O. Atilola

Department of Behavioural Medicine, Lagos State University College of Medicine, Lagos, Nigeria

Date of Acceptance: 30th Dec., 2022

The issue of harmonious relationships between the University and professional bodies in Nigeria has been on the front burner for some time. There had been concerns and allegations that the professional bodies, such as Chartered Institutes and Registration Councils of many professions, have engaged in a mission of aggressive takeover of the curriculum and minimum academic standards of professional courses in the Universities. This remains a thorny issue and one with serious negative implications for sustainable university education in Nigeria, if not properly managed. However, most often than not, discussions around the subject are often emotional, with each discussant sticking to their own biases, and refusing to see the merit in the counter-argument. In addition, most often than not, the issue of what constitutes “incursion” is either poorly defined, misconstrued, or exaggerated such that other turf-protection issues and personal rivalry among academic staff from different professional backgrounds are blamed on the professional bodies. In this brief discourse, I will attempt to define the problem and broaden the perspectives as I examine three related issues on this subject. First is the issue of professional bodies, especially in the medical and allied fields, insisting on accreditation of professional courses in the university; second is the issue of professional bodies insisting that students in the field must be taught by members of the professional bodies only; and lastly the issue of professional fellowships versus PhD. While my thoughts can easily apply to any profession, I will be drawing heavily on the medical and allied profession as a prototypical example.

To start with, and to properly define terms, I must first emphasize that there are two different kinds of professional regulation. First are the Chartered Institutes which sets a certain level of certification required to practice, at a certain level, in a profession. For instance, while a graduate of accountancy is employable as an accountant in a firm, to open and run an audit firm and conduct audits of the book of large companies, additional certification by the Chartered Institute of Accounting of Nigeria is required. The second category is the Regulatory Councils which licence graduates of certain professional degrees to practice the trade. Example is the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN). These bodies, more often than not, are established by Acts of the National Assembly or derived powers under the Company and Allied Act of Nigeria. They are often empowered by law to determine and maintain standards in certain critical professions such as healthcare, engineering, accounting and auditing, and personnel management, just to mention a few. This is the same way that an Act of the National Assembly has granted the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) regulatory powers over university education, the same university where professional courses are taught; thereby creating a potential for conflict and regulatory overlap.

The pertinent question is whether or not professional regulation can be successfully divorced from university education? The answer is: it is not possible. While I concede that the powers to set academic standards for a degree awarded by the university is still within the purview of the university regulatory agency (such as NUC) through the University Senate, admittance of a degree holder into the inner temple or higher echelon of a profession is still within the powers of the professional regulatory bodies. Unless the University wants to continue to churn out graduates that are not professionally registrable, Universities must continue to have some relationship with professional bodies. It is important to note that professional body’s regulation of professional education is not unique to Nigeria. In the United Kingdom (UK), for random example, the General Medical Council (GMC) regulates medical education and hardly any medical school operates in the UK without the oversight of the GMC.