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Embargo on new varsities creation gets mixed reactions

ASUU, V-Cs, Dons back Oloyede *Junaidu, Adedoja fault embargo

By Dayo Adesulu

THE call by the registrar of Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Ishaq Oloyede for the Federal Government to place an embargo on establishment of new public and private universities has been greeted with mixed reactions from stakeholders in the sector.

Oloyede had on Friday last week while speaking at the 4th convocation lecture of the Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State was quoted by Punch as saying, the Federal Government need to place an embargo on establishment of new universities so that the country’s existing institutions could be adequately catered to.

JAMB, UTME

He said: “Since education is everybody’s business, all Nigerians should support the effort towards educational development. Universities should not be established just to boost the ego of rich individuals and politicians.”

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The registrar advocated increased funding of education in the country by committing nothing less than 15 per cent the national budget to the sector.

Also in April, Oloyede   had at a two-day summit in Abuja on Nigerian private universities while speaking on the theme: ‘Private University Education Delivery In Nigeria; Challenges and Opportunities’, accused the private universities of ‘’aiding academic corruption in the country, adding that the private university operators “are going against many laws guiding university operations in Nigeria”.

At the same meeting, the Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor   Abubakar Rasheed, had disclosed   he   was processing about 303 new applications for the establishment of private universities in Nigeria.

Number of Nigerian varsities to other nations

While Nigeria with a population of over 200 million has 43 federal universities, 48 state universities and 79 private universities, South Africa with a 56 million has 26 public universities and 20 private universities. This is just as Ghana with a population of 28 million prides itself with 105 universities.

The United States has 4,140 colleges, universities and degrees awarding institutions which enrol 17,487,475 million of their 327.2 million populations. On its part, the United Kingdom with the population of 66.04 million has 130 universities.

Can 170 universities in Nigeria really cater to its citizenry, considering the admission shortfall of every year after the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination? At least, about 1.1 million admission seekers go without hope of admission every year.

Reacting to embargo on establishing new universities, a former Pro-Chancellor of Federal University of Dutse in Jigawa State, Professor Taoheed Adedoja faulted the call. According to Professor Adedoja , placing embargo on the establishment of more universities in Nigeria is to further deny the teeming Nigerian youth population the opportunity to acquire higher education that is necessary for the socio economic development of this country.

Increase in population supports more varsities

‘’The former minister of Sports and special duties explained that “ the increasing growth in Nigeria’s population supports the position for the establishment of more institutions of higher learning in the country as the NUC is playing its regulatory role of quality assurance for existing universities as well as for new ones whether public or private

“The former Dean of Education at Bayero University Kano further asserted that “ We do not have the moral justification to shut the doors for other children to acquire education when our children have had such opportunities, but the view that the existing public universities should be better funded and expanded is fully supported while the private sector should be encouraged to partner in the establishment of more quality institutions of higher learning in Nigeria.

Speaking in the same vein,  NERDC Executive Secretary, Professor Ismail Junaidu said: ‘’The recent discourse on the need to place embargo on the creation of more universities must have been generated by genuine concern. This is especially if we take into consideration the examples   of broad based universities in other parts of the world that have students’ enrolment as high as 161, 000-70, 000. Notwithstanding,   in most of the countries where these broad based universities exist, they have as high as 8,400 – 1, 300 of other existing universities. ‘’The population of some of these countries is less than that of Nigeria.

Effects of embargo on new varsities establishment

‘’Definitely, there is very urgent need for our universities, both public and private, to be upgraded, to enable them to be competitive globally. However, in my opinion, placement of embargo by  government on the creation of new universities will affect the liberalisation of access and equitable opportunities to tertiary education and  national development. ‘’It will cause more citizens leaving the country to other countries in search of knowledge, thereby draining; in resources, both human and capital, and above all creating more unemployment to our teaming youths. ‘’ The more sound universities we have, the more opportunities   are opened for the citizenry, looking at our rapid increase in   population, and demand for higher education. We should upscale the tempo of widening the spaces and improving quality   in our universities, and laterally open many more spaces by establishing new universities as might be permitted by needs extant standards and procedures.”

Place embargo for five years

Speaking in the same vein, the Vice-Chancellor, Caleb University, Professor Ayandiji Aina said:”I support Professor Oloyede’s opinion on the need to place embargo on approval of new universities, but will canvass that this be for a period of five years.

“During these five years, efforts should be geared towards increasing the capacity of existing universities. There is urgent need of the regulatory agency representing the Federal Ministry of Education, and Proprietors and Pro-Chancellors of the Universities and their council to be deliberate at meeting certain minimum irreducible conditions to continue to operate.

“The template for such a drive to consolidate has been elaborately prepared over the last two years by a Committee of quality assurance experts led by the distinguished President of GUNi Africa and BOT Chairman of Caleb University, Prof Peter Akinsola Okebukola. Okebukola, himself a former NUC Executive Secretary has produced scores of benchmark documents under the leadership of the current NUC Executive Secretary, Prof Abubakar Rasheed and in collaboration with such bodies as African Quality Assurance Network (AFRIQUAN), Global University Network Initiative (GUNi) and the Association of African Universities (AAU).”

Speaking in the same vein,  ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi said: “ASUU has always insisted that proliferation of universities in Nigeria is disservice to the Nigerian University System.

Last twelve new public varsities struggling to survive

“We have been challenging both the Federal and State governments on creating crisis centres by increasing the number of public universities without addressing the needs of the existing ones and/or planning effectively for the development of the new ones. Go to the last twelve new universities established by President Goodluck Jonathan, they are struggling to survive. Lecture rooms, office spaces, teaching and learning materials, and other critical ingredients of quality university education are in short supply.

“State Universities are worse. There are State Governors who have not funded one that are pronouncing additional one, two or more universities.

‘’Of course, private universities are springing up because of the apparent neglect of public universities. If public universities are on ground kicking and running,  competing favourably with their peers in Africa and globally, the mushroom private universities will evaporate.

Even as at now, NUC statistics recently confirmed that only about six per cent of undergraduates in Nigeria are studying in private universities.

Also reacting, the Director, Distance Learning Centre, University of Ibadan, Professor Oyesoji Aremu said: ‘’ The proliferation of universities has not addressed the challenge of access to higher education in Nigeria. Rather, continued licensing of more universities (especially privately owned ones) calls for some checks. ‘’As the JAMB’s helmsman, he understands the challenge. ‘’Another way of addressing the challenge of carrying capacity is to further democratise tertiary education by strengthening Distance Education in dual mode universities. This would widen access.

On  his part, pioneer Director of the Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies (IPSS), University of Ibadan,  Professor Isaac Olawale Albert said: “I support Prof Oloyede absolutely.

According  to him,  what is needed by this country is the need to improve the facilities and the carrying capacity of the existing universities rather than establishing new ones.

He said: “The truth is that many of the newly established universities don’t have what it takes to be good universities. “The most disturbing is the quality of staff in them. Yet they award first class degrees prolifically.”

Also reacting, UNILAG Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Wole Familoni supports a halt to establishment of new universities.

He said:  “If the Federal Government say that it does not have money to pay for the proper and acceptable running of the established universities, then why starting new ones?

“The ones that are established have low capacity due to lack of enough funds to operate at their full capacity. If the Federal Government is interested in increasing the number of students   in Nigerian universities,   I think increasing the capacity of the established ones should be the way out.

“This is because the established universities have experienced staff already that can provide what it takes to graduate quality manpower expected of them.”

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