The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) says the proliferation of private varsities in Nigeria will not address the inherent problems confronting tertiary institutions.

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The federal government had recently approved the establishment of 20 new private universities, bringing the total figure in the country to 99.

But in an interview with PUNCH, Biodun Ogunyemi, ASUU president, said the establishment of new private varsities cannot address the issue of access and quality education in the country.

According to him, most of the private varsities lack the requisite human capacity to deliver quality education, thereby relying on the staff of public universities.

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“Proliferation of private universities in the last two decades or so has not and cannot solve the problems. Government needs to expand facilities and employ more academics in both federal and state universities to accommodate more indigent candidates seeking university admission,” he said.

“In addition, the infrastructural rot and decay in public universities, as comprehensively documented in the 2012 Federal Government’s Needs Assessment Report of Public Universities, should be addressed without further delay.

“Again, the proliferation of private universities is over-stretching academics in the existing public universities. Most of these private universities are unleashed on Nigerians without concrete and realistic human resource development plans.

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“So, they poach on academics in older universities to attract them mostly as visiting, part-time and adjunct lecturers. The few permanent lecturers in most of these private universities are employed under conditions that are not labour friendly.

“If you look closely, many of seasoned lecturers listed by most private universities only exist on paper because their roles are pushed to the less qualified lecturers.  These and other sharp practices by many private universities are negatively impacting the quality of university education in country.”

Buttressing his point, Ogunyemi said despite the surge in private varsities, they have not eased the pressure on their public counterparts in terms of admission because the poor cannot afford them.

“This is not surprising because of the problem of affordability by the children of the poor who constitute the majority among admission seekers. Nigeria is a poor country with about 70 per cent of its people living below the poverty line,” he added.

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“Many of the private universities cannot attract quality students because the children of the poor cannot pay the exorbitant fees charged by the institutions.”

Reacting, however, Timothy Olagbemiro, chairman, committee of vice-chancellors and registrars of private universities, said it was obvious that government cannot provide quality education for Nigerians.

“It is increasingly obvious that government cannot take on the responsibilities of the provision of quality education for Nigerians, from the present happenings as well as an indepth forecast for time to come,” he said.

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