The Academic Staff Union of Universities has said that the proliferation of private universities in the country will not solve the problems of access and quality education.
While reacting to the newly approved 20 private universities by the National Universities Commission, national president, ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, in an interview with The Punch, explained that the best way to address the issues of access and quality in university education in Nigeria was for the government to pay due attention to public universities.
According to him, most of these private universities poached on academics in older universities to attract them mostly as visiting, part-time and adjunct lecturers.
“Proliferation of private universities in the last two decades or so has not and cannot solve the problems. Government needs to expand facilities and employ more academics in both federal and state universities to accommodate more indigent candidates seeking university admission. In addition, the infrastructural rot and decay in public universities, as comprehensively documented in the 2012 Federal Government’s Needs Assessment Report of Public Universities, should be addressed without further delay.”
“Again, the proliferation of private universities is over-stretching academics in the existing public universities. Most of these private universities are unleashed on Nigerians without concrete and realistic human resource development plans. So, they poach on academics in older universities to attract them mostly as visiting, part-time and adjunct lecturers. The few permanent lecturers in most of these private universities are employed under conditions that are not labour friendly. If you look closely, many of seasoned lecturers listed by most private universities only exist on paper because their roles are pushed to the less qualified lecturers. These and other sharp practices by many private universities are negatively impacting the quality of university education in country,” he said.
Ogunyemi explained that before the licensing of the additional 20 private universities, the existing 79 universities had not made significant impact to reduce pressure on public universities in terms of admission.
He added that the NUC statistics showed that all the private universities had only about five per cent of student population in Nigerian universities. “This is not surprising because of the problem of affordability by the children of the poor who constitute the majority among admission seekers. Nigeria is a poor country with about 70 per cent of its people living below the poverty line. Many of the private universities cannot attract quality students because the children of the poor cannot pay the exorbitant fees charged by the institutions.”
On the contrary, Chairman, Committee of Vice Chancellors and Registrars of Private Universities, Prof. Timothy Olagbemiro, insisted that there were limited admission slots in the public universities adding that it was increasingly obvious that government could not take on the responsibilities providing quality education for Nigerians.
He said, “From a cursory examination, it will appear that the number of newly approved private universities is large. However considering the population of Nigeria’s youth at home and abroad, those seeking university placements, and the number of spaces available to them for quality education, we are still far short of the number of universities required in Nigeria.
“It is increasingly obvious that government cannot take on the responsibilities of the provision of quality education for Nigerians, from the present happenings as well as an indepth forecast for time to come.
“There are limited admission places in the public universities where fees continue to cost much less than the cheapest private universities.
“There is an untold allure for private universities because of many advantages such as low staff-student ratio, improved academic facilities, high moral student standards, high standards of student discipline, enhanced staff commitment, non- unionised staff.
“Many of the new private universities are sponsored by religious organisations, communities and personalities, eager to make contributions to the development of education in their environs, organisations and for their people.
“No doubt, this trend will continue as long as the NUC maintains stringent quality assurance, and enforces the laid out criteria for establishing private universities in Nigeria.