The National Universities Commission (NUC) last Thursday, February 22nd, 2024, presented provisional licenses to 2 new private universities, following their approval by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The newly licensed private universities were: Lighthouse University, Evbuobanosa, Edo State and African School of Economics, FCT, Abuja.

Congratulating their Proprietors at the event which took place at the Commission’s Idris Abdulkadir Auditorium, the Minister for Education, Professor Tahir Mamman, OON, SAN, commended their perseverance through NUC’s grueling 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).

Professor Mamman assured that since the Government was 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 said 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 persisted, government would not relent in welcoming proposals for the establishment of private universities by credible groups and organizations.

He explained further 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 brought the number of private universities to 149 and the total universities in Nigeria to 272.

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 were 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 were 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.

He 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.

In his welcome address, the Acting Executive Secretary, NUC, Mr. Chris J. Maiyaki, expressed delight at their emergence and highlighted that the process of establishing private universities started since 1999 and had evolved greatly since then. He said that NUC’s stringent 14-step selection process was a well-articulated set of criteria and procedures developed by the Commission, over the years, to meet its commitment to, continually, deepen quality and widen access to university education.

Mr. Maiyaki added that this process was guided by the Commission’s firm belief in the pivotal role of quality education in the overall development of any nation and the need for more placements for the teeming youth who were desirous of that university education which was anchored on genuine partnership and cooperation with the private sector. 

He said that it was generally believed that deliberate and result-oriented investment in quality education was a prerequisite for the production of the human capital required to drive sustainable socio-economic and cultural development.

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.

He decried the challenge of access to quality education even with 272 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.

Mr. Maiyaki commended the proprietors on their success despite the stringent process involved as well as the material and mental resources they had been 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 Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS) had been revised to Core Curriculum and Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS), through collaboration between NUC and programme experts based in the universities and industry stakeholders. He added that the CCMAS which was unveiled to the public on 5th December, 2022, provided 70% of what should be taught along with the expected outcomes, while the Universities were to provide 30%, based on their individual contextual peculiarities and characteristics.

He stressed 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.

He 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.

He therefore, encouraged  proprietors to ensure that quality was not compromised and not solely for profit motives as any operation outside the provisions of NUC guidelines would attract appropriate sanctions and if found out during the probationary period, a withdrawal of the provisional license would 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 would moderate the mentoring relationship to ensure that the relationship was as it should be.

At the event were the Director Tertiary Education, Federal Ministry of Education and the senior Special Assistant to the Hon. Minister of Education, Dr. Ruqayya A. Gurin, most of the Directors of NUC, as well as staff of the commission.

Also, the proprietors of the two newly established universities and their well-wishers, among others.