Recently, reactions have trailed the number of first-class graduates produced at the convocation ceremony of one of the prominent private universities in the country. This is not the first time. A number of stakeholders who are not conversant with the workings of private universities have tagged the 12.28 per cent first class recorded by that private university as “cheap grades.”
This article is aimed at educating “doubting Thomases” with such erroneous notion that their presumption is not correct given the following verifiable facts about private higher learning institutions.
Private universities are not cheap. They come with their price tags and value for what parents pay for. Parents and guardians are paying for quality education in private universities, which in fact is fading out in public universities as some of our reputable professors and other academics are now enrolling their wards in private universities, having done their comparative analyses.
The lecturer-student ratio in most private universities is less than 1:30 for law, arts, administration, management, and social science courses. For the sciences, the lecturer-student ratio ranges between 1:10 and 1:15 compared to public universities where the ratios are much higher. Imagine a situation where a lecturer in a public university has to contend with about 850 students or more compared to their contemporaries in a private university that lectures a class of 50 or lesser students. The latter will be more effective in teaching, mentoring, assessing, marking and grading. The former has been burdened with too many students. Oftentimes, such a lecturer gives the students’ examination scripts out to less experienced hands for marking and grading.
In private universities, students have access to 24-hour internet services for their research, assignments and other academic activities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, private universities were online teaching their students because they had adequate facilities to take care of their students. Some of them also went further to conduct their matriculation and convocation ceremony online as required internationally. Conversely, public universities were incapacitated and stagnant, giving their students excuses for lack of performance.
Private universities do not go on strike. Never! That is why their academic calendar is accurate and uninterrupted. Hence, a seriously dedicated student who applied for a 5-year course would spend exactly five sessions and graduate in record time. This is not the case in our public universities where a student who enrolled for a 4-year programme would end up spending seven to eight years due to the protracted strikes of the Academic Staff Union of Universities. How can we expect many first-class graduates where students’ educational psyche has been damaged by years of unresolved strikes?
Lecturers in private universities are encouraged to be cordial with their students. Many of them have emotional intelligence in their mentoring, and are very interactive in their lectures compared to many public university lecturers who have sadistic tendencies to always deflate their students. It is in public universities that students experience utterances from lecturers like, “Nobody scores A in my course, only very brilliant students can score B.” Any lecturer caught with this act of arrogant cruelty in a private university is shown the way out of the system. In private universities, students can submit their assignments to their lecturers via emails and other internet channels when the need arises. They can chat up their lecturers on their projects and take their corrections at agreed times. Lecturers in public universities see this as an insult from their students and use this as a delay tactic.
It is good to stress here that private universities invest heavily in current books for their students. The latest books are available in their departmental and main university libraries. Those who care to know may be surprised that most of the students in private universities are being trained with modern and current books/facilities in their e-library resources where various subscriptions for Proquest, LexisNexis, Law Pavilion, Research4Life which comprises Hinari, Agora, ARDI, OARE, Goalie and several others are made annually in millions of naira unlike most public university lecturers relying on their old notes and textbooks. It has been confirmed that some professors in public universities use the same material to teach the same course for years.
In private universities, students have access to their heads of department, deans and even their vice chancellors who give them appointment when they have complaints or challenges, and solve these problems accordingly. In fact, most of these management-student interactions are treated as feedback to help improve private university services. A majority of students in private universities live on campus. So, they have conducive halls of residence to cool off their brains after lectures. They also enjoy water supply in abundance as well as uninterrupted WiFi in their apartments which makes life easy for them. It is evident that these are not available in public universities in Nigeria.
In private universities, lecturers are encouraged to revise all they have taught for the semester before examination. Most lecturers in public universities will not revise because of their arrogance and presumption that students must not be pampered.
In private universities, there is quality control. All lecturers are monitored by the Academic Planning Department on the method, duration and quality of lectures. So, there is no room for absenteeism in class. Lecturers who skip their classes are sanctioned by the registry or the vice chancellor himself. In public universities, lecturers that skip classes are not sanctioned because some of the professors are ‘bigger’ than the vice chancellor. Some will even go to classes a few times throughout the semester.
Several members of the National Universities Commission accreditation teams have confessed that facilities met on the ground in some private universities are either not available in public universities or are moribund.
At this juncture, the number of first-class graduates in private universities is a product of huge investments, quality control, and adequate supervision of human and material resources by managers of private universities. Whoever is in doubt of these facts may crosscheck with frontline private universities.