Section 10 (1) of the Education (National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions) Act, Cap E3, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, empowers the National Universities Commission to lay down minimum standards for all universities and other degree awarding institutions of higher learning in the Federation and the accreditation of their degrees and other academic awards.
The earliest efforts at giving effect to this legal framework in the Nigerian University System (NUS) started in 1989 following the collaboration between the Commission and Nigerian Universities, which led to the development of the Minimum Academic Standards (MAS) for all programmes in Nigerian universities.
The MAS documents were subsequently approved by the Federal Government for use as a major instrument for quality assurance in the Nigerian University System (NUS). The documents were employed in the accreditation of programmes in the NUS for over a decade.
In 2001, the Commission initiated a process to revise the documents because the said MAS documents were essentially content-based and merely prescriptive. In 2004, the Commission developed outcome-based benchmark statements for all the programmes through a workshop that allowed for exhaustive deliberations by relevant stakeholders.
Following comments and feedback from the universities to the effect that the Benchmark-style Statements were too sketchy to meaningfully guide the development of curriculum and inadequate for the purpose of accreditation, the Commission, in 2007 put in place a mechanism for the merger of the Benchmark-style Statements and the revised Minimum Academic Standards, which birthed the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS).
The resultant BMAS, an amalgam of the outcome-based Benchmark statements and the content-based MAS clearly articulated the Learning Outcomes and competencies expected of graduates of each academic programme in Nigerian Universities without being overly prescriptive while at the same time providing the requisite flexibility and innovativeness consistent with institutional autonomy.
In all, the BMAS documents were developed for the thirteen existing disciplines namely, Administration and Management, Agriculture, Arts, Basic Medical Sciences, Education, Engineering and Technology, Environmental Sciences, Law, Medicine and Dentistry, Pharmaceutical Science, Sciences, Social Sciences and Veterinary Medicine.
The Commission, in 2016, in its sustained commitment to make the NUS adaptable to global trends in higher education, constituted a group of relevant academic experts to develop a BMAS in Computing, thus increasing the number of disciplines in Nigerian Universities to fourteen.
In keeping with its mandate of making university education in Nigeria more responsive to the needs of the society, the National Universities Commission commenced the journey to restructure the BMAS in 2018, introducing in its place, the Core Curriculum and Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS), to reflect the 21st Century realities, in the existing and new disciplines and programmes in the Nigerian University System.
The new CCMAS is a product of sustained stakeholder interactions over two years. The composition of each panel took into consideration, the triple helix model, as a unique feature. This involved a blend of academic experts, academies, government (represented by NUC), professional bodies and of course, the private sector represented by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG). 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. 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.
Bearing in mind the need to adhere to covid-19 protocol as prescribed by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Commission was compelled by prevailing circumstances to finalize the curriculum virtually. General Assemblies were also held via Zoom, comprising, the NUC Strategic Advisory Committee (STRADVCOM), Chairpersons/Co-Chairpersons of the various disciplines and Panel Members of the respective programmes.
Each Discipline and Programme had NUC representatives who assisted panellists with all the tools and working materials. Several online meetings were held at programmes level, where the real business of developing the CCMAS took place. The products of the various programme-based virtual meetings were submitted to the corresponding discipline group and then to the National Universities Commission. These documents were further scrutinized and fine-tuned by a smaller group of versatile subject matter specialists and relevant private sector practitioners.
In line with the dynamism in higher education provisioning, the Commission took cognizance of complaints by the universities on the high number of General Studies (GST) courses in the BMAS, and was subsequently streamlined. Entrepreneurship courses such as Venture Creation and Entrepreneurship, and innovation found generous space. In addition, the new curriculum unbundled the Bachelor of Agriculture, Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication and the Bachelor of Architecture Programmes, while establishing some emerging specializations in these fields as obtained globally. This is in furtherance of the goal of producing fit for purpose graduates. The Allied Health Sciences was also carved out as a new Discipline from the existing Basic Medical Sciences discipline.
Preceding the completion of the curriculum review content and language editing, a 3-day validation workshop (face-to-face mode) involving critical stakeholders, including STRADVCOM, Vice-Chancellors and Directors of Academic Planning of Nigerian Universities, as well as the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) was organized by the Commission to validate the CCMAS documents, and to engender ownership for ease of implementation.
Consequent upon the afore-mentioned processes, seventeen CCMAS documents were produced for the following academic disciplines in the NUS:
- Administration and Management
- Allied Health Sciences
- Basic Medical Sciences
- Communication and Media Studies
- Engineering and Technology
- Environmental Sciences
- Medicine and Dentistry
- Pharmaceutical Science
- Social Sciences
- Veterinary Medicine
The CCMAS documents are uniquely structured to provide for 70% of core courses for each programme, while allowing universities to utilise the remaining 30% for other innovative courses in their peculiar areas of focus. In addition to the overall Learning Outcomes for each discipline, there are also Learning Outcomes for each programme and course. In general, programmes are typically structured such that a student does not carry less than 30 credit units or more than 48 credit units per session.
Consequently, the Commission is optimistic that the 2021 CCMAS documents will serve as a guide to Nigerian Universities in the design of curriculum for their programmes with regards to the minimum acceptable standards of input and process, as well as, measurable benchmark of knowledge, 21st century skills and competences expected to be acquired by an average graduate of each of the academic programmes, for self, national and global relevance.
Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, mni, MFR, FNAL,