‘Why we are in love with private varsities’
In Enugu State, where there are, at least, five operational private universities, The Guardian findings showed that despite their high fees, most parents prefer to enroll their children there. Many prospective students also believe that private universities represent their idea of higher institutions and want more of them to be established. In the same vein, some lecturers insist that there was room for the creation of more private universities, saying it would enhance the educational development of the country.
A senior lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, Renaissance University, Ugbawka, Dr. Maxwell Ngene, said: “The truth is that given the population of our country and the number of people seeking admission into the universities, the number of government-owned universities, the emergence of some private universities are very necessary.”
He, however, said that those who want to go into private university ownership should have the right thinking and be able to define their motives clearly so as not to end up producing graduates that add no value to the socio-economic development of the country.
He added: “I expect government’s regulatory body, the NUC, to do a periodic analysis of the private universities in terms of standards, curriculum, quality of lectures, structures, libraries, ICT situation, lecturer-students ratio and environment, among others. It becomes worrisome when standards are not met; it becomes worrisome when universities spring up because of relationship between the owners and the powers that be.”
The challenges being encountered by these universities, he stated, include inadequate funding for research and other operations; poor facilities for learning and manpower. He decried charging of high fees as a way to bridge the gap.
“Bearing this in mind, I feel that government need to establish the kind of assistance given to government-owned universities through TETFUND to the private universities. They need subvention. This is because whether we agree or not, the graduates from these universities are Nigerian graduates; it will not discriminate in the final analysis,” he added.
Another lecturer, Dr Joseph Ugwu from Godfrey Okoye University, stated that there was no basis for Nigerians to complain about proliferation of private universities based on the value that the existing ones have added to education, empowerment and employment creation.
He stated that some of the private universities have done better than the government-owned in terms of quality of students and deepening of knowledge, stressing that they have also stirred competition in the system.
“Some of us still teach as part-time lecturers in these universities and that is because they know our capabilities. Our major challenge is funding but we have over the years demonstrated that it is not about funding but how you are able to create the best out of the situation and still be on top,” he said.
Ifeoma Amadi, a part-two student in the Department of Language of the School said she decided to apply for admission into the school because of the “type of relationship I see between the lecturers and their students.”
She also added that she was motivated by the fact that it is a faith-based university. “I am a catholic and the school also belongs to the Catholic Church. So, I wanted a situation where I could be trained by people who are vast and practicing the catholic faith,” she explained.
A student of the College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Afe Babalola University (ABUAD), the only private university in Ekiti State, also gave kudos to the founder and management of the university. “When you visit the university, the serene environment alone and the facilities will make you to be eager to learn there. The vision of the founder too is part of the motivating factors that helped me decide to enroll in the school,”he said.
Meanwhile, a staff of the university, Bodunde Daramola, said he does not believe that private universities were proliferating in the country. According to him, more than 60 per cent of students that apply for admission don’t get admitted into the universities because the number of available universities can’t accommodate them.
“What about employment opportunity? Do you know how many Nigerians are employed in these universities? This is not to say that there are no administrative issues to be addressed by the regulatory body, the National Universities Commission (NUC). We should urge the NUC to be more alive to its responsibilities and regulate the activities of both private and public universities,” he noted.
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