• Friday, April 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s private universities rise to meet demand for quality education

Here are top 10 Nigerian universities in Times Higher Education 2024 ranking

Nigerian parents place great value on a degree from a private university. It is an investment in the future of their children. Public universities can’t match what they want and not all can send their children abroad or to nearby Ghana.

The rising demand for quality university degrees has led to a surge in the number of private universities in the most populous country in Africa. Consequently, between 1991 and 2020, 79 private universities received licences to operate, representing an increase of over 2000 percent in the last 21 years, according to the National Universities Commission (NUC), the regulator. This is more than the 52 federal and state-owned universities established in the same period.

Until 1999, only government-owned universities existed in Nigeria. Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, Madonna University Okija, Anambra State, and Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State, was the first three private universities to begin accepting students in 1999.

In an increasingly borderless and competitive world, parents and guardians are turning to private universities to get the much-required education for their children and wards.

“University education is highly valued in Nigeria and with limited career pathways in the vocational and technical line, everyone wants a university education. This accounts for the increase in the number of private universities as stop-gaps,” Darlington Agholor, a lecturer at School of Business Administration, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos, told BusinessDay on phone. “Of course, the conversation around quality is also important,” Agholor noted.

Those with the means send their children abroad for studies. Those who are unable to afford such foreign degrees settle for local alternatives, that is, a private university. Public Nigerian universities continue to suffer from incessant strikes, poor funding, and out-dated curricula.

Between 1990 and 2020, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), an umbrella association for Nigerian public universities’ academics, went on strike for a total of 1,059 days; one of several reasons for parents to send their children abroad or to a private university.

The number of Nigerian students seeking university education in the US has also continued to rise 13,762 were admitted in the 2019/20 session up from 4,499 in 2001/02.

Ayodele Shittu, a lecturer, department of economics, University of Lagos reckons that “in terms of the duration of courses, these strikes come with the significant cost because we are in a global world and we expect our children to be globally competitive. A student that gets into the university at 18 years for a four-year course expects to graduate by 22, but strikes make this impossible,” Shittu said.

For the 2020-2021 academic year, the average cost of tuition and fees at a ranked state public university in the US is $9,687 (N3.70m) about 72 percent less than the average tuition fee at a private college which is $35,087 (N13.30m), data from US News show. The average cost for out-of-state students at public colleges comes to $21,184 (N8m) for the same year.

In July 2019, the UK government announced that there would be no change to the tuition fee cap for UK/EU undergraduate students for the academic year 2020 to 2021. This means that new entrants from 2020 to 2021 will pay £9,250 (N4.70m) for full-time study and £4,625 (N2.40m) for part-time study.

Middle-class Nigerian parents or guardians unable to afford the cost of sending their children abroad settle for the more prestigious and popular private universities.
Joe Okon, a civil engineer and a father of four, told BusinessDay that he had to tell his son studying engineering in the US to take on a part-time job to support himself.
“I could not afford it anymore. I usually send $15,000 (N5.70m) to him monthly or bimonthly, but I cannot afford it anymore because it is expensive for me to change naira to dollars,” he said.

Nigeria’s most expensive universities compete with these universities abroad and have priced their tuition fees accordingly, in addition to attracting expatriate members of staff and students who help drive home the fact that the universities can fairly compete and produce graduates that can thrive in the world’s increasingly borderless labour market. The average tuition and fees at these private universities are about N1.50 million.