Title: Private University Education in Nigeria: Case Studies in Relevance
Author: Peter A. Okebukola
Publishers: Okebukola Science Foundation/ Sterling Publishers.
Published: April, 2017
Reviewer: Chido B. Nwakanma
Private universities are the future of higher education in Nigeria. Twenty years after the first three private universities took off, universities in the private sector model now number more than those of the federal or state governments. Their number will grow even more.
At the time of writing in October 2017, this book documents 59 private universities in Nigeria. The federal government accounted for 40, while state governments had 44 universities. These are the assertions of the author of this book, an expert on the subject.
Why are universities run by private sector players doing well? What do they contribute and what justifies their existence and continued growth? How can society assist such a positive development?
Private University Education in Nigeria: Case Studies in Relevance is an advocacy book that justifies the presence and growth of private universities in Nigeria and the need to extend to them the financial assistance of the Education Trust Fund that public universities alone currently enjoy.
The lead advocate has solid credentials for the case. As a former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Prof Peter Okebukola brings to bear indepth knowledge and experience of the Nigerian university system. As a regulator of the system, he understands both the requirements and the challenges.
He has also served on the Council or Boards of no fewer than four private universities. He thus makes an informed case.
Private University Education in Nigeria proclaims that those institutions provide access to candidates who would have been shut out, reintroduced quality in higher education and offer efficient student-focused service delivery.
They also infused healthy competition into the system and are focused on delivering quality research outputs.
Private universities, he adds, operate a delivery system wrapped around small class sizes and well-resourced classrooms that stimulate the production of good quality graduates and run a predictable academic calendar. It lists seven positive attributes.
They are contributors to high-level human resource development, train persons with better values and represent a model of university governance in observance of due process, accountability and discipline.
They also mostly have a Board of Trustees as an additional layer for accountability. The institutions model financial autonomy as they sink or swim from the income from ventures and other sources that supplement tuition.
Discipline is the language in private universities for both staff and students while they are adventurous in exploring new courses that go beyond the NUC’s Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS). Nigeria had an initial false start with private universities when promoters established 24 private institutions between 1980 and 1983.
Criteria were unclear. The Federal Government cancelled the process in 1984. The nation then commenced a new operation with Decree 9 of 1993 that allowed individuals, organisations, corporate bodies and local governments to establish and run private universities once they meet the guidelines.
The book outlines the 14-step process that the National Universities Commission applies for the licensing of private universities. The first set of universities licensed and opened in 1999 are Igbinedion University, Okada, Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo and Madonna University, Okija.
Despite their positives, subscription of candidates to private universities has been very low, the book discloses. Babcock University in 2017 UTME received 2645 applications, Covenant University 2633 and Afe Babalola University 1240. All others had less than 1000 applications each.
This book covers its subject matter in eight chapters, a dedication, foreword preface and a list of the 16 vice-chancellors who responded for their institutions.
The relevance of private universities is the central thesis of Private University Education in Nigeria. The book explores this relevance in nine areas. These are national and global economy, agriculture and food security, education, and manufacturing.
Others are power, youth employment, peace-building, religious harmony and conflict resolution as well as research, innovation and development of new products. Sixteen universities reported on their contributions as the basis for the case studies.
A revised edition of the book should have actual case studies and not the brief notes that some of the institutions passed on. When you hear case studies, you expect diligent reporting “involving an up-close, in-depth, and detailed examination of a subject of study, as well as its related contextual conditions”. This section requires the application of rigour.
Private University Education in Nigeria offers perspective with a look at the trajectory of private universities in the USA, Britain and Europe. It features Harvard University, MIT, Stanford and Yale.
There is the University of Buckingham, Ukrainian Free University, and the Catholic University of Sacred Heart, Milan. It reports that Japan has 597 private universities that constitute 78% of its universities.
Indonesia has 1200 or 60% while the number for China has exploded from 20 in 1997 to 630 in 2017. Before 1995, only Ghana, Zimbabwe and Kenya had privately-owned universities in Anglophone Africa.
Nwakanma is of the School of the Media and Communication, Pan Atlantic University, Lekki, Lagos State