Minimum academic standards and the English language curriculum in two Nigerian universities

This report presents findings from the MERLIN project (Minimum academic standards and the English language curriculum in Nigerian universities: Benchmarking, implementation and evaluation).

Young black woman studying in a university library

The study explored the English language curriculum of two Nigerian universities against the background of declining standards in English language education as evidenced by national test scores. In order to examine the current state of English language teacher training, MERLIN evaluated the implementation of the English language curriculum for undergraduate trainee teachers.

The project adopted a mixed methods approach in which quantitative data (via questionnaires) and qualitative data (via semi-structured interviews, focus groups, observation checklists, documentary analysis) were collected in a case study approach utilising the CIPP evaluation model (Context, Input, Process and Product) as the theoretical framework.

The study evaluated the implementation of the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS) for English Language Curriculum in two Nigerian universities. Despite the National Universities Commission's stipulation for a 1:30 staff/student ratio, overpopulation poses a significant challenge, impacting student achievement and increasing lecturer workload. Both universities struggle to align with BMAS objectives, especially regarding infrastructure, pedagogy, and resources. The curriculum's effectiveness in developing language skills varies, with students and lecturers highlighting challenges in reading, writing, and speaking. Gender inequality perceptions emerge, with disparities in leadership positions and gender ratios.

Recommendations include:

  1. Admission policy: Conduct a review to address the strain on teaching and learning resources due to a significant increase in undergraduate students.
  2. Curriculum content: Implement annual and periodic reviews to address deficiencies in teaching basic grammar, especially for lower proficiency students, and enhance the employability aspects of the programmes.
  3. Pedagogical approaches: Develop effective in-service CPD programs for digital literacy; explore blended learning to address overpopulation challenges; and enable flexible working.
  4. Lecturers' workload: Review staffing policies to balance increased demands on lecturers' workloads.
  5. Learning resources: Conduct audits and provide up-to-date library materials and increased use of e-resources.
  6. Gender equality: Conduct further research on in-service inequalities for female academic staff advancement and explore potential inequalities in how and in what ways female students are empowered to provide input into processes shaping the design and implementation of the curriculum.

This publication is free to download in PDF format below. The text is creative commons licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0 


Tom-Lawyer, C., Hunjo, H., Adetayo, O. T., & Thomas, M. (2024). Minimum academic standards and the English language curriculum in two Nigerian universities: Benchmarking, implementation and evaluation. British Council.

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