Nigeria has a higher education sector that is facing unprecedented challenges. Currently there are some two million applicants annually chasing around 750,000 university places; and there is a risk that the gap will continue to widen. Nigeria’s population of just over 190 million is growing at a rate of 3.2%, which means it will double in less than 22 years.
Against this background, in 2017 the University of London and the Nigerian National Universities Commission (NUC) embarked on an ambitious and innovative project to develop sector capacity to support high-quality open and distance learning (ODL): the only sustainable answer to the increasing imbalance of demand and supply. Ambitious, because the project aimed to reach across the Nigerian HE sector: between federal, state and private universities there are currently 174 providers. And innovative, because the NUC had never before adopted a sector-wide approach to sustained capacity-building in ODL with a leading international partner.
The University of London’s Centre for Distance Education (CDE) took the lead in fashioning the project with the NUC. With the NUC’s policy leads, a team was formed to devise a multi-year project with three priorities: providing a quality assurance framework that supports universities and regulators in resetting national confidence in ODL; developing a strategic approach to upscaling ODL at national, institutional and department level; and developing high-quality and scalable programme design for student success.
Our shared focus is of central importance: how to harness the very considerable power of technological and pedagogical innovation in the service of quality higher education for all.
Since 2017, we have co-delivered three policy symposia and five practitioner workshops in London and Abuja, engaging with more than 70 Nigerian universities up to Vice-Chancellor level. The latest workshop at the University of London (10 to 12 March 2020) has just been completed, drawing 42 participants from across the Nigerian HE sector. It has addressed policy and practice for student support and wellbeing in the context of ODL; fostering student engagement and community-building; effective learning design; harnessing student voice; staff development; developing institutional capability for high-quality ODL; and researching ODL practice.
Professor Wendy Thomson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, said: “Our shared focus is of central importance: how to harness the very considerable power of technological and pedagogical innovation in the service of quality higher education for all. This is something that runs in the DNA of the University of London, and we are delighted to be exploring our shared aspirations and challenges with our Nigerian colleagues. We look forward to continuing what we began in 2017: a deep and mutually beneficial collaboration to address shared challenges in providing future generations with the skills, knowledge and experience they need to thrive in a changing world.”