It is no longer news that many students in Nigeria spend up to five years or more to earn a master’s degree, while those studying for doctoral degree could spend twice that number of years.
The cause of this delay in most cases is not as a result of poor academic performance by the students, but antics by some lecturers which appear unchecked by some university authorities, thereby raising speculations that the actions are institutional decisions to extort money from the students.
The consequences of this untoward acts are very enormous. In some cases students abandon their studies when they can no longer meet the financial demands, while some have lost employment or scholarship opportunities or promotion because they could not graduate within stipulated time.
Furthermore, there are also cases of quarrel in homes arising from issues related to delay in completion of graduate studies. As a result, prospective applicants nowadays place emphasis on whether the academic calendar of a university will be adhered to, or if they will spend eternity in the programme.
This is why some universities are fast losing their students and prospective applicants to places where one is relatively sure of when to graduate.
Of course, not all the universities in Nigeria engage in this unethical practice because their administrators are conscious of the aforementioned negative implications on the students, their family, and the society at large.
One of such universities is Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Port Harcourt, which is led by an innovative and pragmatic Vice Chancellor, Professor Ozo-mekuri Ndimele, who on the day of his inauguration vowed to change the ugly narratives of graduate studies in Nigeria.
Four years on, the university management has proved beyond doubt that students who are studious could graduate within the limit of the duration of their studies without compromising academic standards.
Consequently, the institution’s graduate school has become the centre of attraction to those seeking higher degrees, as some have abandoned their studies in those places to start all over at IAUE.
Sadly, some sections of the public became resentful over this quantum success, and resorted to campaigns of calumny. So, they alleged that the institution’s postgraduate programmes were not approved by the National Universities Commission.
Indeed, this false claim caused some apprehension among graduate students of the university because their future appeared to be shrouded in uncertainty. Some felt that they had been tricked into wasting their time and resources pursuing a higher degree that may not be valued beyond the recognition accorded it by the institution’s senate.
Even when the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ozo-mekuri Ndimele, and the Dean of the school of graduate studies, Professor Daniel Ogum, explained that the university was not doing anything unethical, some took their clarifications with a pinch of salt.
Of course, this was not unexpected. Who would not vent frustration after being informed that the certificate he is investing time and other resources to acquire can neither get him a job nor help him go for further studies because the awarding institution is not licensed to do so. Today, this uncertainty has finally been put to rest following a release issued from the office of the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission.
The official announcement, which was dated March 23 2020, clearly confirmed that Ignatius Ajuru University of Education Port Harcourt is approved to award Masters and PhD degrees to students in Nigeria. This is as the commission also warned Nigerian universities running unapproved postgraduate programmes to desist from such act, describing the practice as unethical and negates best practices in university education.
Furthermore, the commission called on employers of labour, educational institutions and other stakeholders to note that only certificates issued by the listed universities and their approved programmes are valid for employment, further studies, or other purposes. The body also directed those in doubt about the status of any programme or certificate to seek clarification from its office.
It is against this development that the National President of the alumni association of the university, Pastor Ferdinand Amabibi, described the listing of IAUE by the NUC as vindication of the Vice Chancellor. He recalled how the VC at different forums, had assured the university community that the institution has the approval of the regulatory body to run postgraduate programmes.
“This will finally put all criticisms, allegations, and name muddling to rest”, he said.
He also enjoined the staff, students, and members of the alumni association to support the Vice Chancellor to achieve his lofty goals, which are aimed at putting the university on the pedestal where it rightly belongs among the comity of universities.
Similarly, the National Secretary of the association, who is also the Director of Basic Studies in the school, Dr. Jerome Wosu, applauded the development, and hinted that it would boost the confidence of the public in the postgraduate programmes of the university. He also noted that such would sustain the reputation of the postgraduate school as the fastest growing.
In the same manner, the chairman of Rivers State chapter of the alumni association, Rotarian Noble Isi, while applauding the listing, described it as a milestone achievement by the VC, the management, and the dean of postgraduate school and his team.
With this development, one can say without hesitation that the official endorsement of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education to run postgraduate studies in the country has cleared all doubt over the status of its graduate programmes, and has added credibility to earlier claims of the availability of requisite human capacity, infrastructure, as well as compliance to best practices in graduate studies.
Without mincing words, the infrastructural transformation that is taking place in the institution, including the expansion of academic programmes, and the ongoing plans to launch open and distant learning, which was delayed because of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, are indications of unprecedented growth of the university.
The innovations initiated by the VC have equally enlarged the frontiers of the institution at the undergraduate level as over 15,000 admission seekers now apply for positions, compared to what the situation was some years ago when it could not fill the 1,700 carrying capacity allocated to it by JAMB. This is as its postgraduate school remains the fastest growing and the destination for graduate studies.