Nigeria, with a population of over 200 million has at recent count, 43 federal universities, 48 state universities and 79 private universities.
These universities are said to not be enough considering the number of people seeking admission yearly. About 1.8 million took the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination this year. Even when some didn’t meet the cut-off mark (160 for public universities, 140 for private universities, 120 and 110 for public and private polytechnic respectively, and 100 and above for Colleges of Education and 90 for Innovative Enterprise Institutions), with others not getting the minimum WAEC result, stakeholders have continued to insist that the space available for admission seekers in the nation is not enough.
The former minister of education, Mallam Adamu Adamu had stated that the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration has created more spaces and has therefore increased the carrying capacity of the tertiary institutions in the county noting that the nation’s universities’ carrying capacity has been increased from 1.5 million in 2015 to about two million spaces.
Adamu stated that with the low carrying capacity of existing universities as against the growing number of qualified candidates, the federal government has established or licensed a total of 30 universities, bringing the total number of universities in Nigeria to 169. “These comprise 43 federal universities, 47 state universities and 79 private universities,” he had said.
He also revealed that government has increased access to Polytechnics, monotechnics and innovation enterprise institutions from 424,715 in 2014 to 517,943 in 2019.
“When we came into office in 2015, the total number of polytechnics/monotechnics/Innovative enterprise institutions in the country stood at 298 with a combined carrying capacity of 424,715 spaces. To expand access to the institutions, we established or licensed a total of 71 such institutions during the period under review, with a carrying capacity of 93,228 spaces,” he said.
Adamu stated that the Buhari-led administration in 2015, inherited a total of 147 NCE awarding institutions with a combined carrying capacity of 385,240.
“ In the last four years, we have granted approval to 27 new NCE awarding institutions across the six geopolitical zones, with a combined carrying capacity of sixty thousand, two hundred spaces 60,200. I am glad to report that we have increased the total number of NCE awarding institutions from 147 to 174, while also increasing the carrying capacity from 385,240 to 445,440 spaces during the period under review.
“In the three categories of tertiary education, namely, university, polytechnic and college of education, we met a total carrying capacity of 2,309,955 spaces.
“During the life span of our administration, we have increased the carrying capacity to 653,428 spaces for tertiary education,” he said.
Now, the increase of the carrying capacity according to Adamu who spoke during a valedictory speech upon expiration of his term as minister in the first term of the Buhari administration, was based on the fact that more institutions were being established.
However, these past months, some stakeholders in the sector are calling for a halt in the establishment of new tertiary institutions. One of the voices speaking for the halt is the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board(JAMB) registrar, Prof Is-haq Oloyede.
Oloyede called for an embargo on the creation of new public and private universities in the country, while adding that emphasis be placed on developing the existing universities in the country, which currently stand at 170.
The JAMB boss, while speaking at the 4th convocation lecture of the Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State, recently said that the need for embargo on the establishment of new universities in Nigeria was important so that the needs of country’s existing institutions could be adequately addressed.
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.”
Oloyede reiterated the recommendations of the 2017 Presidential Retreat on Education which made a case for a declaration of a state of emergency on the education sector even as he advocated increased funding of education in the country by voting 15 per cent of the national budget to the sector.
Just recently, the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Rasheed also spoke against the increasing number of federal and state tertiary institutions in the country.
Rasheed who was speaking during annual Meeting of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) with Heads of Beneficiary Institutions, stated that the increasing numbers have put a toll on TETFund and has tend to reduce the value of the Fund’s interventions.
“We have the largest number of interventions this year because more and more state and federal universities are being created. There is no doubt that we need the institutions to increase access to higher learning but TETFund needs to be protected so that the value of its intervention can be appreciated,” he said. Rasheed had earlier spoke on the proliferation of universities in Nigeria without proper funding in 2017.
While giving a nod for the take off of a new Gombe State University of Science and Technology, the Executive secretary stated that though he was not against the establishment of more viable universities, his worry was the proliferation of universities without adequate funding by the proprietors whether private or public.
He however vowed that the Commission would not compromise on ensuring that the quality of programmes as well as standards were established and maintained by the institutions.
“We are also concerned about the dire need for more universities because the existing ones can only admit half of the number of candidates who seek university admissions annually,” he said.
Speaking in a not so dissimilar manner, the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Prof Suleiman Bogoro noted that the increasing number of federal and state universities will decrease the value of intervention of the Fund.
Bogoro who spoke during annual meeting with heads of TETFund beneficiary institutions, in Abuja, recently, stated that if nothing is done, the Fund might return to the Education Trust Fund(ETF) era when its impact was not felt in tertiary institutions, where it was meant to focus.
A lecturer with the University of Nigeria, Nsukka who pleaded anonymity while reacting to the issue stated that it has become a known fact that many things in the country are done to score cheap political points. He claimed that the universities established by the Jonathan-led administration were so established to essentially appease some politicians.
“The twelve universities established by the immediate past president, Goodluck Jonathan are examples. Imagine a committee in 2017 reported that the schools have only 3,756 academic staff. I hope things have improve in the schools now but I agree with the people who are pushing for a halt in the establishment of the universities. The Nigerian government needs to have a rethink and work towards making the existing ones work,” he said.
Uchendu Emilia, an educationist also agrees that more universities means more money spent. She proposed that money spent for new universities be used to expand the existing ones in order to increase their carrying capacity.
“Some of these schools have degenerated. Classrooms are not enough. The structures need renovating. Hostels are nothing to write home about. I believe that if all these issues are taking care of in the existing schools, it will be better than creating more schools that will be abandoned later,” she said.
For Dr Akinrinade Owolabi, a retired registrar, rather than establishing new federal and state universities, more private universities should be licensed to help create space for teeming admission seekers.
“Well for me, I believe that the private tertiary institutions can contribute to reducing the deficit in enrollment into higher institutions. It is better that a little difference is recorded than no difference at all. While it is true that government has to do more to increase the enrollment figures, it must also be admitted that increasing the number of private institutions will surely make some positive impact,” Owolabi said.
The seasoned academic further suggested that licensing more private higher institutions will spark up a healthy competition among the owners of the institutions, which will compel them to consider slashing down their exorbitant charges.
Culled From Leadership Newspaper