Stories: Titus Eleweke
The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie has called on investors to establish more private universities in the South-East geopolitical zone of the country, as the number of private institutions in the zone were inadequate for the yearning number of students who seek admission. He made the appeal, during a Town Hall Meeting organised by the Federal Ministry of Education at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), with the theme: “Investing in Education: Establishing Private Tertiary Institution for Sustainable National Development”.
The NUC Executive Secretary, who spoke through the Secretary, Standing Committee on Private Universities (SCOPU), Mr. Pascal Eruaga, disclosed that the number of students who seek admission into Nigerian universities had continued to outstrip available spaces in the existing universities in the country. Okojie said that Nigeria had an estimated population of 170 million, yet, the large population were served by only 147 universities. He said that Argentina, with a population of 38.7 million, had 1,705 universities, while France had 1,062 universities with a population of 60 million.
The Executive Secretary added that Brazil and Mexico which with populations of about 203 million and 120 million, have 1,648 and 1,250 universities, respectively. According to him, records from the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), indicated that Imo State led other states in the number of applicants who sought admission into Nigerian universities, with only 11 percent of the applicants gaining admission yearly.
He, therefore, called on investors in the State to invest in the establishment of private universities in the region in order to give their youths a better future. Okojie stated that the involvement of the private sector in the establishment of private universities had increased access to university education.
According to him, private sector involvement in tertiary education had also promoted and ensured quality in the sector. The don also said that the rise in the number of private universities in the country had increased efficiency in the Nigerian University System (NUS) and they are producing globally competitive entrepreneurial and self-reliant graduates.
Okojie further disclosed that about 400 applications received from prospective applications for the establishment of private universities, only 61 private universities had been licenced till date, representing only about 15 percent. He revealed that about 30 proposed institutions were due for first visit, eight for second and final verification visit, while the others were at various stages of processing. According to him, South-West led other zones with 28 private universities, followed by the South-South which has 11 and the North-Central- 6.
He added that the South-East had nine private institutions, the North- East, two, while the North-West has the least, with only one private university. The NUC boss said that some of the benefits of private universities include rising of the social status of the community, breeding a serene environment as well as placing the community on a global map.
According to him, establishing a private university would open up employment opportunities for the community and reduce youth restiveness, just as it would complement the efforts of the Federal and State Government towards creation and expansion of access to quality university education. He said that private universities had assisted in the reduction of capital flight to neighbouring West African countries. According to Okojie, the Commission was willing to guide prospective promoters in the process leading to the establishment of private universities