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The Executive Secretary of the NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, made the call while delivering the 14th convocation lecture of the Benson Idahosa University, Benin City, Edo State.
Rasheed described the establishment of private universities in Nigeria as a reflection of the need to close the gaps created by the challenges facing government-owned tertiary institutions across the country.
He listed some of the problems to include access, resulting in the emergence of degree mills and satellite campuses; preponderance of social vices, instability of academic calendar, indiscipline of staff and infrastructural decay.
The NUC executive secretary, who was represented by the commission’s Director of Accreditation, Dr. Noel Salihu, said, “In some cases, available facilities are not properly maintained and, therefore, left in a state of disrepair.
“Though funds from the government may be insufficient to sustain adequate provision of facilities and infrastructure, some of the universities pay lip services to institutionalising maintenance culture in the system. The private universities are not expected to have similar challenges as some operating in the country have state-of-the-art infrastructure and equipment, making them attractive for learning in contemporary times.”
Rasheed disclosed that no fewer than 75 private universities had been established with Act No. 9 of 1993, which repealed the Private Universities (Abolition and Prohibition) Act of 1984 and allowed individuals, organisations, corporate bodies as well as local governments to establish and run private universities, upon meeting laid down guidelines and, subsequently, obtaining the approval of government.
Speaking on the theme, ‘Higher Education in Nigeria: The Private Universities Perspective’, he noted that with the advantages they had over their government-owned counterparts, the future of university education in Nigeria belongs to private universities.
He, however, advised the managers of such universities to shun acts capable of compromising the quality of programmes run by the institutions.
“Areas where there are loopholes, in relation to quality, must be plugged. Excellence in every facet of the operations of the private universities must be the watchword of the proprietors and the regulatory agencies.
“It might be argued that the provision of university education is a different ball game from those of the primary and secondary levels as it is more capital intensive and the financial profit derivable is usually not immediate,” he added.