What to know about university, courses accreditation – NUC

ON December 30, 2023, an online news platform, DailyNigerian, reported how a Cotonou-based university issued a degree certificate to one of its reporters within six weeks after it offered the reporter admission.

The report generated reactions from Nigerians, including the government, and raised further concerns about unaccredited institutions in the country.

On January 3, The ICIR reported that the National Universities Commission (NUC) listed all unlicensed universities in the country and urged the public not to enrol in any of them.

Despite the warning, many Nigerians remain worried about the possibility of admission-seekers ignorantly enrolling in unaccredited universities.

This is because of the tactics these ‘schools’ deploy to lure unsuspecting prospective students.

Azizat Abdulmalik is an admission seeker who hopes to continue her education at one of Nigeria’s federal universities. However, she is unsure whether the school or course she intends to run is fully accredited.

This is the same for Oche Benjamin, who aspires to be admitted to another university in Abuja to study Public Administration.

He cannot tell whether the course he wants to run has been accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC).

He has heard stories of people who had been admitted to run programmes in some universities and would later realise that the courses offered were not accredited and would have to accept other programmes against their will.

Abdulmalik and Benjamin are among the over one million candidates registered to sit for the 2024 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Exams (UTME).

What does it mean for a university to be accredited?

For a university to be accredited, it must maintain a certain level of educational standards required by an accreditation agency charged with the responsibility. 

The body responsible for the accreditation in Nigeria is the NUC, a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Education. 

Speaking with The ICIR in his office in Abuja, the Acting Executive Secretary of the NUC, Chris Maiyaki, noted that accreditation was the stamp of authority granted to confirm the existence, legality, legitimacy or otherwise of an approved university, which also applies to the courses being run.

He said the NUC was established by law to set minimum academic standards and to serve as a flagship regulatory, coordinating and quality assurance agency for university education in Nigeria.

‘We do this by laying down minimum standards. We also conduct resource assessments, which assess your available resources in terms of quantum or quality. Once a school is approved, it has its accreditation as an institution,” he stated.

He said that apart from university accreditation, the NUC also accredits programmes for the universities, which he said is entirely different from the former.

“We conduct programme approvals, and it matures. We put together subject experts with a checklist to ensure the programme operates at full strength.

“Otherwise, we would issue an outcome statement that can lead to suspending admission into the programme if it is consistently found to be non-performing. You would be denied accreditation, but if you have fulfilled accreditation, we applaud you and give you a clean bill of health to operate through the next five years,” Maiyaki added.

The National Youth Service Corps is a mandatory one-year service programme for Nigerian graduates in tertiary institutions both at home and abroad. Some political officeholders have previously come under fire and even had their appointments terminated for failing to participate in the mandatory service or forging the NYSC certificate.

For any individual to be considered for the mandatory youth service, apart from being a university (or polytechnic/monotechnic) graduate, the school has to be accredited and acknowledged by Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), and the student’s name has to be on the approved list of the school’s Senate.

Students of any school not approved or accredited by the NUC and acknowledged by JAMB will not be eligible to participate in the mandatory youth service.

Illustrating this with engineering courses and the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), an education activist, Femi Adeyeye, said while the power to accredit universities resided with the NUC, courses accreditation is the duty of both the NUC and professional bodies.

“School accreditation is the duty of the NUC, but the course accreditation is that of both the NUC and the relevant professional body in charge of that particular course, courses like Medicine, Law, Engineering, etc. 

“COREN, being the regulatory body of engineering as a course and profession in Nigeria, has its standards. You should know the basic things that a university should have before it can say it has an engineering department and engineering faculty.

A university cannot say it is offering Engineering without a workshop laboratory. So, NUC has a duty to accredit the university when it meets the standards of what they have in their policy book. In accrediting courses in those universities, NUC, working with these regulatory bodies of the professions, has a role to play.

While emphasising the difference between programme accreditation and university accreditation, Maiyaki cited examples of some schools that had lost their programme accreditation but still maintained university accreditation.

“Some years ago, we denied the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, their Law programme accreditation. They failed accreditation, same as Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, University of Ibadan, and the Accounting Department of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

“At that time, you couldn’t say the universities were not approved; they were approved universities, but the programmes were consistently non-performing and considered to have failed accreditation. So they are two different things,” he noted. 



    An X user, King_Folake, had called out Redeemers University in a series of posts for not being able to attend Law School two years after graduating from the school’s Law Department. 

    ‘We paid for Law School training because we believed it would only be a couple of months before we got into Law School. And now it’s 2024,” she said in a post.

    The NUC, JAMB, and NYSC websites list accredited universities in Nigeria.

    ‘It’s in the public domain, what is approved and what is not. If a student likely goes to do otherwise, only he can answer the question.’ Maiyaki stated.

    Fatimah Quadri is a Journalist and a Fact-checker at The ICIR. She has written news articles, fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy in an effort to combat information disinformation.
    She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected]

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