Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on Saturday raised alarm over the proliferation of universities in Nigeria as well as the high cost of private universities.
A statement made to journalists in Bauchi by Dogara’s media, Turaki Hassan Adamu, informed that the former Speaker stated this at the Achievers University, Owo, Ondo State, at the 11th convention and 14th foundation anniversary of the institution.
Dogara, who is representing Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa Balewa Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, lamented the high spate of approval of private universities by the National Universities Commission (NUC), saying there is a need to stop further approvals.
“Worthy of commenting upon is the spate of approvals and licensing of private universities. The National Universities Commission (NUC) must be quick to have a recess, a break for a period of time to allow the very large number of private universities already licensed to mature.
“I am reliably informed that there are 202 universities in Nigeria, out of which the Federal Government owns 49; the 36 state governments own 54, while the rest 99 universities, including Achievers University, are promoted by private initiatives,” Dogara was quoted to have said at the event.
According to him, many of the private universities were still struggling to find their feet, saying that many students could not afford the universities’ exorbitant fees.
“Many of the newly established private universities are still struggling to find their feet, not because there are no prospective university students in JAMB’s pool, but we would be shying away from the reality if we fail to realize that very many of the applicants cannot afford the fees charged by private universities.
“So many prospective university students would rather wait for a few years to benefit from the public university rather than exploit the vast opportunity available in private universities,” he said.
He, however, noted that despite their exorbitant fees, private universities are still playing significant roles, particularly in stemming educational tourism.
In his words, Dogara said, “We must, however, acknowledge the great jobs the private universities are doing for those who can afford it and for assisting the government in stemming the tide of educational tourism.
“Hitherto, many Nigerian youths were found in very great numbers in many universities across the globe, particularly in West African countries. In the last 21 years, with the advent of private universities in Nigeria, the story has changed for good.”
Speaking on incessant strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) as a result of its faceoff with the Federal Government, the former speaker, who is the Chancellor of the Achievers University, urged both government and the association to find other means of resolving disputes other than strikes.
According to him, “our public universities are seriously affected by incessant strikes and threats of it. Are there no other ways of resolving disputes between the workers and the government?”
While submitting that the government needed to seriously address funding of public universities, he said unions in the institutions should have the interest of their students and the degrees they earn at heart.
“No doubt, the funding challenges of the public universities need to be seriously addressed by the government but the unions are advised to think out of the box in channeling their grievances in the interest of the students and the quality of degrees they earn,” he said.