STEMMING THE TIDE OF FAKE UNIVERSITIES AND QUALIFICATIONS IN NIGERIA
The National Universities Commission’s (NUC) recent declaration that it has discovered over 60 universities, satellite campuses, and study centres operating illegally in Nigeria has reawakened stakeholders’ worries. The existence of illicit institutions has heightened awareness of the nation’s university education dilemma, which has been exacerbated by a scarcity of admission spots in public universities, underfunding, and a shortage of infrastructure, including manpower and equipment. High cut-off scores at state colleges, excessive tuition rates at private universities, course preferences, and ignorance may all be contributing to the malaise. Due to the increasing demand for university education, some astute Nigerians have acted negatively to cover admissions shortages.
Without a doubt, Nigeria’s vast number of public and private universities has hampered easy access to postsecondary education due to the institutions’ limited carrying capacity. The scenario has resulted in an unruly proliferation of illicit post-secondary institutions in the country, the majority of which claim connection with established universities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada — as well as Ghana and the Republic of Benin. The expansion of illegitimate universities, a serious threat to tertiary education and national development, has also placed Nigeria in the unenviable league of countries with the most such institutions.
The NUC identified 58 black-market tertiary institutions operating in the country; additionally it stated that eight colleges are currently under investigation for offering degree programmes illegally.
Curbing Illegitimate Credentials
Managing bogus qualifications is a reasonable objective in the sense that it aims to protect the value of properly gained certificates. The significance of qualifications is immense, given the recent emergence of accelerated mobility aided by advances in communication and commerce technology, in which institutions supplying forged and fraudulent credentials use payment methods that are also used in genuine commerce. In Africa’s developing countries, the problem of fake qualifications will only get worse as higher education becomes more liberalised, as evidenced by the rise of for-profit institutions, cost-sharing arrangements, and commercial fees for public institutions, as well as the growth of open and distance learning and, more broadly, cross-border higher education.
Within this complex setting, producers of bogus and fraudulent credentials assert that they may avoid the high expenses associated with conventional education systems while yet providing the same benefits as rigorous programmes of study offered by authorised schools. The same issue confronts the burgeoning market for honorary titles bestowed by unaccredited schools. As a result of the gradual increase in tuition at a number of Nigerian universities, students across the country have begun to agitate for fee reductions. Such calls may unintentionally lend credence to fraudulent claims made by phoney qualification producers. As is the case in other areas of the world, the key implication for Nigeria is how to deal with the challenge posed by forged credentials.
It is argued that in order to strengthen regulatory processes, the following actions should be adopted and rigorously implemented:
- Institutions of higher learning should establish effective regulatory procedures for screening and detecting false credentials within their own ranks. The difficulty, however, is that determining the veracity of credentials given by foreign schools is not always straightforward. It has been demonstrated that there is a substantial probability that enquiries into the credibility of qualifications submitted for a job will not be responded to promptly, and in some cases, will never be responded to at all.
- Nigeria should introduce regulations on the evaluation of qualifications obtained from both local and foreign institutions.
- Employers should be on the lookout for possible fraudsters by contracting with experienced and trustworthy background screening companies, such as Qualification Check, to validate applicants’ academic credentials when in doubt.
- A complementary method is to increase record keeping in institutions of higher education in order to control the unlawful manufacturing of certificates in authorised institutions. For example, as part of a campaign against fraudulent degrees and institutions, institutions should digitise academic records.
It is self-evident that counterfeit credentials pose a threat to national progress and hopes for a better future. It has been demonstrated that individuals who purchase qualifications do so in order to increase their chances of securing employment for which they are not necessarily qualified. Some are also driven by the chance of earning a greater salary or increasing their paid income, particularly if they can demonstrate higher qualifications than they now possess. A careful consideration and adoption of the recommendations outlined above will greatly aid in curbing illegal certificates from circulating in Nigeria.
Udomo Ali Is Head of Research at Qualification Check Nigeria.