I am offended by the alleged corruption in NUC, says Fajana
Prof. Sola Fajana is the former Vice Chancellor, Joseph Ayo Babalola University (JABU), Osun State. In this interview with UJUNWA ATUEYI, he frowned at the alleged corrupt practices by some officials of the National Universities Commission (NUC) during accreditation exercise, describing the accusation as speculative and ridicule to the regulatory body. He also suggested that to further improve the system foreign accreditors should be encouraged to visit Nigeria’s institutions.
As a former vice chancellor Sir, and one who has been in the university system for long, what is your view on this alleged corrupt practice by some officials of the National Universities Commission (NUC)?
It is really very unfortunate that those who are making the sacrifice that is warranted by their chosen profession and calling (that is, both the NUC representatives on each panel as well as panel members- experienced world-class professors) are now being alleged as corrupt.
Accreditation in the Nigerian environment is often tedious requiring the officials physical exertion because of the need to commute over unfriendly environment, bad roads with attendant risks of attacks from kidnappers and militants. For logistic and fiscal reasons officials may have to move from one institution to another in the course of this national assignment; in most cases working very far into the nights as they study accreditation documents submitted by the universities being visited. In my view, the allowances allocated to these officials do not fully compensate for the mental and physical efforts often expended.
Unfortunately still, the fiscal allocation to education continues to be below the recommendation of the United Nations. In some not too distant past, accreditation was provided for in the approved NUC budgets and funds duly provided. For Federal Universities, the funds were directly deducted from the allocations to the respective universities. State and private universities had to provide some counterpart funding for their own accreditations. Recently, policies are being adjusted to the effect that all institutions, even the Federal universities, now fund their accreditation directly from internal funds.
A moral issue arises here. It would be hard for universities to fail accreditation if they had contributed huge counterpart funding to the NUC for this. The NUC is able to overcome this moral dilemma by properly briefing accreditors ever before they embark on those hazardous national trips. Thus, the NUC has done the needful to minimise abuse of its processes, and a compromising of the quality that accreditation was to ascertain.
The accreditation instruments and the scoring templates are very reliable and valid. Critical incidents and justifications are often required for every score awarded. It would be extremely difficult to bribe a panel to do that which cannot be defended and justified; or to award a score that is not supported with documentary evidence.
The NUC also mandates independent reports by each member of a panel. Thus, Group Panel reports are often cross-validated with the reports of each panel member and reviewed by the management of the NUC.
What are the implications of the alleged corruption to university education? I mean accrediting programmes that did not meet up with set standard just because money has exchanged hands.
From my own experience and perspective, it is speculative to even imagine that this so called corruption has taken place, and on a magnitude that standards are being breached. I have taken part in accreditations outside Nigeria, and have had cause to exchange notes with our colleagues abroad. A number of African countries have benefited from, by adapting the NUC policies and practices. I would rather say there is no cause for alarm!
Nevertheless, our system can be further improved by encouraging foreign accreditors to visit our institutions just like some of us have been visiting institutions outside the country. But this again would require adequate funding for the NUC.
What are your expectations from the investigative team on their findings?
I expect the Committee to discover the importance of adequate funding of education at all levels to enable all regulatory agencies to achieve the utmost in the discharge of their mandates.
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