OVERVIEW ON THE BENCHMARK MINIMUM ACADEMIC STANDARD FOR ENGINEERING QUALIFICATIONS IN NIGERIA
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Ilorin, Ilorin. Nigeria.
Former member of council of COREN.
ABET – ABET, Inc. (Formerly Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology)
BMAS – Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards
CGPA – Cumulative Grade Point Average
COREN - Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria
EAB – Engineering Accreditation Board (U.K)
EAC – Engineering accreditation Council (Malaysia)
HND – Higher National Diploma
NBTE – National Board for Technical Education
ND – National diploma
NUC – National Universities Commission
NVC – National Vocational Certificate
NVQF – National Vocational Qualification Framework
PGDE – Postgraduate Diploma in Engineering
TVE – Technical and Vocational Education
VEI – Vocational Enterprise Institution
There are three aspects of quality assurance for engineering personnel, namely;
Accreditation is used as a tool for quality assessment and control of quality of training programmes offered by the tertiary institutions in various engineering disciplines [1, 2]. It has also been observed that accreditation serves as: a change agent by providing direction for the institution; mandatory peer review mechanism, a tool for prevention of complacency in running engineering programmes, and a means for promoting healthy competition among institutions running engineering programmes as they share best practice .
Another important role of accreditation is that it ensures transnational mobility and employability for engineering practitioners .
Decree 55 of 1970 and decree 27 of 1992 as amendment now contained in cap E 11 of the laws of the federation of Nigeria, 2004 as the Engineers (Registration, etc.) Act empowers Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) to lay down minimum standard of knowledge and skills required of persons who want to be registered as Engineers, Engineering Technologists, Engineering Technicians and Engineering Craftsmen. The law also empowers COREN “to raise those standards from time to time as circumstances may permit” .
Decree No. 16 of 1985 which is contained in the National Universities Commission (NUC) amended Decree No 48 of 1988 also gives the NUC the power to set the minimum standard for all programmes run by universities in Nigeria including engineering programmes .
Thus professional degree programmes taught in Nigerian universities are subjected to meeting the minimum standards set by NUC and the professional bodies to which those programmes belong.
In recognition of this, participants drawn from Nigerian universities and industries at the workshop organized by COREN from 10th to 11th May, 2013 unanimously agreed that COREN should make reference to NUC Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS) while rewriting its own BMAS so that incidences of divergences in results of accreditation exercise by COREN and NUC will be minimized as stated by the president of COREN in his preface to the COREN BMAS .
Established by Act No. 9 of 11th Jan, 1977, Act 16 of 1985 (Education Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institution Act) and Act 9 of 1993 (Education National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institution (Amendment Act), the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) is mandated to handle all aspects of Technical and Vocational Education falling outside university education .
The NBTE supervises and regulates through accreditation exercises, the programmes offered by technical institutions at secondary and post-secondary school levels.
In collaboration with relevant agencies, the NBTE through the National Vocational Qualification Framework (NVQF) enhances standards and quality of skills acquisition in engineering trades such as: Motor Vehicle Mechanics, Machine Woodworking, Electrical Installation and Maintenance, and Fabrication and Welding, in Nigeria. Therefore, the mandate of NBTE covers three cadres of engineering practitioners, namely: Engineers, Engineering Technologists, Engineering Technicians and Engineering Craftsmen.
Thus, both NUC and COREN have mandates for prescribing minimum academic standards in the training of engineers, while both NBTE and COREN are empowered to prescribe minimum standards for the training of Engineering Technologists, Engineering technicians and Engineering Craftsmen.
In prescribing minimum academic standards in accreditation documents, it is important to take note of Nagel’s recommendation :
“Accreditation criteria have to be sufficiently specific to guarantee minimum competency requirements but they must provide the necessary flexibility to allow the distinctive character of individual programs”.
Joint COREN/NBTE teams carry out accreditation exercise for engineering technology programmes run in polytechnics, whereas for the universities, NUC and COREN carry out accreditation visits to engineering programmes separately. Efforts made by COREN to reach out to NUC to harmonize accreditation criteria and have joint accreditation teams have not yielded the desired results.
The aim of this paper is to present overview of the minimum academic standards for the training of professional Engineers, Engineering Technologists, Engineering Technicians and Engineering Craftsmen.
A pair of senior engineers is chosen to visit each academic programme to be accredited, one from academia and the other from industry. One of the pair of engineers selected for all the engineering programmes for accreditation or re-accreditation is a council member who serves as team leader for the accreditation visit to the institution.
Secretarial services are provided by COREN headquarters and zonal or area office nearest to the institution. The host institution bears the cost of accreditation visit.
To maintain quality, institutions are not allowed to run engineering degree programmes on a part-time basis. Therefore, bachelor’s degree and post-graduate diploma programmes in all engineering disciplines are expected to be run as full-time programmes.
The originally-American course-unit system is used in all academic programmes run in the tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
2.1 Bachelor’s Degree Programmes
A bachelor’s degree in engineering variously called Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Engineering, Bachelor of Technology in Nigerian universities, earned in an accredited engineering programme, is the minimum academic requirement for becoming a registered engineer in Nigeria.
The BMAS book is divided into sections I, II and III, titled “General Requirements for Engineering Programmes to be Accredited”, “Specific Requirements for Each Engineering Discipline” and “COREN Accreditation Score Sheet”.
2.1.1 Section I
Section I starts with reference to the law empowering COREN to carry out accreditation of engineering programmes.
The aim of running engineering programmes which is to produce engineers suitable for self-employment and employment in public service or the private sector is clearly stated. Guideline is given for those preparing curriculum for engineering programmes to reflect the vision and mission of the institution in their philosophy and objectives for running each engineering discipline.
Some stipulations for institutions that want to run engineering programmes are given in this section, among them are:
The list of facilities, laboratories and workshops common to all engineering disciplines and the list of equipment expected in them are given.
The academic qualifications required for admission into first year, second year and third year of degree programmes are specified.
The common courses that all engineering students are expected to take are listed and the synopses of these courses are also given.
2.1.2 Section II
In this section, the specific requirements in addition to the general requirements stated earlier in section I, are presented for the following engineering disciplines:
2.1.3 Section III
The accreditation score sheet is presented in this section with guidelines given for awarding marks for each item to be scored so that the scoring will be as objective as possible.
The scored items are grouped under:
Thus COREN accreditation criteria are focused largely on resource availability and adequacy. It was observed that this is not the case for some other national engineering accreditation bodies like ABET, EAB and EAC that are more process centered in their scoring criteria and some make assessments of exit level outcomes part of their accreditation criteria .
2.2 Postgraduate Diploma in Engineering
The Postgraduate Diploma in Engineering (PGDE) programme is available in various engineering disciplines to help Engineering Technologists who are holders of Higher National Diploma (HND) to bridge the gap between the academic requirements for registering as professional engineers and those for registering as Engineering Technologists.
The Postgraduate Diploma in Engineering (PGDE) is a full-time, four-semester programme available in some universities running engineering programmes. COREN prepared minimum academic standards for Postgraduate diploma in engineering in various engineering disciplines as an outcome of a workshop held at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, from May 16 – 17, 2005 .
The courses to be taken by PGDE students in a particular engineering discipline are drawn from the third to the fifth year courses offered in the regular undergraduate engineering programmes in that discipline. The courses that all the PGDE programmes have in common having a total of 17 credit units were listed and their synopses given after which the specific requirements in the following engineering disciplines for which the minimum academic standards were developed, are presented :
COREN accreditation teams normally handle PGDE programmes along with undergraduate programmes when they visit universities.
2.3 Accreditation Outcomes
The preliminary accreditation granted to a new programme after the resource verification visit by COREN to an institution that NUC has given approval to start the programme is valid for two years after which the institution should be visited for full accreditation before the first set of student are graduated.
At the end of accreditation visitation by COREN team, a programme gets: full accreditation if the total score is greater than or equal to 70%; interim accreditation if the total score is between 60 and 69%; and failed accreditation if the total score is less than 60%
As stated in section I of COREN BMAS book :
A rule in section I also states that where an institution on interim accreditation earns a score in the range of interim accreditation again in a re-accreditation visitation that follows after two years, the institution will be deemed to have failed the accreditation.
2.4 Post Accreditation Visit
To cross check the facts on facilities and equipment presented during accreditation visit, to see the way engineering students are normally trained when the departments are not mobilized to be ready to receive visitors and to prevent complacency between scheduled accreditation visits to universities running accredited engineering programme. The first post accreditation visit was carried out at University of Agriculture, Makurdi on 3rd March, 2015 by a team of four engineers made up of one Mechanical Engineer and one Civil Engineer from academia and one Mechanical Engineer and one Civil engineer from industry. The university had their four programmes in Agricultural, Civil, Mechanical, and Electrical and Electronics Engineering accredited with effect from October 2012.
The four-semester Higher National Diploma (HND) which is usually preceded by a four-semester National Diploma and twelve months of industrial training is the academic requirements for registering as an Engineering Technologists with COREN. The ND and HND programmes in various engineering disciplines are run by polytechnics.
The NBTE has BMAS for HND in following programmes :
An example of the BMAS for various disciplines is the one of Mechanical Engineering Technology with options in Manufacturing Engineering and Power and Plant Engineering .
In the learning outcomes listed for Mechanical Engineering emphasis was on acquisition of knowledge and skills to :
The four components that the curriculum was divided into are: General studies / education, foundation courses (mathematics), Professional courses and Project. The professional courses and project which involves classroom, laboratory and workshop activities are expected to cover 60 – 70% of the contact hours for the students.
The schedules of courses for the four semesters were presented for each of the two options after which the BMAS details of topics to be taught, teachers’ activities and resources needed for the fifteen weeks of lecture in a semester. The list of workshop, laboratories and equipment expected in them were presented next in the BMAS.
From the summary of the content for the BMAS for Mechanical Engineering which has about 200 pages, it can be seen that the BMAS for the various engineering disciplines contain too much details and it appears they do not produce the flexibility to allow distinctive character of an engineering programme run in various institutions to emerge.
Recently, COREN found the curriculum of some engineering-related vocational education degrees comparable to the curriculum of relevant HND programmes and it was approved that holders of such degrees be registered as Engineering Technologists.
The four-semester National Diploma (ND) is the academic requirements for registering as an Engineering Technician with COREN. Recently the Nigerian society of Engineering Technicians (NISET) has tried to come up with qualifications that are equivalent to ND so that holders of such qualifications can also register with COREN.
The NBTE has BMAS for ND in the 23 programmes listed in section 3 of this paper.
An example of such BMAS is the 253-page book prepared for ND in Mechanical Engineering . Among the goals and objectives stated for the programme are production of Engineering Technicians who are able to :
In the BMAS it was stated that the professional courses component of the programme may account for 60 – 70% of contact hours with the students and each student is to maintain a personal log-book to record his/her day-to-day, weekly summary and semester summary of practical activities and the log book is to be checked and endorsed by lecturers assigned. The guidelines on Supervised Industrial Work Experience (SIWES) were given and type of final year project to be done by the student was discussed. The schedules of courses for the four semesters were presented and this was followed by details of topics to be taught in each course during the 15 weeks of lecture per semester.
Engineering craftsmen are trained in Technical Colleges and Vocational Enterprise Institutions (VEI).
It was reported there are 159 Technical Colleges under the purviews of the NBTE .
The programmes in Technical Colleges are in the following Trade groups :
The NBTE has prepared BMAS for National Vocational Certificate (NVC) for the training of craftsmen in Vocational Enterprise Institutions (VEIs) in the following engineering-related trades :
An example of such BMAS is the one for Fabrication and Welding . Candidates with at least Post basic Education Certificate (Post JSS) are taken and trained to be able to apply equipment, materials, techniques and safety practices in Fabrication and Welding projects using metals. The NVC programme is a flexible modular programme which has three parts with each part having six months of training in the school and three months of supervised industrial work experience.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
Overview of BMAS for engineering qualifications in Nigeria has been presented. There is need to periodically review and update the BMAS for each cadre in view of increasing knowledge and changing technologies in the world so that the criteria for granting accreditation to all cadres of engineering practitioners will be comparable to those used in other countries and this will enhance transnational mobility and employability of Nigerian engineers, technologists, technicians, and craftsmen.
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