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FG considers 270 new applications for private universities, stakeholders criticize move

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NUC building

The Federal Government is once again considering 270 fresh applications for private universities.

This comes despite public concerns about the proliferation of mushroom universities and inadequate budgetary allocations to the education sector.

ThePressNG learns that if approved, this new request is estimated to increase the total number of universities to 528, with 418 being privately owned.

Currently, Nigeria has at least 258 universities, comprising 50 federal, 60 state-owned, and 148 privately owned by individuals and organizations.

The geometric progression in the number of universities over the years has not corresponded to improvements in education standards, raising concerns among stakeholders.

During the eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, at least 90 universities were approved for operation.

The National Universities Commission (NUC) data reveals the establishment of 10 federal, 22 state, and 58 private universities from 2015 to the present.

Despite the increase in the number of institutions, Nigerian universities face criticism for their focus on traditional roles, underperformance in research, and a lack of emphasis on innovative works and entrepreneurship.

With 528 universities, there should ideally be increased competition leading to better standards. However, experts express concerns that as the number of institutions rises, standards seem to decrease.

They emphasize the need for universities to bridge the gap in life skills, leadership, entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology adoption.

A survey by the NUC indicates that only about 30% of the country’s student population has adequate access to lecture theatres, laboratories, and libraries.

The increasing number of candidates seeking admission each year highlights the challenges, with over five million candidates between 2018 and 2022 unable to secure placement.

While some argue that establishing new universities offers candidates more choices, others believe the focus should be on upgrading existing institutions, especially federal and state-owned ones.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has consistently called on the government to halt the establishment of new universities and instead adequately fund existing ones.

Stakeholders and education experts criticize the licensing of more private universities, citing low quality, and advocate for strengthening existing institutions to accommodate admission seekers and produce globally competitive graduates.

The emphasis is placed on providing infrastructure for already existing institutions.

A research assistant at the University of Jos, Isa Daniel, said emphasis should be laid on providing infrastructure for already existing institutions. He said,

A leader of ASUU at Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago Iwoye, Dr Adigun Ogundele, cautioned that approving more private universities would have adverse effects on public universities in the nation.

He argued that many private universities lack the necessary manpower and facilities to operate the programs for which they were accredited by the NUC.

Consequently, they often rely on human and non-human resources from public universities, placing excessive strain on the public education system.

Contrarily, Prof. Yakubu Ochefu, the secretary of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU), highlighted that university enrollment in the country is very low, standing at about eight per cent.

This is below the African average of 13 per cent and the global average of 33 per cent. He pointed out that many qualified candidates are denied admission due to limited available spaces.

Despite having the highest number of universities in Africa, Ochefu argued that the quantity is insufficient considering the population index.

On a different note, Prof. Usman Ahmed, the Dean of Postgraduate Studies at Bayero University, Kano (BUK), predicted a continuous increase in private universities due to the country’s diverse population.

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