THE National Universities Commission (NUC) announced, not too long ago, that it has asked all degree-awarding institutions to suspend the running of all part-time programmes. According to the NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Julius Okojie, the decision was necessitated by the need to streamline universities’ intakes into the part- time programmes.
He explained that over the years, Nigerian universities had churned out bad products, caused by having too much students with inadequate facilities and staff to measure up. He solicited the co-operation of universities “to evolve a more focused and credible system”.
In his words, no university should have more than 20 per cent of its student population on part-time, with excess capacity to teach, adding that “all part-time programmes must be located on-campus. We do not want satellite campuses anymore”. Contrary to this, in most universities, over 70 percent of the students are part-time students. Statistics have it that over 10 million students mostly workers would be affected by the new policy, which most universities’ staff and management have already kicked against.
It has been alleged that universities admit more part-time students than regular students and charge them exorbitantly as a means of generating revenue internally. Also, since the programme is not under the watchful eyes of NUC, many irregularities occur such as students not meeting the minimum requirement for attendance yet sitting for examinations and affiliate or satellite mushroom campuses being opened indiscriminately, without recourse to the commission’s guidelines.
Notwithstanding these reasons adduced by the Professor for the suspension of the programmes, most students and staff of Nigerian universities have refused to see reasons with this new policy. Universities introduced such part-time programmes principally to augment their finances due to persistent shortfalls in government funding. At the same time, they provide members of the community, who can afford the cost an alternative platform to obtain higher education with appropriate and verifiable certification, at the same time retaining their jobs or any other means of livelihood.
Over the years, budgetary allocations to Nigerian universities as well as the educational sector have been declining. In the 2012 budget, for instance, education has less than 10 percent of the total budget, a far cry from the minimum prescribed by the United Nations. The universities are left with no choice but to fall back on Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) mainly gotten from part-time programmes.
Because of this, the effects of this decision are far more devastating, at least in the immediate future. One of such is that the universities would lose their major source of IGR. Another is the fact that most of the admission-seeking Nigerians would also lose the opportunity to attain higher education via this time-tested route. Considering the number of people who apply and re-apply yearly for admission into universities, this might not seem like such a wise move despite the cogent reasons for it.
Mr. Richard Maledo, a lecturer at Delta State University opined that while the reasons are logical, the action is too drastic. “It would be easier and much more bearable for the NUC to give out a defined quota or percentage of admission to all the universities, instead of totally suspending all part-time programmes. How will the universities cope with this sudden change?”, he queried.
“The later effect of it might be the general increment of school fees for the full time regular students. University education might become too expensive for the poor to afford. Some people might have no choice but to postpone their education until they can afford it.” He advised that the easy way out would be regulating the intake into such programmes instead of suspending it.
Still along same lines, Nneka Ikpekeme, a student of Delta state University viewed it as “a decision taken without consulting advisers”. She explained that although the universities have taken the liberty to admit students non-stop into part-time programmes, suspending the programme is too drastic. In her words “some schools bring out as much as fifth batch of admission list into part-time programmes because there is no form of regulation or restriction. This makes the school jam-packed with more students than they can handle. “
“The end result is that the students have to struggle to succeed in environments which are not conducive for learning. Crowded classes, suffocation and fainting during lectures, delay in pasting of results and even missing scripts become the order of the day, frustrating students who might be naturally brilliant into having poor results.” She further added that although the effects of over-crowded part-time programmes are not good, the effect of suspending it is even worse”. She described the implementation of the policy as “jumping from frying pan into fire”.
Another student, Tony Agabue said: “it is disturbing that the NUC has not considered the pains that the affected persons might be forced to go through based on this sudden decision. The existence of such programmes has assisted in reducing the number of idle youths, because an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, and the impact on the society might be unpleasant. “ She suggested that it would be better to retract the decision and find a better way to solve the problem.
However, another lecturer said the NUC directive is a welcome development because part-time programmes have made mockery of genuine studies. He added that the regulation of part-time programmes will sanitize the system which has been subjected to abuse and compromise of standard. According to him, many part-time students are lazy and are often battling with divided attention with their paid employment. He added however that if part-time programme is to be sustained, the NUC must streamline it and must be made open to mature students who have acquired on-the-job experience.
“Suspending the programme is not really necessary. All you need to do is tell the universities what you want them to do and give them guidelines on how they should run such programmes. After that, any university that refuses to comply should have itself to blame”.
Despite all the reactions and responses, the consensus seems to be that NUC should have a rethink and take into consideration all those involved, those who would be affected and its impact on Nigeria as a whole. A better option would be for the NUC to begin proper monitoring of the programmes and strict implementation of rules on the number of students to be enrolled, and insist that universities improve on their facilities. Whatever reviews the NUC proposes to make, that should not take too long.
Government should also help better the education sector by providing adequate funding and improved facilities, as it would really go a long way in bettering the education sector and solving the problem at hand.