TNE impact case study: Partnering with the National Universities Commission of Nigeria (NUC) to build capacity for open and distance learning

University of London, National Universities Commission of Nigeria (NUC)
Collaboration type:
Sector-level engagement
SDG Goals:
(4) Quality Education, (8) Decent Work and Economic Growth, (10) Reduced Inequality, (17) Partnerships for the Goals
United Kingdom, Nigeria
Mike Winter - Director International Affairs

Background and overview of the case study

Nigeria’s higher education sector is facing unprecedented challenges, with 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 195 million is growing at a rate of 3.2%, which means it will double within two decades.

In 2017, NUC invited the University of London to scope long-term engagement in the development of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) in Nigeria. This support is being provided through the University of London’s Centre for Distance Education (CDE). 

The NUC believes that ODL is vital for Nigeria, as it is the only feasible and affordable way in which it can meet current, let alone future, needs for higher education. Its plans for increasing the scale of university teaching through greatly increased use of ODL are enormously ambitious. Despite strong foundations on which to build in some institutions, the rate at which ODL can be scaled up nationally is limited by the availability of skilled practitioners and institutional experience. The supporting work of CDE aims to accelerate this process by focussing on capacity building at institutional senior and middle management level. Attention is being paid both to policy and to sustainable practice at institutional level. 

Over the last five years we have co-delivered four policy symposia and five practitioner workshops in London and Abuja, engaging with more than 70 Nigerian universities in providing a quality assurance framework that supports universities and regulators in resetting the National confidence in ODL; developing a strategic approach to upscaling ODL at national, institutional and department level; 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.

Impact and value

Our research on the impact of this multi-year strategic engagement has produced six key findings:

  1. The most highly valued contributions have been about:
  1. Modernization of distance education methods 
  2. Production of learning materials
  3. Development of learner support, and 
  4. Organization of ODL systems. 
  1. Stakeholders’ perception of the status of ODL on campus has improved since the start of the project.
  2. The necessary NUC accreditation of some universities to offer ODL programmes has been gained as a result of quality enhancement following involvement in the project.
  3. A wide range of ODL-related reforms in universities has been undertaken as a result of the project.
  4. The digital transition is particularly challenging where there is poor infrastructure for staff and students – a challenge mentioned by the Nigerian High Commissioner in his address. 
  5. In terms of sector-level development of ODL in Nigeria:
  1. Many universities are still at an early stage in terms of ODL student numbers.
  2. There are significant opportunities to deploy new expertise, as dual-mode universities have ambitious plans to grow their ODL provision.
  3. Directors of ODL Centres are an important professional grouping in Nigeria, who meet and support each other. They are starting to form the basis of a useful in-country network.

The NUC has referred to the “immeasurable impact that the partnership with the University of London has made on distance education in Nigeria”.

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