In his paper titled, “An Overview of Accreditation in Nigerian Universities”, Prof Essien recalled that in the past, people who only attained Standard Six as well as School Certificate holders were competent to function effectively in lucrative jobs, while graduates of Nigerian institutions excelled abroad even when their universities did not go through accreditation.
He said the first generation universities used to host many foreign students because of the stringent, competitive admission policy in those days which yielded an efficient quality assurance system as well as high rating from American and European examiners. Accreditation of university programmes, he noted, was necessitated by falling standards.
Defining Accreditation as a “process of self-study and external quality review used in higher education to scrutinize an institution and/or its programmes for quality standards and need for quality improvement”, he explained that the process is designed to determine whether or not an institution has met or exceeded the published standards. These standards are laid down in a document called BMAS.
An NUC consultant, Prof Udo John Ibok, discussed the BMAS (Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards) used for accreditation of programmes offered by Nigerian universities. He explained that full accreditation is granted to any programme that satisfies the provisions of BMAS, namely, a minimum score of 70% in each of the four major areas – Academic Content, Staff, Physical Facilities and Library Facilities.
To earn full accreditation status, he advised that the philosophy, objectives, curriculum, admission requirements, academic regulations, and standard of tests/examinations should be consistent with the BMAS documents for various disciplines, while the academic staff mix for various departments should include 20 per cent of Professors, 35 per cent Senior Lecturers, and 45 per cent for lecturers 1 and below. University programmes are also eligible for full accreditation if up to 70 per cent of teaching staff hold doctoral degrees.
For physical facilities, the lecturer said that NUC considers provision of adequate office spaces, classroom furniture and facilities, laboratories and equipment, as well as a safe and clean environment. Required equipments include sufficient seats, whiteboards, projectors, sufficient exits, fume cupboards and other relevant ones specified in the BMAS, with the university name engraved on all items. Classrooms also need fire extinguishers, water hose, sand bucket etc, while laboratories and workshops are expected to have chemical store (for Chemistry), preparation room, instrument room, mechanical workshop (for Engineering), as well as Laboratory Technologists/Laboratory Assistants for each laboratory.
Regarding libraries, Prof Ibok said NUC specifies they must be spacious, capable of seating at least one-third of the student population, and stocked with adequate number and quality of current books and journals. They must also have a functional (internet connected) electronic/virtual component, and subscribe to relevant databases. Libraries should also have subscribed to current learned society journals for the past five years and provided ample computers for staff and students.
Where there are minor deficiencies in these requirements, the NUC gives a university programme an Interim Accreditation which lasts for not more than two academic sessions. Accreditation may be denied if an academic programme fails to satisfy provisions of the BMAS or is unable to remedy deficiencies that brought about an Interim Accreditation Status. He explained further that with Denied Accreditation, the university is not permitted to admit students into that programme. However, students admitted into a course prior to accreditation evaluation are accorded due recognition of their certificate on graduation.
In his closing remarks, Ritman University Visitor – Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien – said the NUC had scored RU very high during an inspection visit before licensing. He encouraged staff and students to work towards full accreditation of all programmes. Chairman on the Occasion and Vice Chancellor of Ritman University, Prof Celestine Ntuen expressed optimism that all courses offered by his institution will be fully accredited after NUC assessment later this year.