‘Faith-based varsities nurture excellence, promote discipline’
Vice Chancellor, Samuel Adegboyega University, Ogwa, Edo State Professor Benard Aigbokhan, spoke to journalists on the recent accreditation courses in the school (owned by The Apostolic Church), by the National Universities Commission (NUC). He also commented on other issues in the education sector. ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU was there.
There was a recent publication that your school is one of the universities to be de-accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC). How true is this?
Sometime in February this year, one of the national dailies published something erroneous about our university, when it alleged that our university was one of the five universities that the National Universities Commission (NUC) was contemplating revoking their licenses, and that came as a surprise to us because the NUC was here on November 23rd to 28th last year, to undertake our maiden accreditation exercise and we were expecting the result at that time. It was during this period that we suddenly read in the paper that we were going to be closed down. This came to us as a surprise. We made our immediate contact with the NUC and the office dissociated itself from the publication, and even advised that we should get our lawyers to write to the paper to retract the publication, while we also send a copy to the NUC. That was on the 26th of February when this contact was made.
On the Friday 27th February, we got information that our accreditation had been approved, which we have now collected. I am pleased to inform our stakeholders that all our 10 programmes presented in the maiden accreditation exercise were duly accredited. The programmes included accounting, banking and finance, computer science, business administration, economics, mass communication, biochemistry, industrial chemistry, microbiology, history and diplomatic studies. The level of our performance particularly the academic content was rated very high. It shows that our academic content is comparable with what is obtained anywhere in the country. We scored between 75 and 83 per cent overall. That also means that our students are now qualified to be graduated, (because our first set will be graduating on August 25). They are also qualified to participate in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme. The way the NUC operates is that it is only after your current programmes have been accredited that you can introduce new ones.
What is your take on the agitation in some quarters that private schools should benefit from Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund)?
I have been part of the group agitating for this on the platform of the Committee of Vice Chancellors of Private Universities. The irony of it all is that the monies that the TETFund gives out is generated from profits of private firms, yet private universities owned by private sector organisations are not able to benefit from it. And this was also part of the argument in the mid-1980s against state universities- that state universities should not benefit from the intervention fund. But eventually, the intervention fund was extended to state universities. This is part of the reason that I have not lost hope that eventually resources from TETFund would be extended to private universities. At the moment, not extending these resources to private universities is causing some candidates to be denied access to education, yet private universities are meant to expand access to education.
The refusal to extend TETFund monies to private varsities is primarily the main reason why school fees are high in private universities because we don’t have any support from government. Consequently, we have to base all our expenses on fees and a little grant from primary promoters and proprietors of the institutions.
Meanwhile, one thing many people don’t know is that it is because private universities pay their fees in bulk that people think it is very expensive. When you go to public universities, you will see that by the time students pay their tuition, and you add the cost of accommodation and transportation (especially those who stay off campus) to it, you will see that the gap between public and private universities’ fees are almost at par, or the difference is very narrow, except for a few universities.
What would you say about the recent registration of nine new private universities by the Federal Government?
The Federal Government through the NUC is out to create access to education for more young Nigerians. Unfortunately, Federal universities have limited carrying capacity. So, the bulk of candidates who apply to these universities don’t get admitted and they have to resort to private universities. Nigerians’ average capital income is rising, so people can afford to pay higher fees both in primary and secondary schools, and they can as well extend to universities. However, we really need to work to see how fees in private universities can be reduced, and the only way to do this is to have the Federal Government’s support. After the long Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) strike, the Federal Government set up the NEEDS assessment committee that eventually allocated some money to universities. I understand that each state university was given N300m and a state that has two state universities for instance got N600m. So, if private universities can be given grants once in a while, it will help because by the time you the money to develop some capital projects, the funds that would have been devoted for that can be used to subsidise the students’ fees. That was how America started and today you have most private universities in America but of course with minimal state support.
What makes your university different from others?
Faith-based universities have the added advantage of inculcating moral discipline into students, apart from imparting knowledge. We fall into that category. For instance, we are of The Apostolic Church, and we nurture for excellence and discipline and that is the moral aspect of our mission.