Abuja – Prof. Riskuwa Shehu, a former Vice-Chancellor of Uthman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, says private universities in Nigeria lack qualified academic and non-academic staff to offer quality education.
Shehu, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ilorin said that most senior teaching staff in private universities were either employed on sabbatical, visiting or on adjunct basis.
He said such situation existed because the institutions had difficulty in attracting quality staff.
The professor of Biochemistry, however, said private universities had more stable academic system because of governance structure.
According to him, they have more stable system compared to the public sector institutions.
He added that they were smaller in size in terms of demand for upkeep and maintenance of standard.
“The proprietors of such institutions have a way of reducing pressure from the workers of the institutions.
“ Honestly speaking, you find out that the private institutions in this country are mostly driven by the workforce in the public sector,” he said.
Prof. Jude Udenta of Enugu State University of Science and Technology, said private universities had bridged the admission gap for prospective and provided spaces but could not vouch for the quality of graduates.
“They have done well in absorbing myriad of admission seekers.
‘’However, I cannot clearly attest to their quality notwithstanding the number of first class students they produce since most of their students are those who get lower grades in JAMB exams,’’ he said.
Udenta, a Professor of Government and Public Administration, said most private universities depended on retired lecturers, ad-hoc lecturing staff or lecturers got from faith-based organisations since they could not pay their lecturers well.
“If, you see any sound and young lecturer in there, it might be due to lack of job.
‘’The same lecturer definitely will leave anytime he gets an appointment in any public university due to minimal pay at the private universities,’’ he said
The professor added: “just few of them are coming into the academic sector with innovations to match the towering gap and academic excellence government-owned universities have attained so far over the years.’’
On her part, a professor of Mass Communication at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Prof. Kate Omenugha, said private universities were bridging the gap created by the inadequate number of spaces in public universities.
Omenugha, who is the Commissioner for Education in Anambra, said the quality of private universities was high since they operated on the guidelines of the Nigeria University Commission (NUC).
She advocated constant accreditation and reaccreditation by NUC to ensure that they conformed to the standards on which they were approved.
“It is purely personal, some of them are good, others are not too good but that also applies in the public university products.
“There is need to continually monitor the private universities through accreditation and reaccreditation to ensure that the standards are not compromised,” Omenugha said.
An undergraduate student at the Alhikmah University, Ilorin, Miss Lydia Epelle-Oko, said the high school fees charged by private universities often discouraged many parents from sending their children to the institutions.
A parent, Dr Rex Olawoye, said the exorbitant fees charged by private universities had adversely affected their students’ intake.
He said most parents preferred their children attending public universities to the private schools because of the low fees paid in the former.
Olawoye, a pharmacist, said few parents who sent their children to private universities did so because of their uninterrupted academic life.
“Despite this, however, admission into the private universities is still very low, chiefly because of high fee and fewer academic staff.
“I don’t think the quality of teaching at the private universities is lower than that of the public ones because lecturers at these private universities are eminently qualified,” he added.
An educationist, Mr Samuel Adejobi, advised the Federal Government to exercise more control over private universities to promote academic excellence in the institutions.
Adejobi said the Federal Government must critically assess the performance of the private universities with a view to considering whether or not they were lifting admission burden from the public universities.
He said although private universities were expanding access to admission, the margin was slim because of the fees they charged.
“It is unfortunate that the proprietors of the institutions are mainly driven by monetary gains at the expense of quality and standard.
“Many of them lack proper structure for governance and administration,” he said.
Adejobi said that the private universities still faced challenges of attracting quality and experienced lecturers on permanent basis.
“Many of their senior lecturers are either visiting or on sabbatical,” he said.