The National Universities Commission (NUC), took the nation by surprise when it, last Monday, announced the suspension of part-time programmes across the Nigerian universities. Making the announcement, Prof. Julius Okojie, the Executive Secretary, NUC, attributed the suspension to the need to sanitie the system and regulate the programmes to conform with laid-down guidelines of the commission for running part-time programmes.
“Many students study illegally under the part-time programme system. Very soon we would do staff and student audit,” he said. “For now all part-time programmes have been suspended. We are going to streamline them, no university should have more than 20 per cent of their student population on part time with excess capacity to teach. All part-time programmes must be located on campus. We do not want satellite campuses anymore.” Reacting to the suspension, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) led by Mohammed Dauda critized NUC for taking the decision without taking into confidence the students who would bear the brunt. “While we appreciate the concerns of the NUC on the abuses that have characterised the operation of the part-time programmes and the running of our satellite campuses, we find it disturbing that the NUC has not considered the pains that the affected students might be forced to go through based on this sudden decision,” it said in a press statement.
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“We also want to remind the NUC that the existence of the part time programmes in our universities has assisted in ensuring more enrollment of our increasing youth population into the tertiary education sector.” “All over the world, universities run part-time. Even in rooms, universities are established in Europe,” Odimegwu Onwumere, the Port Harcourt-based poet, writer, essayist, social commentator and a regular contributor of articles in Nigerian newspapers, noted. “And those who have called for the end of part-time studies in Nigeria today graduated from such universities abroad. What they forgot is that the death of part-time in Nigeria will never bring about the desired death of poor education in Nigeria because those duty it is to impact knowledge have shown that they do not understand how education acquisition works. Education is beyond being a Professor! This is the case of higgledy-piggledy in the Nigerian education system.”
But in making the announcement Prof. Okojie was silent on the fate of students currently running part-time programmes in our universities. That was the concern Daily Sun took to the commission last weekend and in a chat with our correspondent, Malam Ibrahim Yakassai, the Deputy Director of Information, National Universities Commission, speaking on behalf of the body addressed that and related issues. Excerpts: The NUC just announced the scrapping of part-time programme in all universities in the country. What is the reason for this sudden decision? First, I want to correct the wrong impression created that the NUC scrapped part- time programmes in our universities as it’s being speculated. What we did rather was to suspend admissions into part-time programmes until we are able to sanitize the system. So basically what we did was actually suspension of admission. Its like we have suspended the programme and not abolished it. We did not abolish it.
So, what will happen to students that are already doing part-time programme. All those already enrolled would be allowed to finish. You see, as we do whenever we go on accreditation, any programme that earned denied accreditation, we tell the students that are in the programme to be allowed to finish normally. But you see they cannot admit new students until such a time when they have remedied the deficiencies we have noticed and in this case until such a time when they comply with all the rules and guidelines that are governing the establishment of part time programmes. How long is the suspension going to last and when do we expect NUC to lift the ban? Not too long though, but you see even before now in March, we issued a moritarium on part-time programme in Nigerian universities and since then we have been working on sharpening the guidelines. We have guidelines and all universities know that there are guidelines governing the establishment and running of part-time programmes.
You see, for example, we tell them not to admit more than twenty percent of students into part-time on a programme, and number two, we tell them that that programme must earn full accreditation in the mother programme that they are trying to start part-time. There are so many guidelines but you see we had to suspend it because a lot of illegalities were going on. So the suspension would be lifted very soon. All we will do is that we are going to fine-tune the guidelines and the regulations and as soon as we do that, we now pass it around and insist and monitor that they are followed to the letter.
What are your assurances to the affected students and warnings to would-be part-time students? My advice to students that have already enrolled is not to panic as they would be allowed to finish their courses wherever they are. And as for those that are aspiring to be, I will advise them to go to our websites where we always put out guidelines on everything. If they are in doubt, they should call us. And they should also know that admissions into degree programmes are only done through JAMB. Anybody who gives you admission outside JAMB is only wasting your time. So the advice is simple, let them insist on knowing what they are going into by following the laws and if they are in doubt, they should contact NUC or JAMB.
What should we expect at the end of this exercise? At the end, we should expect to see a robust guidelines from the National Universities Commission, because you see, our main aim is quality assurance. We want to be sure that a student who goes through a part- time programme gets a good education as one who goes through full- time. So what you should expect is the fine-tuning of the guidelines to ensure that we quality-assure part-time programmes as we do the full- time programmes.