Stakeholders in education have accused private universities in Nigeria of failing to bridge the gap in access to university education for Nigerians.
They also said in interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that some private universities awarded degrees to undeserving students and charged outrageous fees.
Prof. Elkanah Oyetunji, a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Lagos State University, said the standard of teaching in private universities was not comparable with what obtained in public universities.
“Studies from researchers show that graduates from private universities cannot be compared with those from government universities.
“But the best way to prove their ability is to subject their students to a test after graduation.
“The standard of education in the private and public universities is not the same and that is why the private universities probably produce more first class graduates than the public ones,’’ he said.
According to him, no parent or vice-chancellor can direct a lecturer to modify students’ results in public universities.
“If a student does not meet JAMB requirement, he or she cannot be admitted into a public university,’’ he said.
Oyetunji also said that private universities gave concession to admission seekers because they were looking for students as there were minimum numbers of students an institution must have to economically run some programmes.
The lecturer also faulted the recent approval granted eight new private universities by the Federal Government.
He said that adequate funding of existing universities should be the focus of the government rather than licensing more private universities.
“I believe if the existing universities are well funded, optimal education standard can be achieved at lower cost,’’ he said.
Oyetunji said private universities were set up for business, as the belief “is that education is very expensive, which explains why many of them are expensive”.
According to him, many of the private universities do not have facilities like the government universities.
The professor said that no private university could acquire facilities like those owned by government because their aim was to make profit on investment.
“That is the reason why we must not allow the public universities to break down like the public primary and secondary schools.
“We must all support the Academic Staff Union of Universities in its fight to keep the public universities standing,’’ he said.
A parent, Mr Kayode Ajibola, said private universities had not bridged the gap of access to admission “because they are not affordable to average Nigerians’’.
Ajibola said while the existing private universities were still seeking for patronage, licensing eight new ones was a wrong decision by the government.
He said the standard of education in the private universities could not be compared with the public ones because they could not acquire the required facilities and employ qualified staff.
“Many of the private universities depend on lecturers from the public universities, as part-time or sabbatical lecturers, to help in running their courses.
“That is why students in such private institutions can never fail, even if they ought to, because they have paid for their results with the outrageous tuition charged,’’ he said.
Chief Adeolu Ogunbanjo, Deputy President of the National Parent Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), also said some private universities awarded degrees to undeserving students.
Ogunbanjo said: “Although, this is an allegation, but then, there is need for government to take it seriously and investigate.’’
The deputy president of the association, however, expressed the view that Nigeria needed more universities.
“I do not think the additional eight new private universities, recently approved by the Federal Government, is out of place.
“Look at a situation where only about 20 per cent or less out of over 1.5 million Nigerian children, who sit for UTME every year, gain admission into universities.
“That is worrisome and that is why these private universities come handy.
“But my only worry is that they must also strive to play the rules by maintaining high standard and charge moderate fees.
“That is why some Nigerians are of this opinion that one hardly sees a graduate from a private university with a third class degree.
“They think that because of the high fees paid by these students the only way to compensate them is by giving them at least a second class degree,’’ he said.
He said the establishment of more private universities would drive competition and subsequently engineer fees reduction in the near future.
“There must be a standard benchmark to be followed by all if we intend to compete with other top rated universities in other climes.
“Just because we need more access and quality education to satisfy the yearnings of our children does not mean we should settle for less,’’ Ogunbanjo said.
A parent, Mrs Joan Ademola, said more private universities would not bridge the gap in admission access because many of them were open for business to make huge profit.
“I think the Federal Government should expand the carrying capacity of existing tertiary institutions instead of creating new ones that will not provide access to children of the poor.
“Our education system is already in comatose.
“Giving too much priority to private education will continue to affect the standard of education.
“Most of the private institutions do not operate with approved standard; inadequate lecturers, no laboratories and hostel accommodation,’’ she said.