The debut of 5 new varsities

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Universities in Nigeria are now 122: 36 federal, 36 state and 50 private universities. In less than a year, the Federal Government has approved provisional licenses for nine private universities and set up nine new federal universities.

Mixed reactions trailed the approval by the Federal Executive Council to issue licenses to the five new private universities last Wednesday especially government’s reason for granting approval. Vice President Namadi Sambo had said: “The gross inadequacy of this figure (122 universities) in relation to the population size of our country is glaring. This has continued to be a challenge, therefore, strategies being adopted by the Ministry of Education to address this challenge include encouraging private individuals and groups with unquestionable recommitment to education to establish private universities.”

Reactions were all over the spectrum: The over 60 million Nigerians who are living on less than a dollar cannot afford to send their children there, emphasis should be on getting graduates employed; there should instead be more technical schools and so on.

But the approval had already been given and on Tuesday all proprietors and board of trustees of the five universities came to collect their licenses. The universities are Elizade University, Ilara Mokin, Ondo State, with the University of Technology Akure as its mentor; Evangel University, Akaeze, Ebonyi State with the University of Nigeria Nsukka as its mentor; Gregory University, Uturu, Abia State with the University of Nigeria Nsukka as its mentor; McPherson University, Seriki Sotayo, Ogun State, with the University of Ibadan as its mentor; and Southwestern University, Okun Owa, Ogun State with the University of Lagos as its mentor.

The licenses only cover the universities for a three-year period during which they would be closely monitored by the National Universities Commission. At the expiration of the time-frame, they would be issued substantive licenses upon review of their performance.

There are strict guidelines which the universities must abide to. They include not running part-time programmes and waiting till supporting programmes are mature before running professional programmes; providing adequate funding and proper remuneration of staff; running only programmes approved by the NUC; distinguishing roles of management and governing councils; and not offering honorary degrees arbitrarily without recourse to merit.

Already, the Executive Secretary of NUC, Professor Julius Okojie mentioned that one private university “is about to go under for failing to meet the requirements.” When Daily Trust asked him which university it was, he refused to mention the name. But said, “we have done the assessment after three years. In fact that one is more than three years and it is not picking up.  The governor of that state indicated he was going to assist but he didn’t.”

Another thing worthy of note is the rising number of faith-based universities owned by either churches or Islamic groups.  More than 10 of the 50 private universities are faith-based.  Given that universities ought to be universal in nature, without bias for religion, is this a trend to encourage? Professor Okojie says there is nothing wrong with it.

“If you go to the US, the Presbyterian church started Yale, Harvard and most of the top institutions. If you approach the church with a project they are ready to help. We do not want an individual who would come and swallow us up. In fact, faith-based institutions are even stronger than individual organisations. Then, when it comes to general purpose, if you look at Oyedepo’s university, Covenant University, all the professionals in that church go there to work. When they start a project there before you know it; it is completed. Is it state universities you want to compare them with that are riddled with politics? The easiest people to counsel are federal institutions and private universities,” he said.

Mcpherson University in Ogun is the only faith-based university of the five universities just offered provisional licenses. The university is owned by the Four Square Gospel Church.

Reverend Felix Meduoye who received the license on behalf of the church told Daily Trust the university would provide affordable and quality education.

Meduoye said: “It is not only the fact that as a church we would charge moderate rates but I believe that students who come in one way or the other the administrative staff would work out scholarships and the rest.  Go out of this country and you find that in smaller communities with lesser population you find universities. That is the only way to develop people.  A university by a church we would introduce more of moral to avoid corruption, the decadence you find in society should be preached against to make the university one that would build the whole individual.”

In : Education