Nigerian universities have traditions that I can’t find parallels for in any major world university—such as “excess workload allowances,” allowances for grading papers, and such other strange practices. So I set out to compare the traditions of Nigerian universities with those of the UK and America, two countries whose traditions we ape. I am starting this adventure with an interview with Dr. Aliyu Musa, a former Daily Trust foreign affairs editor who now teaches global journalism at UK’s Coventry University. Enjoy!
1. Do British journals pay reviewers to review articles? And do authors pay to publish articles in journals?
I am not aware of any payments made to journal article reviewers here in the UK. I have reviewed for some journals but never received any payment. So, I don’t think reviewers are paid and this, perhaps, explains why they take their time to review articles (sometimes up to one year). I have heard friends and colleagues say they get payment requests for journal articles; I was once asked to pay. But from my investigations all the journal publishers asking for payment from authors are not based in the UK. And academics who patronise them often learn in the end that publishing with such journals is a complete waste of time, money and valuable research data, because they are not accepted for Research Excellence Framework (REF) return.
2. Do lecturers get paid extra allowances for marking papers, supervising exams, supervising undergraduate and postgraduate theses, etc.?
Lecturers are not paid any extra allowances for doing any or all of the above. In fact it is stated in the job advert (duties) that at some point the successful candidate would be asked to do those. It is, as such, part of the package, although sometimes one could negotiate with their immediate manager or team leader when or who should do what, like second marking exams, supervising theses. I did more than five Saturdays of unpaid full day work during Open Days and prospective students recruitment and interviews last academic session. The only advantage is you may ask for one working day off in lieu of each Saturday. In some universities lecturers are not involved in supervising exams – there is exams office under the academic registry, which recruits invigilators. Also, in some departments like mine we do not set exams for students, we assess them both normatively and summatively through presentations, coursework and portfolio of artefacts which are handed at specified times and any late submission attracts a zero mark.
3. Do British universities operate the cohort model of education where people who are admitted to a school in the same year graduate--or are expected to graduate-- at the same time?
Yes, most universities now run September and January cohorts.
4. Do British universities have "carry-over" and "spill-over"?
One is allowed to carry over modules on certain conditions: (a) if there are compelling reasons to allow such students like bereavement, health or if they elect to do a gap year which allows them to do something else (this is only application to undergraduate students; (b) if a students fails to hand in any credit scoring coursework and is marked as absent; (c) if a students fails their second attempt i.e. resit. While in the first case (a) they are allowed to resume their studies without fresh payments (provide they were up to date in their payments) in the other situations they will have to pay fresh fees for the modules they carried over.
5. When students retake a course they failed, do their new grades completely replace their previous failing grades? As you know, in Nigeria, that's not the case.
Yes, but the highest they can score is %40 regardless of the student’s performance.
6. What are the criteria to rise through the academic ranks in terms of teaching and research?
Teaching experience, Research outputs, ability to secure funding and qualifications (qualification is mainly useful at the early stage). And sometime industry experience helps.
7. Do students evaluate their lecturers at the end of every semester? If yes, do the evaluations have any weight in promotion, etc.?
Students do module evaluations plus NSS (National Students Survey, which determine university/department’s position on the league table, based on overall satisfaction and students’ destination). This is one of the criteria for evaluating lecturers’ performance. So, it might impact on promotion. But this will also depend on one’s overall DPR (a review done every six months to set targets or look at one’s achievements). Targets include teaching, contributions to students experience, securing funding, research output, raising the university’s profile through conferences/international seminars etc., recruitment, collaboration with businesses etc.
8. Do British universities have the tenure system where lecturers are given a certain number of years to meet certain expectations (in terms of teaching and research) after which they either get a lifetime employment or get fired?
Not necessarily. Here, based on the need at the time, lecturers are hired on temporary or permanent basis and given six months probationary status. If they are found to be competent on the job they continue, otherwise they are relieved of their responsibilities and asked to go.
9. Finally, what other similarities and differences have you observed between Nigerian and British universities?
1. There is a lot of emphasis on research and funding
2. Universities sustain themselves through recruitments (especially international) of students whose fees are very helpful
3. Lecturers are supported to do their job through continuous professional development like PGCERT which is paid for by the university because the plan is to make sure everyone has some teaching qualification
4. Obviously there is a robust but healthy competition amongst the universities towards recruitment and securing funding
5. They are now internationalising by partnering with universities in some countries like China, Nigeria, India, South Africa, Brazil etc.