The National Universities Commission (NUC) last Thursday, May 12, 2022, presented provisional licenses to 12 new private universities, following approval by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at its meeting in April.
The newly licensed private universities were: Pen Resource University, Gombe, Gombe State; Al– Ansar University Maiduguri, Borno State; Margaret Lawrence University, Galilee, Delta State; Khalifa Isiyaku Rabiu University, Kano, Kano State; Sports University, Idumuje, Ugboko, Delta State; Baba Ahmed University, Kano, Kano State; Saisa University of Medical Sciences and Technology, Sokoto, Sokoto State; Nigerian British University, Asa, Abia State; Peter University, Achina, Onneh, Anambra State; Newgate University, Minna, Niger State; European University of Nigeria, Duboyi, Abuja, FCT and Northwest University, Sokoto, Sokoto State.
Congratulating their Proprietors at the event which took place at the Commission’s Idris Abdulkadir Auditorium, the Minister for Education, Malam Adamu Adamu commended their perseverance through NUC’s gruelling processes to earn the cherished approval by meeting the set criteria from among several other applicants.
He charged them to ensure the use of the highest standards in their operation through the adoption of best practices in order to achieve excellence in their programmes
He expressed his delight at the continued partnership between the Government and the private sector which had widened access to quality education in the Nigerian University System (NUS).
The Minister stated that, Nigeria had the largest economy in Africa with great potentials and with its population forecast to increase up to four hundred million by the year 2050, evoked a sense of urgency in preparation to cater for the needs of this anticipated population and ensure that government maintained or enhanced its capabilities and assets, both now and in the future, while not undermining the nation’s natural resource base.
Mal. Adamu assured that Government, being aware that education held the key to the population growth envisaged, would always be ready to welcome partnership with the private sector, especially in the area of university education.
He pointed out that as long as the access gap to university education and its attendant enrollment of students in excess of the standard carrying capacity of the NUS persists, government would not relent in welcoming proposals for the establishment of private universities by credible groups and organisations.
He made it clear that approval for the establishment of private universities would only be granted to those promoters who fulfilled the prescribed criteria, while government would remain resolute to ensuring that the proprietors followed through their commitment to abide by the laid down standards and requirements. He also noted that the brand-new universities bring the number of private universities to 111 and the total universities in Nigeria to 218.
The Minister said, even though the current number of universities might seem large, there was a compelling need to establish more universities compared to that of other countries with similar large and growing population such as Indonesia which had a population of 274 million and 3, 162 universities (122 public, 3,040 private); South Korea with a population of 51 million and 203 universities (20 public, 183 private); Vietnam with a population of about 97 million people had 185 universities (120 public, 65 private); Turkey with a population of about 84 million and 207 universities (128 public, 79 private); as well as Pakistan, with a population of 220 million with about 217 universities (148 public, 69 private), thus indicating that there was a lot of ground to cover.
He informed the guests that in the 2020 United Nations Human Development Index, Nigeria had dropped 3 places to 161 out of 189 countries and territories, noting that Government was aware of the need to improve the country’s Human Development Index (HDI) ranking, knowing that countries consistently well ranked in Human Development Indices have, in recognition of the important role of universities in human capital development, maintained a respectable number of universities relative to their population.
He added that the provisional license approved for the new universities to operate was intended to create room for effective mentoring and qualitative growth within the first three years of their operations. He disclosed that the newly approved universities would be affiliated to older generation universities for academic and administrative mentoring to be moderated by NUC.
According to him, it was part of NUC’s initiative for early warning signals to detect compromises in quality so that corrective and remedial measures to redress such situations would be promptly applied.
He mentioned that substantive licenses would be issued to well-managed institutions among them after the three-year probationary period, following their satisfactory performance and growth, within guidelines stipulated by the Commission.
The mentoring institutions are to offer assistance to the new Universities in the areas of: Availability of human and material resources for commencement of any academic programme; Implementation of Carrying Capacity; Assistance in Staff Development; Moderation of Student Examination and Results; General Quality Assurance activities; Moderation of Admission and External Examination Moderation, among others.
He charged them to brace themselves to tackling the challenges of operating a university in accordance with laid down guidelines with much emphasis on ensuring that all admissions are conducted through the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
He advised that upon commencement of academic activities, funding should be sustained towards improving infrastructure, equipment for teaching and learning, as well as human resources up to a level that would earn the University accreditation by NUC and other professional bodies.
Mallam Adamu charged them to maintain a conducive campus environment that would enable students cultivate critical life skills and the core values of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and sound judgment.
He reiterated Government’s commitment towards the strengthening of NUC’s quality assurance operations to ensure that while access to university education improved by way of increasing enrolment, quality and relevance to national needs were not compromised. He commended NUC’s doggedness as the sole regulatory agency of university education, at sanitizing the system and its bold approach to its mandate of quality assurance.
He called on all stakeholders to be united in seeking ways of improving quality service delivery of University Education in Nigeria, device strategies for quality improvement and eliminate social vices as well as maintain industrial peace and harmony for sustainable growth.
In his remarks, Executive Secretary, NUC, Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, mni, MFR, FNAL, expressed delight at their emergence and highlighted that the process of establishing private universities started since 1999 and had evolved greatly since then.
He added that NUC’s continued partnership with the private sector had showcased the pivotal role of quality education in the overall development of the nation and stressed the need for deliberate and result-oriented investment in quality higher education as a prerequisite to the production of the required human capital with the capacity to drive a sustainable socio-cultural and economic development of the country.
The NUC Scribe decried the challenge of access to quality education even with over 200 universities in existence and blamed it on the high demand for degrees from an increasing number of secondary school graduates and even graduates of polytechnics and colleges of education.
He disclosed that records showed that the number of applications for university admissions for the Joint Admission Matriculation Board’s (JAMB) 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) was 1, 415, 501, out of which only 527, 929 representing 37.2% gained admission to universities in Nigeria. He projected that the journey ahead was going to be a long one, adding that the education sector was the highest producer of the skilled-level manpower required to activate and sustain the socio-economic transformation of the country.
Prof. Rasheed commended the proprietors on their success despite the grueling process involved as well as the material and mental resources they had expended in actualizing their dreams. He said they were now critical stakeholders and partners with NUC who had played a very significant role in bridging the gap created by the growing demand for university education in the country by their investment.
He attested that private universities brought certain uniqueness to the Nigerian University landscape which was encouraged by the innovative posture of some of them. He added that the Federal Ministry of Education (FME), through the NUC had embarked on the radical re-engineering of curricula in Nigerian universities to meet global standards and international best practices towards preparing Nigerian graduates for relevance in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) world economy with the skills needed for the future.
The Executive Secretary disclosed that the revised Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS) by experts which was now Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS) would soon be unveiled to the public and provided 70% of what should be taught along with expected outcomes, while universities were to provide 30% of its content based on their individual peculiarities and characteristics.
He confessed that the establishment of more private universities under the strict supervision of the NUC had been an important antidote to the proliferation of illegal universities or degree mills across the country. The illegal universities had remained a major source of worry and embarrassment to the nation and a menace to quality university education delivery.
He charged the proprietors to acquaint themselves with the code of governance for private universities in Nigeria which was aimed at enhancing their administrative success and sustainability. He added that the code had been further reviewed to give some latitude to the proprietors on the issue of appointment of principal officers, stressing that the document outlines the approved governance structure within a private university and also contained penalty for breach of the code.
Prof. Rasheed urged the proprietors to also put in mind that the venture of establishing a private university was a journey of passion and not for profit therefore proprietors should ensure that quality was not compromised for profit motives as any operation outside the provisions of NUC guidelines will attract appropriate sanctions and if found out during the probationary period, a withdrawal of the provisional license will be applied.
He reminded them that NUC was always ready to lend its support and guidance whenever there was doubt and warned that only the listed academic programmes at the time of the take-off should be mounted and universities should inform the Commission for resource verification visits.
He said, in line with the Commission’s practice, mentoring institutions had been approved for the new private universities with clear terms of reference to both the mentor and the mentee. NUC will moderate the mentoring relationship to ensure that the relationship is as it should be.
In his remarks, former Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof. Julius A. Okojie, OON, charged everyone to join hands with the commission to ensure a crisis-free university system that fulfills the aspirations and dreams of all citizens.
At the event were the Director Tertiary Education, Federal Ministry of Education, Hajiya Rakiya Iliyasu; some Directors of NUC and all proprietors of the newly established universities and their well-wishers, among others.