The number of tertiary institutions in the country far exceeds the number that it needs to meet the academic quota of catering to aspiring undergraduates. According to the National Universities Commission (NUC), there are currently 111 private-owned universities in Nigeria. An additional 37 were added in 2023. According to the official website of the commission, there are 51 federal universities. The website also lists 60 state universities with two yet to have completed one full year of courses.
Yet, the number of these institutions is barely enough to accommodate all aspiring undergraduates in Nigeria. As of 2021, the media reports that 2.1 million students were studying in Nigerian varsities. As of that year, the then 99 private universities catered to only five percent of students, while the public universities accounted for the almost 95 percent remaining. This is an effect of affordability as not many can afford to school in these expensive institutions. Thus, many students are forced to fight for the limited slots available in public varsities.
A low percentage of UTME students are admitted to university.
Every year, more than a million students are forced to strive for a slot among the less-than-a-million slots available in Nigerian universities. In 2021, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) revealed in a released data that only about 500,000 students of more than 1.5 million UTME candidates gained admission that year. The board has also revealed that about 1.6 million candidates sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) this year 2023. Among these students, only less than a million (about 500,000) will gain admission into varsity.
Therefore, more institutions are needed in the country to shore up the number of admitted students every year. In this light, the news of the NUC’s presentation of provisional licenses to 37 newly approved private academies in the country should be seen in a positive light. At the presentation, which occurred on June 9, 2023 at the NUC’s headquarters in Abuja, the Permanent Secretary of Education, David Adejo, said that the approval brought the number of private universities in Nigeria to 148.
First three years’ of operation NUC monitoring period.
It was the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which former President Muhammadu Buhari presided over on May 15, 2023, that approved the establishment of these private-owned institutions. Adejo said that the provisional approval given to the institutions to operate as intended creates room for effective mentoring and qualitative growth within the first three years of operation. During this monitoring period, the new varsities would be affiliated with older-generation academic institutions for academic and administrative mentoring and will be moderated by NUC. The list of institutions granted approval include: Rayhaan University, Kebbi; Muhammad Kamalud University Kwara; Sam Maris University, Ondo; Aletheia University, Ago-Iwoye Ogun State; Lux Mundi University Umuahia, Abia State; Maduka University, Ekwegbe, Enugu State; PeaceLand University, Enugu State; Amadeus University, Amizi, Abia State; Vision University, Ikogbo, Ogun State; and Azman University, Kano State.
Others include: Huda University, Gusau, Zamafara State; Franco British International University, Kaduna State; Canadian University of Nigeria, Abuja; Miva Open University, Abuja FCT; the Gerar University of Medical Science Imope Ijebu, Ogun State; British Canadian University, Obufu Cross River State; Hensard University, Toru-Orua, Sagbama, Bayelsa State; Phoenix University, Agwada, Nasarawa State; Wigwe University, Isiokpo Rivers State; and Hillside University of Science and Technology, Okemisi, Ekiti State; University on the Niger, Umunya, Anambra State, Elrazi Medical University Yargaya University, Kano State, Venite University, Iloro-Ekiti, Ekiti State, Shanahan University Onitsha, Anambra State, The Duke Medical University, Calabar, Cross River State, Mercy Medical University, Iwo, Ogun State, Cosmopolitan University Abuja; Iconic Open University, Sokoto State; West Midlands Open University, Ibadan, Oyo State, Amaj University, Kwali, Abuja, Prime University, Kuje, FCT Abuja, El-Amin University, Minna, Niger State, College of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Kaduna State.
Private universities are not too many, says Adejo.
The remaining institutions are Jewel University, Gombe state, Nigerian University of Technology and Management, Apapa, Lagos State, Al-Muhibbah Open University, Abuja and Al-Bayan University, Ankpa, Kogi State. Adejo observed that the argument in some quarters that private varsities had become too many in Nigeria was not plausible. He noted that comparative figures of varsities in other countries show that Nigeria needs more tertiary institutions. “In relation to Nigeria’s population of over 200 million, the current 264 varsities are quite low when compared to those of other economies such as Korea, Indonesian among others,” he said. He assured that government would continue to encourage NUC to keep strengthening its quality assurance mechanism so that as the number increases, quality and relevance to national needs are not compromised.