‘Why FG should establish new accreditation agency for specialised institutions’
Prof Chris Onalo is President and Chief Executive of Postgraduate School of Credit and Financial Management. In this interview with IYABO LAWAL, the scholar shared his views on credit management, lack of accreditation agencies to regulate affairs of specialised institutions and why government should expedite action on grading these institutes.
What is Postgraduate School of Credit and Financial Management all about?
The school was established to bring highest level of education in credit management, which at the moment is lacking in the country. Our concentration is on those that have finished with their first degree; who are either in the credit and financial management industry and are willing to deepen their knowledge in the area of credit and financial administration. The reason for this is that the world today is moving on a fast lane of credit economy, and you need to have highly efficient professional in that field.
Credit management is a daily affair and its efficacy is linked to the happenings that occur in the lives of individuals and businesses, including government both at local and international fronts. So, for you to have a very strong human capital to manage the scenarios that occur everyday, which impacts in economy, and ultimately in the lives of individuals and corporate organisations, you need to have the best brains.
Having said that, the necessity for this stem from lack of such faculty of credit management in Nigerian universities. Not only peculiar to Nigerian universities, but also largely around the world. A large number of global universities do not offer enough concentration on credit management in their programmes so that has created very big lacuna in terms of efficiently managing credit, and the good thing is that the global economic policy makers are beginning to worry increasingly that a lack of concentration in terms of knowledge on credit management is affecting the way credits are managed at the various level of economy, so, this has thrown up a challenge to institutions like the ICA that has become the champion for moving the economy of this country from cash to credit system.
To holistically address the issue of lack of credit management in the country, the institute had to look for ways to establish a formidable institution that impacts academic knowledge to people in credit. So, we have come to realise that apart from practitioners themselves who are working as credit operatives in the economy across board, people doing credit work in those sectors are from different background and that is why they get it wrong most of the time, leading to massive credit default. So, we need to have a specialist institution to be able to provide leading education to these people who, on daily basis, are performing one credit function or the other.
In terms of why we established the school, we observed that credit economy create jobs and increase revenue, while many Nigerian graduates are holding qualifications that are not relevant in the labour market, and after several failed attempts at securing jobs, you find them resorting to all sorts of activities inimical to economic growth and social stability.
We are saying that rather than stay at home, holding a certificate that has no market value, we want such graduates to shift their focus from what they are holding to something that can fetch them quick jobs because the fast growing labour market, in terms of people that organisations are recruiting despite COVID-19 are credit professionals. All over the world, holders of credit management qualifications tend to get jobs quicker than most sectors of educational knowledge.
How can we help people who have qualifications in courses that do not have immediate labour market value? To get to the pathway that can create value for young professionals, we need to do something differently. In developed educational climes, when a university is running its programmes, such an institution bears in mind that it is responsible for job creation, unfortunately, that is conspicuously lacking in Nigeria. So, at the postgraduate school of credit and financial management, though we are not a university, we are dealing with products of universities. We need to identify their basic needs and that is employability.
We are in partnership with many institutions, employers of labour and organisations that are looking to employ credit professionals at different levels. What we are trying to do is to liaise with employers of labour and put on the table the curriculum we have developed, which of course is at par with international universities’ curriculum development structure, such that having secured inputs from employers of labour, we can now have a meeting to say this input you have made into our curriculum, you are also going to be part of teaching that section.
Nigerian universities do not have so much to do with labour market; they don’t develop curriculum together with employers of labour, they don’t have employers of labour that come to make input, standing in class and telling students exactly what goes on in their offices, this is what separates credit school of management from the university, we have the same standard and structure but we are not a university. Hopefully, one day, it would become a university, but we don’t have to wait until we become a university before we can set up a structure, what we have on ground surpasses what universities are known for, that is why we are better off than typical Nigerian universities.
And how has the institute fared so far?
The response from students is unique because many want to acquire new qualifications that would launch them into labour market. First, they have to know what credit management is as a whole through the institute; that sounds like an eye opener, and the package of interface with employers of labour is also very interesting to them. When you get done with the programme, you find yourself doing exactly what other employees are already doing in the office, which is the excitement we get from students and that has encouraged their massive response to what we are doing.
You would agree with me that this idea is new and there are always challenges associated with new institutions and projects. In your case, what have been challenges?
To be honest, it’s quite daunting. We are looking to have a specific national body that would provide accreditation to a specialist postgraduate institution like ours, and we are not the only one, there could be more in other fields and the biggest challenge as it were, is accreditation. I have approached officials of the Federal Ministry of Education, and they told me it does not include their mandate. How then do we get external censorship, how do we get external accreditor, third party, that would hold us to quality standard, quality assurance?
We are left to ourselves to impose internal quality assurance but that is not sufficient because labour market is missing that opportunity. Yes, outside of universities and polytechnics, there are specialist institutions that are coming up, how do we accept their products? What is the benchmark? How do we rate their products, other than what the institutions themselves say or of their students, how they grade their qualifications, curriculum and others? Who has attested to that quality standard?
The biggest challenge we have right now is -we don’t have accreditation agency that can look at what we do, and behave to us the way accreditation organisations should behave to their subjects, and Nigeria is too big for this. It is not worth mentioning at all that Nigeria does not have multiple accreditation agencies to take care of various sectors’ interests, particularly education?
Most times, when I read people talking about quality of education in Nigeria, I laugh because they are missing the line. The National Universities Commission (NUC) is not given the legal power to accredit everybody, it is only universities. I have taken time to look at the law establishing NUC and I found out that there is a huge vacuum, the kind of specialist postgraduate institution that we run is far higher than the status of a polytechnic, so you cannot even go to National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) to bring yourself below the standard of polytechnics.
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