Stakeholders have expressed divergent views on the recent approval of the additional 20 private universities in the country by the Federal Government.
They expressed their views on the development in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Friday.
It would be recalled that the Federal Executive Council, FEC, had on Wednesday given the approval of the establishment of the universities, bringing the number of private universities to 99.
Prof. Gregory Ibe, the Chairman, Proprietors of Private Universities in Nigeria, described the establishment of the new institutions as a giant stride and commended President Muhammadu Buhari and the executive council for the development.
“It will further help in creating choices for candidates of Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and increase the capacity of universities to absorb yearly seekers of higher education.
“What this singular action entails is that instead of mushroom universities springing up outside Nigeria and patronised by our teeming youths without the NUC’s guideline, it is better we have these universities licensed to operate.
“No doubt the spread of private universities is looking good. I sincerely believe that the Federal Government in the future will do more and help private institutions receive grants,” he said.
On the contrary, Sunday Asefon, National President, National Association of Nigerian Students, said that the approval of the private universities might weaken public tertiary institutions in the country.
Mr Asefon said that lecturers would be forced to withdraw from public institutions to these private institutions and as such would weaken human capital.
“The tertiary education system is now fully commercialised and investors are trooping into the sector.
“The approval of the new universities naturally should be a plus as they will bring more competition into the sector thereby improving research and innovations and also providing choices for students and researchers to choose.
“However, the approval of these private universities might end up weakening the public tertiary institutions more given the reality of our system.
“Lecturers and experienced staff will be drawn from public institutions thereby weakening the human capital in public institutions, this will affect output in terms of quality of graduates from public institutions,” he said.
Mr Asefon further said that it would have a long-run effect and relegate the public institutions especially state-run institutions to the choice of the poorest of the poor in the society.
According to him, education is supposed to be a social service, even the missionaries that brought formal education to us made it a social service but unfortunately, it has now been fully commercialised.
Also speaking, Ike Onyechere, Founder, Exam Ethics Marshall International, said the available carrying capacity in higher institutions was still not enough to absorb qualified applicants, hence the need for more universities.
Mr Onyechere also argued that there was a need to provide more private university alternatives in view of incessant strike actions in public universities.
“Irrespective of reasons and justifications for strikes, the reality is that strikes have made public universities the last resort of those who have no other options.
“Establishing more private universities will also drive down their cost, based on the law of supply and demand. As it stands now, only rich people can afford private university education,” he said.
He, therefore, called for the integrity of the accreditation process so that only institutions with minimum infrastructural, academic and human resource standards were approved.
According to him, some private universities that have been accorded approval in the recent past are nothing more than glorified community secondary schools.
He added that without the appropriate standards, the new universities would just be degree mills and the goals would be defeated.
Further reacting, Nathaniel Adamu Ag. Policy Advisor, Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All, CSACEFA, said the approval of the additional 20 private universities would create a positive impact.
Mr Adamu said many candidates who applied for courses of their choice but were not offer admission due to fewer vacancies would likely have the opportunities for admission.
“For instance, I had an encounter with the proprietor of one of the newly approved universities and he told me that the reason that prompted him into building the university.
“He said that a young boy, who was qualified for admission, came to the proprietor’s office seeking for admission to study medicine because no university in the country offered him admission.
“The proprietor, however, told me that it was one of the things that prompted him into the establishment of his own university,” he said.
Mr Adamu said that the approval of the universities would close a gap for admission demand in the country, while also stressing that standard must not be compromised.
He, therefore, called on the National Universities Commission to monitor closely the activities of these universities to ensure education standards were adhered to.
Similarly, Olumhense Akhigbe, National President, the National Association of Private School Teachers (NAPST) said that the approval of private universities would add value to education.
Mr Akhigbe said it would facilitate competition and help to reduce prices thereby making schooling more attractive to admission seekers as well as creating jobs for the unemployed youths.
“I believe these newly created universities will benefit those who ordinarily might want to seek admission overseas. I commend this initiative but also called for proper quality assurance.
“Teachers in those institutions must be well taken care of. There must be protection for those working in the private sector. We must downplay slavery in the name of work.
“All labour laws and rights applicable in the country must be enjoyed by those in the private sectors as well,’’ he said
Bolarinwa Bolaji, an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the Kogi State University, Anyigba, said the gesture by the government would bring university education to the doorstep of many citizens who daily yearn for tertiary education.
Mr Bolaji called on the government to ensure that standards were not compromised in the establishment of the new universities.
According to him, the approval of more private universities will no doubt help more applicants secure the much-needed admissions into the ivory tower.
“Nearly all the applicants in their millions who apply for a place in the universities, are qualified for admission, however, they were unable to get admissions because of carrying capacity of the universities.
“As we are approving the establishment of more schools, our regulatory agency must be strengthened to be able to discharge their duties towards seeing to it that the schools live up to expectations.
“Government has a duty to see to it that citizens are provided with good schools to attend. It is in view of this that I salute the government for approval of more universities for the country.
“We still need more so that university education can go round. Qualitative education brings enlightenment, exposure and acquisition of skills which help keeps the society moving in the right direction,” he said.