Some weeks ago, the National Universities Commission (NUC) wielded the big stick and shut down 58 illegal universities in the country. The banned universities are located in almost all the geo-political zones in the country. Apart from violating the national minimum standard for setting up such institutions, the NUC, revealed that the affected institutions were not licensed by the Federal Government.
The regulatory body is also probing eight universities for illegally running degree programmes. It also warned prospective students not to patronis\]e the affected institutions as certificates obtained from them would not be recognised for the purpose of participating in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, employment or further studies.
The NUC also stated that “anybody who patronises or obtains any certificate from any of these illegal institutions does so at his or her own risk.” The commission’s Director of Information and Public Relation, Ibrahim Usman Yakasai, disclosed that the commission would not relent in its effort to close every illegal institution in the country.
We commend the NUC for clamping down on these illegal institutions but also lament their proliferation in the country. The NUC must do more to curb the springing up of illegal universities in our shores. It is a fact that the NUC is the only statutory authority saddled with the responsibility of granting approval for all academic programmes in the nation’s universities.
It is also empowered to grant approval for the establishment of all higher educational institutions offering degree programmes, including private universities. Therefore, it has done the right thing by closing these illegal universities and advising prospective students not to transact any business with the affected institutions.
At the same thing, the action of the NUC was a little bit belated because some of the affected schools have already started business and must have misled unsuspecting students. Some of these students must have spent much money in terms of school fees before the NUC woke up.
The NUC must come up with strategies that will enable it detect the springing up of these illegal universities before they defraud unsuspecting prospective students. At present, we want to believe that the regulatory body does not have the necessary mechanisms to know when the illegal universities are built.
It appears also that the NUC does not have an investigative arm, eagle-eyed detectives that would help it nip in the bud the proliferation of these illegal universities. The NUC’s action is a warning to all private universities to meet with the standards set by NUC so that they can carry on with their business and produce employable graduates that would be acceptable locally and internationally.
The NUC must not approve any university that does not have what it takes to meet international standards. The existence of illegal universities has not helped the standard of university education in the country. The inability of prospective university students to get admission into available genuine universities as a result of fewness of spaces makes the existence of illegal universities possible. It is this anomaly that fuels the growing number of illegal universities in the country. The craze for paper qualification also can be accountable for the existence of illegal universities. The NUC should continue to beam its searchlight in all parts of the country to promptly detect the establishment of the illegal institutions by unscrupulous Nigerians.
Government should create more admission spaces in the existing universities through expansion to prevent more Nigerian students from patronising the unauthorised univarsities. The recent report that six million students were denied admission in the last five years portrays clearly the admission crisis in the universities. When uncertain, parents should seek clearance from the NUC so as to prevent their children from wasting time and resources seeking admission into unapproved universities.
Private individuals that want to establish universities must get approval from the NUC before embarking on such projects. Proprietors of the illegal varsities must be prosecuted for violating the Education (National Minimum Standards etc) Act Cap E3 Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. The NUC must strive to win the war against illegal universities.