LAST week, I commenced a discussion into one of the most controversial issues in the Nigerian education sector – the administration of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, which has been a subject of arguments for the inclusion of private institutions in the scheme. I also highlighted comments of the Executive Secretary of the Fund, Professor Suleiman Bogoro, who condemned the idea of calling for the inclusion of private institutions on the grounds that the Fund was set up to cater solely for needs of public tertiary institutions for the overall interests of children from poor homes, and that since private institutions are money-making ventures, their inclusion would deny children from poor homes the opportunity to have access to quality education. The foregoing is the background against which I have joined a majority of well-informed Nigerians and stakeholders to rebut the false claims of Professor Suleiman Bogoro that private institutions are money-making ventures when, in fact, their enabling law had expressly provided that they must be registered “as a charitable company limited by guarantee and the proprietors or operators, owners, trustees or directors are disentitled from drawing profits from the university.” Private institutions, over the world, are known for quality education and in fact, the first universities in the world were private, not public. The Ivy League schools, also known as the Ancient Eight, is an American collegiate of eight private research universities and are some of the oldest in the world.
Harvard University was founded in 1636, Yale University in 1701, University of Pennsylvania in 1740, Princeton University in 1746, Columbia University in 1754, Brown University in 1764, Dartmouth College in 1769 and Cornell University in 1856. These eight private institutions, altogether known as the Ivy League, are no doubt among the best and the most prestigious universities in the world, known for their academic excellence, selectivity in admissions and social elitism. In Nigeria, premier private universities rank among the best in the country, though much younger than the public universities. They enjoy stable and predictable academic calendars, sustainable and adequate funding, absence of industrial strike actions, quality education, infrastructural advancement, among others. Considering the rate at which private institutions are going in Nigeria, soon enough, they will outrank all the Nigerian public institutions in all ramifications. Going by Professor Suleiman Bogoro’s logic that TETFund ought to be utilised by children of the poor masses to enable them have access to quality education it, therefore, accords to common sense that the funds should be spent on the poor to attend private schools in order to have access to quality education, as against public universities where there are constant strikes, inadequate funding, dwindling quality of education, infrastructural decay, etc. Premier private universities are clearly better positioned to render quality academic services than public institutions. For instance, law graduates of Afe Babalola University, in 2018, came first among all the Nigerian universities in the Council of Legal Education examinations with 100 per cent pass rate, having the overall best graduating student and carting away 24 out of the 36 available prizes. Recognising this rare feat, the highly respected Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan wrote on his Facebook page a congratulatory note congratulating Afe Babalola University for performing better than public universities at the examinations. In addition, Afe Babalola University has bagged several unprecedented recognitions, which include: (i) The National Universities Commission’s commendation that ABUAD is a “model, benchmark and reference point” and also “the pride of University Education in Nigeria” (ii) The National Universities Commission’s description of the College of Law as “the best in Africa”; (iii) the acknowledgment by the Nigeria Society of Engineers that the College of Engineering is a “template for engineering education in Nigeria” having equipment not available in any public university in Nigeria (iv) UNESCO described the University as a “world class university” (v) The Minister of Health described the College of Medicine as “the best in the country”; (vi) The College of Medicine made a record by producing pioneer set of Medical Students in six years when other institutions could not do it in 10 years or more (vii) The only university out of over 255 tertiary institutions in Nigeria to have two teaching hospitals (viii) The only university which provides accommodation for all students and teachers. Even regardless of the challenges occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, private institutions have continued to showcase their adaptability by putting in place world-class IT facilities to conduct examinations, convocations, class teachings, among others, all virtually. On the other hand, the public institutions were shut down indefinitely due to the pandemic and at the point when the Federal Government announced the reopening of schools, ASUU pronounced a strike and urged the students to go on vacations or learn a trade. Against the backdrop of all these, is it still justiciable to exclude private institutions from access to TETFund when they have consistently proven that they have the capacity to deliver qualitative education, better than the public institutions? Grants and financial support given to private universities by advanced countries: Being the Executive Secretary of TETFund, it is presumed that Professor Suleiman Bogoro knows there are two types of private universities, i.e. For Profit and Not for profit. A For-Profit institution is a college or university with shareholders who have an ultimate purpose to make money. For-profits are privately run; they charge tuition, and that tuition often goes back into the university for marketing and recruiting. There are often flexible types of degree programmes offered at for-profit universities. On the other hand, Not-for-profit universities, by their nature, are not established to make money rather, they receive funding from the government, tuition, and endowments, all which are generally used to put back into the curriculum, instruction, and other college operations. As of May 2020, 7965 universities were in operation in Japan, with private institutions accounting for the largest share of facilities (Nigeria has 44 Federal Universities and 79 Private Universities). Educational activities Around 4.3 trillion yen were utilised for assisting the educational activities of higher education institutions such as universities and junior colleges. The extensive private sector of Japanese higher education is currently threatening the status and viability of the national universities (all of which are public), which have been regarded as essential both for equality of access and the development of scientific research. The reason is simple: The governments of these nations want both the rich and the poor to enjoy the quality education offered by private universities.
To achieve this noble ideal, the following methods are adopted: The government gives grant to private universities to further promote quality education of offered by private universities. Government gives need-based grant to undergraduates e.g. Federal Grant Programme in 2014-15, the Pell Grant Programme was $30.6 Billion The government gives various grants funding for research programmes from wide range of federal departments mostly in STEM Field Government guarantees loans to parents (poor or rich) for their children to attend private universities Government encourages corporations to give endowment and professorial chairs to private universities Private universities receive up to 85 per cent of their revenue from Federal sources, including research grants, Federal work-study, Pell Grants, government, student and parent loans, and other Federal funds. The Federal government supports student tuition by guaranteeing loans. That is not a direct expense for the government, but it does encourage the private sector to invest more in education. Next week, I will discuss further on the grants and financial support given by foreign governments to private institutions.