The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu has said that the Federal Government embraced deregulation policy in the university education to bring back quality through private participation.
The Minister who stated this in Abuja during the National Universities Commission (NUC), two-day National Summit on Private Universities said: “The deregulation of University Education by the Federal Government was to allow private Universities to complement government’s effort at providing quality university education in Nigeria.”
Speaking during the Summit held at the Idris Abdulkadir Auditorium of the NUC Secretariat, Abuja, Adamu explained the historical insight into the development of Private Universities in Nigeria from 1983, adding that it began when the Supreme Court granted legal backing to the proprietor of Imo State Technical University.
The action of the Supreme Court, he said, resulted to the establishment of 26 Private Universities in the Country.
Motives behind private universities establishment
He, however stressed that the motive behind the establishment of these Private Universities was based on monetary gains; as a result, Decree No. 19 of 1984 was promulgated prohibiting the establishment of private universities, which also retroactively closed down existing ones and stipulated punishment for any person, including corporate bodies that contravened its provision.
Increase demands for higher education call for private participation
Mallam Adamu Adamu, noted that government then later realised that the thirst for higher education had reached such a level that it became a social responsibility for both government and well-meaning private organisations to rise to the challenge and provide access to higher education for the ever-increasing number of candidates seeking opportunities for self-improvement. According to him, government quickly identified the potentials of the private sector in the areas of developing tertiary institutions and took bold steps to allow companies /organisations incorporated in Nigeria or individuals to own Universities.
The Hon. Minister added that it was a welcome development when the Education (National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions) (Amendment) Decree No. 9 of 1993 was promulgated repealing Decree No. 19 of 1984 and stipulating new guidelines on establishment of private universities, adding that the need for the Nation to allow constructive efforts by private sector organisations to provide quality university education was rekindled, considering the quality and magnitude of development oriented university education that must be made available to the Country.
The Minister, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Dr. Sonny Echono, stressed that since the promulgation of Decree No.9 of 1993, Nigeria had witnessed a surge in the number of private universities from the first three established in 1999 to 79 today, and still counting.
He opined that private universities had the key to the revolution of higher education in Nigeria, through expansion of access and bridge of gap thereby providing the much needed spring-board for socio-economic transformation of the nation.
High fees in private universities limit access
Mallam Adamu lamented that even with the current 79 Private Universities in the country access to university education was still limited, due to the perceived high cost of fees charged by private universities. He advised all
proprietors that a university at its incubation stage was not a profit making venture, adding that they should see the role they play in the sector as that of complimenting the efforts of government in providing quality university education to the society.
Explaining further, the Minister said that other problems limiting private universities from achieving their potentials included: staffing, poor or non implementation of University Governance arrangements, excessive proprietor influence, inadequate funding as well as student admission quota.
He tasked the proprietors and the management of the NUC to take advantage of the Summit to address these challenges in order to reposition private universities for optimal delivery of their mandate.
He congratulated the NUC and all participants for successfully convening the first National Summit on Private Universities, which, he acknowledged, underpinned the multi-stakeholder nature of private university education management presently in dire need of being repositioned to play its role as the bases for national development. The Minister expressed hope that the participants would at the end of this Summit be stimulated and inspired to implement all recommended strategies towards taking private university education delivery to the next level.