The surge of private varsities in Northern Nigeria, By Bello Shehu Maude
AREWA AGENDA – In 2021 Federal Government of Nigeria approved the provisional licenses of 20 universities in the country, which are to be monitored and evaluated by the National University Commission. Nine of the universities are resident in the North Central, five in the Northwest geopolitical zone, and the remaining in the southern part of the country.
The new universities approved in 2021 from North Central are Thomas Adewumi University, Oko-Irese, Kwara State; Ave Maria University, Piyanko, Nasarawa State; Karl-Kumm University, Vom, Plateau State, University of Offa, Offa, Kwara State; and Ahman Pategi University, Pategi, Kwara State; and Anan University, Kwall, Plateau State, Mewar University, Masaka, Nasarawa State; Edusoko University, Bida, Niger State; Philomath University, Kuje, Abuja.
Others from Northwest were Maryam Abacha American University of Nigeria, Kano, Kano State; Capital City University, Kano, Kano State; Al-Istiqama University, Sumaila, Kano State, Khadija University, Majia, Jigawa State; and NOK University, Kachia, Kaduna State.
Meanwhile, the Federal Executive Council at its 12th meeting of the year held on the 6th of April again approved another 12 Private Universities despite the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) totaling 111 private universities in Nigeria, according to the NUC’s portal retrieved on 20th September, 2020.
They include Pen Resource University, Gombe, Gombe State; Al-Ansar University Maiduguri, Borno State; Khalifa Isiyaku Rabiu University, Kano, Kano State; Baba Ahmed University, Kano, Kano State; Saisa University of Medical Sciences and Technology, Sokoto, Sokoto State; and proposed Newgate University, Minna, Niger State; European University of Nigeria, Duboyi, Abuja, FCT and Northwest University Sokoto. Nigeria has a total number of 49 federal and 57 state universities.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu said at the time thus: “as long as the access gap to university education and its attendant enrollment of students into university persists, the government will continue to welcome proposals for the establishment of private universities by credible groups and organizations.
“Government is committed to the strengthening of NUC’s quality assurance operations to ensure that, while we are improving access to University education by way of increased enrolment, quality and relevance to national needs are not compromised.”
Furthermore, Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, said the Commission has approved a new curriculum for universities in the country that will bring to the fore uniqueness of each institution. Really! How is that going to make a difference amidst the strike?
He said the private sector plays a vital role
in strengthening education in Nigeria especially now that the population of the country increases every day, noting that investing in the private sector is one of the ways of developing the country.
However, Professor Jibrin Ibrahim, Director, Centre for Democracy and Development in his article titled: “The private university as enterprise: Limits of Academic Capitalism” said that private universities have become a tool used to destroy public universities because most of them depend on public and state universities for manpower which is why some lecturers miss classes.
“The raison d’etre of private universities, at least in Nigeria, is that public universities are perpetually on strike and parents need universities where their children can study, covering fully the syllabus and not spending more than the required number of years before graduation. This is being achieved and already the age of graduands of private universities is significantly lower than that of the public sector.
He further stated that while private universities charge high fees and run a hitch-free academic calendar, tuition in public universities is less, but the institutions are faced with multiple challenges ranging from poor infrastructure and funding; inadequate remuneration for staff; population; strikes, gross corruption; and among other critical problems.
Commenting on the future of Private Universities in Northern Nigeria, a lecturer at Maryam Abacha American University Nigeria (MAAUN) Kano, Dr. Musa Abdullahi Sufi said “the future of the private university is promising because, in reality, even developed nations are having more private universities to cater for the demand and promote innovations. With MAAUN in Kano and Franco-British International and the Canadian University of Nigeria coming up, changes in the private university are already taking place.”
“The university under the leadership of the founder/President Prof. Adamu Abubakar Gwarzo signed various MOUs with many international Universities across Europe, the United States, and Asia through the Professionalisation and internationalization programs, building student skills and innovations including community work.
Dr. Zainab Gwadabe of Federal College of Education, Kano opined that “It is a welcome idea, we need to have more such approvals given to the private sector to bridge the existing gap in tertiary education due high to demand in that area”.
Considering the fees in some private Universities in the North, for example, Pen Resource University, Gombe pegged its fee at a minimum of 915,000 in the Faculty of Communications, Management and Social Sciences and Faculty of Science and Computing while the maximum fee is 1,090,000 at Faculty of Law in the same University
While in Al-istiqama, the highest fee is 577,000 in B.N Sci. Nursing, BSc. Public Health and BMLS Medical Laboratory Science. The least fee of the University is B.A Islamic Studies with a tuition fee of 217,000.
In terms of enrollment, Maryam Abacha American University Nigeria, Kano confirmed admitting over 1000 students out of more than 10,000 candidates during the university’s maiden matriculation ceremony in 2022 noting that about 22,000 candidates currently applied for the university’s admission.
On his part, the Proprietor of Al-Istiqama University, Sumaila, Alhaji Abdurrahman Kawu Sumaila, while interviewed by NAN said the ASUU strike had boosted their enrollment figure.
“Al-Istiqama University is witnessing an increase in its enrollment this time around, courtesy of the ongoing nationwide strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Though that could not be the only factor that led to the recent development, however, it has contributed immensely.
“As I am speaking to you, we have between 400-500 applicants for various courses on our website waiting for approval, and this is before the commencement of admission for the next academic year.”
Also, the Registrar, Skyline University, Kano, Mr Haruna Aliyu, said that the institution admitted 170 students into level one in August 2022.
“In 2021, 162 students were enrolled in Skyline University, but this year, we were able to register 170 students. Most of the students were transferred to Kano Campus from outside the country because they could not continue to school abroad due to the increase in the dollar exchange rate. We’ve received a transfer of 36 students from the neighbouring university which include Bayero University, Kano, and Yusuf Maitama Sule Universities.”
The future of public universities in Nigeria is threatened by the emergence of new private varsity and unavoidable strikes. The government should invest in its institutions before they collapse. Not every parent can afford private universities though Private Universities would reduce congestion in admitting students that Public Universities has a limited quarter to entertain.