The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has criticised the Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS) recently introduced by the National Universities Commission (NUC).
Based on the law establishing it, the university regulatory agency is empowered by Section 10(1) of the Education (National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions) Act, Cap E3, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, to set the minimum standards for all universities and other degree awarding institutions in Nigeria, and conduct the accreditation of their degrees and other academic awards.
However, in what it described as an imposition, ASUU said NUC failed to carry along relevant organs of the university system. It said the new benchmark was imposed on the institutions and called for an urgent review.
The union further described NUC’s action as an “aberration to the Nigerian University System.”
In 2022, NUC said it already developed the CCMAS to replace the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS) –the curriculum guide for Nigerian universities, which had been in use since 2007.
The CCMAS also expanded BMAS from 12 to 17 disciplines to reposition the system to reflect the realities of the 21st century.
According to the regulatory body, developing the CCMAS involved a blend of academic experts, academies, government (represented by NUC), professional bodies and the private sector, represented by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG).
NUC said the drafts were presented to all critical stakeholders, including the academic units in the universities.
“In order to enrich the draft documents, copies of each discipline were forwarded to all critical stakeholders, including the relevant academic units in Nigerian universities, the private sector, professional bodies and the academies for their comments and input,” NUC wrote on the CCMAs webpage.
“These inputs, along with the curriculum of programmes obtained from some foreign and renowned universities, served as major working materials for the various panels constituted for that purpose.”
NUC added that CCMAS would make up 70 per cent of the curriculum while the university decides what to include in the remaining 30 per cent.
In a statement issued on Friday and signed by its President, Emmanuel Osodeke, a professor of Soil Science, noted that NUC should accept proposed innovations from the universities “instead of the top-to-bottom model used for the CCMAS.”
The statement reads in part, “NUC should encourage universities, as currently being done by the University of Ibadan, to propose innovations for the review of their programmes. Proposals from across universities should then be sieved and synthesised by more competent expert teams to review the existing BMAS documents and, or create new ones as appropriate.
ASUU said the process adopted by NUC amounts to encroaching on the powers of the Senate of universities.
“It is inexplicable that the National Universities Commission’s (NUC) pre-packaged 70 per cent CCMAS contents are being imposed on the Nigerian University System (NUS), leaving university Senates, which are statutorily responsible for academic programme development, to work on only 30 per cent,” the union said.
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The union added that while it understands that setting academic standards and assuring quality in the system is within the remit of the NUC, “the process of generating the standard is as important (if not more important) than what is produced as ‘minimum standards”.
The inadequacies of the CCMAS, according to ASUU, have resulted in dissatisfaction among university administrators, whom it said are shying away from making their reservations public.
ASUU wrote: “However, some university Senates did not hide their displeasure with the ongoing efforts to impose CCMAS on Nigerian universities by the NUC. For instance, at the Special Meeting of the University of Ibadan (UI) Senate held on 16th June 2023, it was observed that “the ratio of 70 to 30 per cent recommended does not permit the exhibition of the uniqueness of disciplines across institutions”.
“Based on this and other observations, the UI Senate decided that submissions made by various departments, reflecting the desirable contents, be submitted to the NUC”.
The union also listed inadequacies of the CCMAS, including the failure of the NUC to inform universities of the planned revision of the BMAS, “making university Senates to become mere spectators in their own affairs.”
It added that “many important components of university academic programmes were completely phased out in the new 70% CCMAS and the 30% “local content” is insufficient to remedy the lacunae.”
“For example, there are no Chemistry courses for students of B. Sc. Physics. Apart from Departmental and General Studies (GES/GST) courses, the 70% CCMAS has left out all other Faculty or University courses like Engineering Mathematics for Engineering students, Statistics for Science students, Philosophy and Sociology of Education courses for education students, etc. Almost all departments reported one major deficiency or the other in the CCMAS.
It added that the CCMAS has watered down the standards in some BMAS courses as their equivalents in the 70 per cent CCMAS were poorly developed.
It added: “A typical example is Biochemistry, where courses at the 300 and 400 levels were weakened and made superficial, bereft of contemporary trends.
“Unbundling some programmes as contained in the 70% CCMAS would render graduates of such programmes limited, inadequate, and subsequently unemployable in the sectors that would ordinarily want to engage their services.
“For example, the unbundling of the Mass Communication or Communication Studies would give products of the programme narrow specialisations. The “specialisation” idea in the CCMAS was poorly conceived, making multi-disciplinary understanding impossible in this age of the interconnectedness of things.
Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe
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