Despite the licensing of 14 Federal Universities, 21 State Universities and 37 Private Universities from 2015 to date, the federal government on Monday announced the approval of additional 37 universities. That approval brings the total number of universities approved for establishment under the Buhari-led government to 72. Making the announcement to Stat House Correspondents, after
Despite the licensing of 14 Federal Universities, 21 State Universities and 37 Private Universities from 2015 to date, the federal government on Monday announced the approval of additional 37 universities. That approval brings the total number of universities approved for establishment under the Buhari-led government to 72.
Making the announcement to Stat House Correspondents, after an extraordinary meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Minister for Education Mallam Adamu Adamu said “we need more universities. The existence of the many universities should not deter the creation of new ones. Besides, these are private universities.” This is happening at the twilight of the Buhari’s administration.
Mallam Adamu who declined to mention the names of the newly-approved higher institutions of learning only revealed that one of the 37 was an online university operated by a female Chancellor from Bauchi State. When questioned about the FG’s move to establish more universities despite the ailing public university structure nationwide, Adamu argued that the country needs more universities to school its swelling youth population.
It has become a usual pattern of dispensing patronage by government to members of its government directly or through proxies or to members of their political parties and their associates as they prepare to exit government. Similar things have been done in the past and will perhaps not stop with the Buhari’s government until we have a legislation that sets the template for a normal bidding exercise for such licenses.
The question is: If everything was alright with the new licences that have just been granted, why would government not give adequate information on those behind the Universities, their locations and so on. It has happened in the past too that such licenses are given to speculators who will auction them at a premium whenever there is an announcement of a freeze on licensing of new Universities in the country.
Most of the time, licencing is an affair between the Minister and the President and often benefits those in and around the corridors of power. As it is with the university licensing, so it is in the broadcast industry where there are more than 700 licensed broadcast stations in Nigeria. In the past, it had been reported that some approvals were given from above only for the NBC to be forced to regularize in the line of duty. Sometimes the approvals do not indicate the category of licence.
Some organisations are even given licenses as government patronages which they hold on to without setting up any broadcast outfits only to trade with such licences several years later. Conversely, there are several others who genuinely need the licence but are not given or are made to stay on a long queue because they are not well connected. How can license racketeering be stopped?
Nigerians may have lost count of how many universities are currently in existence. The number of tertiary institutions at the moment range around 49 federal universities, 59 state universities, 40 polytechnics, 49 state-owned universities, 76 private universities, 70 federal and state-owned colleges of health, 17 private colleges of health, and 219 Colleges of Education.
By ownership, there were 43 federal universities, 48 state universities and 79 private universities, making a total of 170 universities. And, with 37 announced yesterday, there will now be 203 universities in the country. While it may be argued that with a population of 220 million people, the number of universities may not be enough but that is looking at comparative figures without looking at the comparative environment as well as historical perspectives. In Nigeria, there are several millions of children out of school which don’t exist in other environments.
Ordinarily, nobody would have been bothered by the growing number of universities but it breeds concern because the ones in existence are not being managed up to standard. They have been created to massage egos and fill geographical spaces rather that contribute to intellectual development. Very few universities in Nigeria make it to the list of world universities while the quality of some of the graduates being churned out by some of these universities is appalling.
It is no longer news that some of these graduates cannot measure up in the labour market and has made some employers to request for only first class graduates, who in most cases are above average. Learning places that could not be more than a department in a well-structured university are being called universities. Even, the manpower to run these institutions are in short supply. Some of them may not be mere glorified secondary schools. The level of corruption and malpractices going on in some of those universities are alarming, with lecturers helping undergraduates to write projects and give them marks for different kind of patronages.
It may now be time to slow down on the licensing of new universities while promoting mergers and acquisitions of some existing ones to bring them up to standard. The National Assembly should evolve new criteria that guide the law guiding the licensing of new universities. Nigeria should consolidate the existing ones and bring them at par with some of the first and second generations of universities in the country. Advocating for a freeze on the issuance of new licenses for the next 10 years, to enable proper stock-taking and evaluation may not be asking for too much.
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