By Dayo Adesulu
For many stakeholders in the education sector who are surprised about the sporadic growth in private universities globally, Professor Toyin Falola of University of Texas, Austin, Texas ,USA, has said failure of public universities contributed to the growth of private universities.According to him, most countries of the world are debating the virtues of public versus private schooling, comparing and contrasting the cost-benefits in their financing. Falola who delivered the Caleb University, Imota, Lagos, 8th convocation lecture titled Private universities and the public good said private universities are now part of a global network that exchanges students and ideas, adding “ they’re agencies of globalization.”
The genesis of decadence in public institutions
Tracing the beginning of decadence in public universities, Falola said despite efforts to improve higher education, Sub Sahara African states faced budgetary limitations in the 80s due to global recession,oil crisis and movement of industrial production to Asia. The resulting dependence on structural adjustment programmes, he noted, weakened sub Sahara African economics and also hindered their ability to fund higher education. He pointed out that advisors from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund pressured debtor states to allocate more funding to primary and secondary education at the expense of tertiary education. Consequently, he added, demand for higher education increased and many African governments ordered their flagship universities to accept more students than their resources could support.
International involvement and local demands
Falola added that “International involvement and local demand for tertiary education spurred the development of private universities in Africa. The number of public universities in Africa increased from about 100 to 500 between 1990 and 2014, but the number of private universities increased from 30 to more than 1000 in the same period. These were possible because of the public sector’s failure to satiate the growing demand for tertiary education and diminishing government subsidies for public universities.”
According to him, private university education curricular were designed to meet labour market requirements, encouraged by the belief that the private sector is more efficient than the public sector and the need for economic policies that favour market forces over state intervention. The university don posited that private universities can hold not-for-profit status often meeting religious needs or for profit status and usually as business endeavors.
Curriculum of private universities
The resulting curriculum of private universities, he explained, often laid emphasis on morality and integrity based on the job market. These programmes, he added, suggest that private universities are satiating different types of education needs. “The advent of private Christian universities in Africa can be explained by a rise in demand for tertiary education, the liberalization of government chartering and widespread adoption of Christianity. Bowen University, a private Baptist school in Nigeria, started with an enrollment of 500 students in 2002, and it now boasts of 5000 students” he said adding “Private universities can reduce the strain on public universities that are trying to accommodate students who yearn for higher education. Currently, the estimated applicant-to-seat ratio exceeds capacity in Africa public territory institutions. The ratio is 3 to 6 in Zambia, 3 to 1 in South Africa, 3 to 1 in Nigeria, 2 to 2 in Senegal and 1 to 9 in Ghana according to a report.
“Private universities have successfully accommodated excess demand. For example, St. Mary’s University in Ethiopia was founded in 1998 with 70 students and it now maintains a student population of more than 6000. For these reasons, the report estimates that the economic size of the investment opportunity ranges between $2billion and $2.2 billion dollars, despite regulatory challenges posed by government institutions. Private universities can fulfill societal demands, increasing access to education while satisfying the needs of the labour market. This combination benefits local and international investors, yielding further growth in the private education sector”.
Experts predict that the demand for higher education in Africa will continue to expand due to population growth,globalization and the resultant knowledge-based economy. The Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C. recently hosted a panel on Future Direction for Higher Education in Africa. The discussion featured Patrick Awuah, Founder and President of Ashesi University College,Ghana; Otto Chabikuli, Director of Global Health, Population and Nutrition for FHI 360 and Alejandro Caballero, Principal Education Specialist for IFC. Awuah asserted that a major problem in Africa’s quest for higher education is that schools are not training students in critical thinking, ethical leadership or entrepreneurial methods. He argued that this must change for higher education to remain relevant in a globalized, knowledge-based economy.
Increase in demand for higher education
As the demand for higher education increases with the demographic shift, Awuah noted that the private sector and universities must communicate with each other to prepare students with the necessary capabilities for success in the world’s work force.For Otto Chabikuli, higher education must adapt to create a curriculum that reflects societal needs, pressuring the government to identify problems and keep up with educational reforms. Chabikuli also believes that the future of higher education in Africa relies on rapid reform. He posited that the best way to address this issue and retain talented students in Africa is through the rise of private universities that can respond swiftly to social needs.
Caballero echoed the importance of increasing the supply of higher education, emphasizing the need to lower tuition fees and expand quality assurance reports across the continent. He also stressed the importance of guaranteeing the employability of college graduates by carefully designing the curriculum to reflect market needs.Moreover, Professor Falola who predicted that over the next few decades,the population of Africa will increase dramatically, said: “States and private investors must respond by increasing the supply of education and increasing the quality of curriculum. Universities must adapt to ensure the success of their students in a global marketplace. Higher education is important, whether it is public or private.”
Meanwhile,Vice-Chancellor, Caleb University, Professor Ayandiji Daniel Aina, during his convocation speech said 478 graduated during the 8th Convocation.Of this number, he said Miss Anthonia Crystabel from the Department of Computer Science emerged the best graduating student with a 4.81 CGPA. For the Postgraduat Class of 2018, he noted that Mr. Julius Adesina from the Accounting Department, emerged the best MSc. candidate with 4.86 CGPA .He added: ”For the first time, Caleb University has recieved NUC approval to run her PhD programme in Architecture. ”We are certain to receive the pioneering students into residence in the coming 2018/2019 academic session.Moreover,our collaboration with CIBN took off with 16 students as pioneers in the M.Sc/ACIB and MBA/ACIB modules.”