Empowered by Act 1 of 1974 to ensure the orderly development of a well coordinated and productive system that will guarantee quality and relevant education for national development and global competitiveness, the National Universities Commission is pained with the rot in the country's private universities.
NUC's Executive Secretary, Professor Julius Okojie declared that the commission would henceforth take a stern measure against any institution that disobeys its rules and regulations.
Okojie said NUC had in pursuant of its statutory mandate, observed that some private universities have persistently violated extant rules and regulations at detriment of quality education.
Areas of infractions common among private universities include: unwillingness to comply with NUC regulations e.g establishment of postgraduate programmes and award of postgraduate degrees before graduating the first set of graduates; inappropriate/absence of governance structure and ethos manifesting in the interference in the day-to-day administration of the universities by proprietors.
Other aberrations are poor management of academic activities especially the running of unapproved programmes and operating from unapproved campuses; generally poor learning environment and mismanagement of students' affairs including unconventional approaches in the processing of requests for transcripts and statement of results.
Prof Okojie, NUC Executive Secretary
For instance, a bank of one of the suspended private universities petitioned NUC over fraudulent diversion of tuition fees from the bank.
The domiciliation of school fees and a legal mortgage of a property of the university reportedly secured a term loan facility for a period of 180 days and an overdraft facility for a period of 90 days both of which its promoter failed to liquidate leaving a debt of N89,798,266.09 being owed to the bank at the time the petition was filed two years ago.
Another example of the lapses in the suspended private universities according to Prof. Okojie, was that a learning institution could only boast of 187 students and 14 lecturers in the seven years of its existence.
Justification for private universities
The need for private universities in Nigeria was enhanced by a number of factors; a burgeoning demand from students for access and the inability of the public universities to satisfy the growing social demand for university education necessitated the entry of private universities in order to expand the access conditions, the declining capacity of public universities, the retrenchment of public servants and incessant strikes by Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The union, for instance, went on strike for 20 weeks in 1999; eight weeks in 200, 12 weeks in 2001 a week in 2002; 24 weeks in 2003, two weeks in 2005, one week in 2006, 12 weeks in 2007, a week in 2008, 12 weeks in 2009 and for four weeks in 2011.
In Nigeria now in terms of numbers, there are more private universities than the federal government-owned universities. With a total number of 122 universities, (federal 36, state 36 and private universities increasing from three in 1999 to 50 in 2012). The private universities are smaller and tend to specialize in specific disciplines e.g. Business Administration, Computer Science & Technology, Accounting and Management, Marketing, Banking & Finance etc.
For the past five years, the Nigerian university system has been going through series of reforms to expand access, quality and encouragement of both internal and external efficiency of the system.
Internal efficiency in terms of graduating students at record time with very few or no drop-out at all, and external efficiency in terms of producing what the market would absorb on graduation to reduce to the barest minimum or eliminate unemployment.
Evolution of private universities
In 1948 when the first university was established till 1979, university education was on the exclusive list of the government, thereby leaving the establishment, funding and management in the hand of the Federal Government that had the exclusive right.
However, in 1979, the constitution was amended and university education was now put on the concurrent list of the government, which means that both federal and state governments can now establish and own universities. It was from this time that various states started signifying intention to establish their own state universities named after them.