The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu on Monday said Nigeria’s private university education sub-sector needed repositioning for it to play key roles in national development.
Mr Adamu, who was represented by Sonny Echono, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, made this known in Abuja at a two-day National Summit on Private Universities.
The summit has its theme: “Private University Education Delivery in Nigeria: Challenges and Opportunities.’’
The minister noted that the goal of the summit was to develop a platform for stakeholders to share and expand their knowledge and skills for effective performance.
He said private universities were set up primarily to deliver on quality which he described as a function of cost-effectiveness.
He said “There are a number of challenges that impinge on the ability and capability of private universities to deliver on their various mandates.
“Internationalisation of higher education requires that universities naturally work across national and territorial boundaries and provide the framework for wider international knowledge exchange.
“Today the global knowledge system is such that you cannot remain within your institution and be incubating.
“You need to expose your students and the lecturers to what is happening outside the frontiers of your own campus.
“So, we want them to be able to promote exchanges and they can do this by partnering with sister universities in other countries.
`The training of their own lecturers should also be done in their sister university to gain knowledge and experience around the world.’’
Mr Adamu, however, called on proprietors of private universities not to lose focus on their primary mandate by delivering effective strategies.
The strategies include adherence to admission requirements, updated and modern curriculum, proper staffing and staff development and adequate and sustainable funding, among others.
He explained that partnership was key to the implementation of the strategies towards taking private university education to the next level.
“We need partnership with private sector; the fact is that government cannot alone provide all the resources required to provide education for our people.
“So, we are getting the input of the private sector so those of them with the passion to establish this institution.
“So, we want to encourage them to do so and we also want to guide them to ensure they do it properly.’’
Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, said that the global education scenario witnessed rapid transformation in the past decades.
Mr Rasheed noted that Nigeria in recent times had experienced the expansion of university system, believed to be critical engines for socio-economic and political development.
He said the expansion had also helped to focus on innovation and expanding to pool of calibre manpower to address the challenges of underdevelopment.
He said “In Nigeria, there has been a rapid expansion of the Nigerian university system in the last two decades from 30 university entities in 1999 to 170 as at today.
“Out of this number, 79 representing 46.47 per cent are private universities.
“The implication of this huge expansion on the Nigerian university system is the increased application of private universities with its attendant challenges and opportunities.’’
Mr Rasheed explained that out of the 79 private universities, South West is leading with 36 representing 45.56 per cent, South South is 14 representing 17.72 per cent, South-East is 13 representing 16.45 per cent.
He added that the North-Central states had 11 private universities representing 13.92 per cent, North-West 2, representing 2.53 per cent and North-East 2, with 2.53 per cent.
Responding, Dr Peter Odili, Proprietor, Peter and Mary Odili University of Medical Sciences, who spoke on behalf of the proprietors of private universities, commended the commission and the Federal Government for the role played in establishing the universities.
Mr Odili, however, appealed to the Federal Government to consider assisting private universities in the area of funding.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the establishment of private universities began in 1999 with the establishment of three universities, Babcock university, Ilishan Remo, Madonna University, Okija, Anambra and Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo.