By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
ABUJA: The Federal government is holding a two-day National Summit on Private Universities to harness several opportunities that abound and as well, address the numerous challenges facing the Private university sub-sector in Nigeria.
The 1st National Summit on Private Universities has the overall goal to develop the academic, institutional and executive capacities within the private universities, to enable them compete globally and be relevant in an increasingly knowledge-driven world economy.
Speaking in a keynote address at the Summit, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, noted that the Summit is designed to provide a platform for stakeholders to continue to share and expand knowledge and skills necessary for effective performance of private universities as key players in high level national human power development.
The Minister, who was represented by Permanent Secretary, Arc Sonny Echono, spoke on the topic, “Private University Education Delivery in Nigeria: Challenges and Future Direction”.
He stated that the Private Universities have been licensed to complement government efforts at providing quality university education to the masses.
While noting that running a private University is a very serious business that requires discipline, he listed some of the challenges to include; Limited academic staff; Poor university governance arrangements; Excessive proprietor influence; Inadequate funding; and Students Admission quota.
Speaking further on students admission quota, he said “Private Universities still face the challenge of getting the required number of quality students to fill the quota allocated to them. At the centre of the challenge are the relatively higher fees that they charge”.
The Minister, while speaking on the future direction in private University education delivery, called for the implementation of some strategies such as; Good quality physical facilities & Infrastructure; Adherence to admission requirements, Updated & Modern Curriculum.
Other Strategies are; Proper staffing & staff development; Good University governance; Adequate & Sustainable funding; Internationalisation; ICT enabled learning environment; Special attention to students and; Adherence to extant guidelines & regulations.
“There is the dire need for Nigerian private Universities to establish structures for and develop international academic programmes for them to be able to compete in the present higher education market”, he pointed out.
Earlier, the Executive Secretary, NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed in his welcome Remarks, said that the Summit has the goal to serve as an avenue for the exchange and promotion of good practices in private University education delivery in Nigeria.
The ES who also gave the lead paper on the topic, “Regulating Private University Education Delivery in Nigeria: The Role of the National Universities Commission, noted that despite the challenges facing the Private universities, the general verdict on their assessment is that they have very well so far.
He explained that there are 79 private Universities in the country presently, accounting for 46.47% of the 170 universities in the country.
While noting that the government did the wise thing to have opened the doors for private participation in the provision of University education in Nigeria, the ES added that private universities are already being celebrated as the hope for redeeming university education in Nigeria.
The Proprietor, PAMO University of Medical Sciences and former governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili, responding on behalf of the proprietors of private universities, thanked the NUC for the first national summit which he said, created an opportunity for all the proprietors to meet themselves.
He appreciated the federal government through the Ministry of Education for making it possible for the private institutions to exist legally as it used to be illegal operating one.
While stating that the business is not for profit as there is no way one can make money running a tertiary institution, he appealed to the representative of the minister to make government aware that private universities are helping the government to fulfill a social responsibility.
Odili, who emphasized that the key to success of bridging the gap is to focus on the degree as well as character, urged his fellow proprietors to find a way to create the channel through which students on graduation would have acquired the necessary character in their degree certificate, stressing that discipline is the key.