The drive to open up greater opportunities to tertiary education may have continued as the National Universities Commission (NUC) on tuesday gave provisional licences to four newly approved private universities in Nigeria.
The new universities are Greenfield University, Kaduna; Dominion University, Ibadan Oyo State; Trinity University, Ogun State; and Westland University in Iwo, Osun State.
The approval for the new private Universities was granted by the Federal Executive Council in January.
On tuesday, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, presented the licences at the NUC headquarters in Abuja.
Speaking at the event, Mr Adamu said access to university education in Nigeria continues to pose serious challenges and requires continuous effort to address.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the provisional approval for the four universities to operate is intended to create room for effective mentoring and qualitative growth within the first three years of operation,” Mr Adamu said.
“During the probationary period, the four universities will be attached to older generation federal universities for academic and administrative mentoring to be moderated by NUC.”
The minister, who was represented by the Registrar of the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board, Ishaq Oloyede, said substantive licences would only be issued to the universities if they are adjudged as being well-governed after three years of probation.
The minister urged the proprietors of the universities to ensure that admission of students is carried out through JAMB.
“It is also advised that upon commencement of academic activities, the proprietor should sustain funding towards improving the infrastructure, equipment for teaching, learning and research as well as human resources,” he said.
The executive secretary of NUC, Abubakar Rasheed, said the four universities had gone through stringent assessment leading to the final approval by the Federal Executive Council.
According to him, the four universities being presented licence today have been under scrutiny since 2002.
“In the case of Westland University, a period of 16 years, 2006 in the case of Dominion University, a period of 13 years. 2010, 8 years in the case of Trinity University. 2013, a period of five years in the case of Greenfield University,” he said.
Mr Rasheed said the present numbers of universities in Nigeria is inadequate to meet with the nation’s annual demand for access to university education, considering the increasing population of the country.
“However, the commission is not ready to sacrifice access on the altar of quality and that is why we will keep on beaming our searchlight on the governance of your private universities to ensure adherence to best practices in support of quality university education delivery,” he said.
He said there are procedures to take before opening a university. About fourteen steps must be taken, he said.
He said the commission has over 200 applications to process for new private universities in the country.
“Sometimes, it is not the fault of the NUC nor the fault of the applicants. It is simply some people start early. Before they give you licence you are required to present the physical infrastructure. But if you are applying without any infrastructure it will take a longer time before you get the licence.
“In the last one or two years, we have been trying to make the steps easier without compromising more stringent steps required,” he said.
You may recall that Nigeria, with a population estimated to be close to 200 million, has 170 universities (43 federal universities, 48 state-owned universities, and 79 private universities).