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Is More Universities Necessary?

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A recent debate with a close friend revolved around the topic of licensing additional universities. My friend strongly believes that the current 274 universities in Nigeria are sufficient. He emphasized the Academic Staff Union of Universities’ stance that efforts should focus on enhancing existing institutions rather than establishing new ones. He highlighted concerns regarding funding, staffing, and infrastructure inadequacy. Additionally, he pointed out that no Nigerian university ranks among the top 500 globally, with Covenant University, Ota being the closest at 800-1000 in recent rankings from 2023.

Another aspect my friend addressed was the issue of graduate unemployment. He passionately questioned if there is a tangible solution for the increasing number of graduates struggling to secure meaningful employment. He firmly opposed the idea of licensing more universities both presently and in the near future.

In expressing my differing viewpoint, I recalled a quote: “Before you borrow money from your friend, decide which you need most – the money or the friendship.” I pondered on how to present my stance without straining our friendship or compromising my beliefs.

Using statistical data, I highlighted the yearly flux of 1.5-1.9 million UTME candidates, with only about 700,000 gaining university admission due to limited slots. This leaves a significant number of qualified candidates without admission.

Moreover, Nigeria boasts the world’s largest youth population, emphasizing the need for increased access to tertiary education. With 70% of the population under 30 and severe competition for university slots, the repercussions of limited opportunities could be dire, including elevated rates of social issues.

Therefore, it is imperative for a responsible government to expand university access to accommodate all deserving candidates. Comparing Nigeria to the UK, which has fewer universities yet a higher student population, underscores the urgent need for more educational institutions in Nigeria.

The argument against licensing new universities due to current unemployment trends overlooks the dynamic nature of societal conditions. Just as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe once stated, “No condition is permanent.” Efforts should focus on preparing a skilled workforce for future economic advancements.

Addressing the skills gap exacerbated by brain drain and the growing JAPA syndrome requires collective efforts to enhance university admission opportunities and bridge these discrepancies in the workforce.

While challenges persist in Nigeria’s university system, restricting new university licenses is not a viable solution. A holistic approach is necessary to tackle funding, infrastructure, and staffing deficiencies, steering away from simplistic remedies. As they say in my region, solving a problem shouldn’t create more problems. This is where I conclude. Did my stance impact my friendship? Uncertain as yet. What’s your take?

  • Abimbola Olulesi is the Director, Public Relations, Caleb University Imota Lagos.

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