The Federal Government last week granted provisional licences for the establishment of eight new private universities in the country, following a recommendation by the National Universities Commission (NUC).
The decision to this effect was taken at the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari. The new universities, which will run programmes for an initial there-year period in provisional status, will likely increase admission places for teeming population of Nigerian students seeking admission into universities.
The new universities are Anchor University, Ayobo, Lagos, Arthur Jarvis University, Akpabuyo, Cross River State, Clifford University, Owerrinta, Abia State and Coal City University, Enugu. The rest include Crown-Hill University, Eiyenkorin, Kwara, Dominican University, Ibadan, Kola Daisi University, Ibadan and Legacy University, Okija, Anambra State.
With this approval, the number of universities in the country is now 151, comprising 82 public and 69 private universities. However, the new universities will be mentored by some older universities in the country. These include University of Lagos, University of Calabar, University of Agriculture, Umudike, Umuahia, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, (UNN), University of Ilorin, University of Ibadan and Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.
It is good that the mentoring universities have been given the mandate to oversee and mentor the new universities in terms of academic culture, administration for three years within which they must have learnt the art of university governance and academic details.
On mentoring of the new universities, the Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwuka, explained that the mentoring arrangement was backed by Education Act, Cap E3 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004, implemented by the NUC and the Federal Ministry of Education.
Anwuka stressed that the universities would be visited during the three years of provisional licence to ensure that they are doing the needful in providing meaningful and responsive education to Nigerian youths.
We commend the Federal Government for its approval of the new private universities. Expectedly, the new universities will create new admission spaces for majority of Nigerians seeking admission to universities. They will also boost job creation and help in the development of higher education in the country.
While this development is good, welcome and progressive, the government must ensure that they offer qualitative education to their prospective students. For the new universities to play the envisaged roles adequately; there is the need for them to recruit quality academic staff from existing universities in the country and even abroad if they can afford.
They should not lay emphasis on profitability of the education enterprise alone. The NUC should also visit existing public and private universities periodically to ensure that the quality of instruction is up to acceptable standards. We say this because of the alleged falling standard of education expressed by some employers of labour on some of our university graduates. The new universities should have the requisite infrastructure, including well-equipped laboratories, libraries and lecture halls.
Although the number of universities in the country has increased from the five we had in the 60s, there is still need for more universities in the country. While we commend government’s effort in striving to increase admission spaces by opening new universities, we urge it to also pay attention to Polytechnics and Colleges of Education as well.
There is the need to increase admission places in this cadre of higher institutions in the country. To make these institutions attractive, the Federal Government should offer scholarship to Nigerian students that opt to study in them. Above all, let government ensure that all our higher institutions are of international standards.