Fear Grips Students, As NUC Hammer Dangles

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Students of many universities in the federation have expressed fears over the National Universities  Commission (NUC)’s move to crack down on institutions with un-accredited courses.

While the NUC has already dis-accredited some courses in some universities, more courses may lose  accreditation when the regulatory body begins a fresh round of visits to the institutions by March.

Among the universities which have lost accreditation of courses are Ladoke Akintola University of  Technology (LAUTECH), University of Benin, Igbinedion University, Madonna University, University of  Abuja, Lead City University and Lagos State University (LASU).

Parents and Students are frightened as hopes of scheduled graduation dims or even fade away in the  face of the uncertainty of how long it would take to resolve the crisis. Authorities of the affected  institutions are also running around to find a way out.

The situation has led to accusations between students and their school authorities on one hand, and  the NUC on the other hand. The students and the authorities are accusing the regulatory authority of  high handedness. Amid the trading of blame, the NUC has absolved itself of any guilt in the crisis.

Its spokesman, Mr. Ibrahim Usman Yakassai, said only students whose schools started their programmes  without interim approval would lose everything.

According to him, there would have been no problem with universities if they followed NUC regulations,  which require interim approval for a course, before they admit students.

By NUC regulations, if there is a problem with a course with an interim approval, the students will be  allowed to finish their academic pursuit while the institution will be ordered to stop further  admission for the course.

Yakassai said students who were admitted to study courses without interim approval would have to hold  the authorities of their universities responsible, because as a quality assurance body, the NUC could  not be held responsible for their fate.

The case of Ola (surname withheld), a medical student at LAUTECH typifies the dilemma of students of  the affected universities.

In 2004, when he received the letter of provisional admission from LAUTECH to read medicine, Ola had  his plans well laid out. In his mind, he saw himself becoming a medical doctor by the turn of 2011.  But seven years after, his plan has become a mirage.

He is not even sure how long it would take him to finish what ordinarily should have been a seven-year  course, no thanks to the incessant crisis in the school and the lingering face-off between the two  owner states —Oyo and Osun.

There has been no meaningful academic programme in the school for about one year as the two owner  states flex muscles over whether to go their separate ways or not.

And to worsen the crisis, the National Universities Commission (NUC) and Medical and Dental Council of  Nigeria (MDCN) have suspended the accreditation granted the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the  university for its medical course.

The two bodies had hammered LAUTECH for exceeding its quota for medical students just as it did to  Igbinedion University.

According to investigation, the institution, which only got approval to train not more than 75  medical students, turned out over 170 graduates. It was learnt that the institution exceeded its quota  because it had to present two sets of medical students for their final examinations.

As things now stand, the fate of Ola, who is now in his 400 level, hangs in the balance, as nobody  knows when the crisis in the school would be resolved. Many times, he has considered transferring his  studentship to another university where he feels he can complete his course in good time; but he knows  that will be hard as it is against convention for a medical student to transfer his studentship.

The ownership crisis has stalled efforts to find a solution to the suspension of the accreditation of  medical science in the institution as the governors of the two owner-states, Governor Adebayo  Alao-Akala of Oyo State and Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun are yet to reach a compromise on the  ownership tussle.

While Oyo wants to take over the school because the main campus is located in Ogbomoso, and Osun  already owns a university (Osun State University), Osun is insisting that it will not allow its  counterpart to appropriate LAUTECH as the institution belongs to the two states. There are many  students in Ola’s position. Some have been caught in the web of power play between authorities, while  others are pitted against NUC over accreditation of courses.

Such is the fate of students of Lead City University, Ibadan, where about 5,000 students risk wasting  their time studying law, nursing or engaging in any postgraduate studies if the NUC carries out its  threat to axe these programmes.

At the Lagos State University (LASU), out of the 68 academic programmes it is running at the  undergraduate level, 10 have been denied accreditation by the NUC.

The dreams of thousands of students may be shattered and ambitions crushed in the face of the  uncertainties that becloud their academic programmes. Those who had hoped to graduate in their early  20s soon discovered to their disappointment that it may not be possible. Not because they are  intellectually incompetent, but they have been caught in the vortex of power play between two  elephants.

Hard hit are law students and graduates of Lead City University as the NUC has declared the programme  illegal and directed that no individuals or organizations should recognize the law degree issued to  graduates from the university.

The regulatory authority also ordered the institution to close down its law and postgraduate  programmes within two weeks or risk the withdrawal of its licence. The university has graduated two  sets of law graduates who have participated in the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps  (NYSC) and there are some 600 students waiting to complete their law programme.

At the University of Abuja (UNIABUJA), pioneer medical students, who are now at 300 level, have been  stuck in a class due to the refusal of the NUC and MDCN to accredit their course. The same fate has  befallen their junior mates.

Relief is on the way for LASU as its owner, the Lagos State Government, is shopping for N3.022 billion  for accreditation of the courses. Already, Governor Babatunde Fashola has forwarded to the State House  of Assembly a request that this year’s Appropriation Bill be jacked up by N3.022 billion to ensure  that the university is fully prepared by March when NUC officials are expected in LASU to accredit its  courses.

A consultant psychiatrist at LAUTECH, Dr. Adeoye Oyewole, however, warned that the nation may be  sitting on a keg of gunpowder if the crises in the affected institutions are not quickly resolved. In  his psychoanalysis of prolonged studentship that those attending the troubled universities could be  subjected to, Oyewole said many of them could fall into depression and suffer its attendant medical  consequences.

According to him, some of the female students could resort to prostitution, not only for pecuniary  benefits, but to kill the boredom foisted on them by the crisis, while the male one can opt for other  social vices.