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Private varsities in massive enrollment drive



Glorious Vision University students

…woo parents, students with lower fees, other incentives

Private universities in Nigeria are wooing college qualified students and their parents/guardians with mouth-watering incentives to join their institutions in a desperate bid to increase enrollment, Business Hallmark can report.

Some of the incentives offered to middle-income parents, who are attracted to less costly public institutions while looking for admission for their wards include tuition discounts, setting up of satellite campuses close to big cities, flexible tuition payment, scholarships, loan programs, relaxation of rigid rules, among many others.

It would be recalled that private universities had become the toast of many Nigerian wealthy and middle-income parents and guardians bothered by the falling standard and instability of education in public universities, which is worsened by the constant strikes embarked upon by members of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU).

Expectedly, most parents with the belief that private universities are better than public varsities have been enrolling their wards in private institutions to the delight of their managements and proprietors, who had been smiling to the banks.

However, owing to several factors, including the fall in income and purchasing powers of many Nigerians, as well as the proliferation of private universities across the nation, the party seems to have come to an end for the institutions and their owners.

According to the latest data on registered private universities operating in the country obtained by our correspondent from National Universities Commission (NUC), there are 264 universities presently licensed to operate in the country.

Out of the figure, public universities account for 115 (52 federal and 63 state), while the private sector owns the remaining 149.

Despite the fact that the private sector has more universities than the Federal and states governments put together, available data suggests that the population of students in private institutions is abysmally low, compared to that of public colleges.

In March 2023, the acting Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Chris Maiyaki, shocked the nation when he disclosed than only 10 per cent of the two million students in Nigerian universities are enrolled in private universities. The figure translates to roughly 200,000 students spread across 149 private universities, raising questions about the sustainability and effectiveness of these institutions.

While lamenting the under-enrollment rate in private universities, which he described as a concerning trend, the NUC boss called on the institutions to adapt their offerings to the evolving needs of students and the job market.

“The 149 private universities in the country are under subscribed. There are over two million students in Nigerian universities and only 10 per cent of the two million are in private universities”.

Maiyaki blamed the low enrollment rates to several factors, namely: higher costs compared to public institutions; the location of some universities in less accessible areas, making them less appealing to students and their parents, as well as inadequate curriculum and academic reputation.

The NUC boss warned that the future of private universities in Nigeria are uncertain unless they effect curriculum reforms.

“These institutions need to adapt and innovate to compete effectively with public universities and attract a larger share of the student population”, he implored.

Owing to these highlighted challenges, private universities owners are now competing among themselves for the ever reducing numbers of admission seekers with the introduction of enticing offers. One of the universities, Glorious Vision University (GVU), Ogwa, Edo State, owned by The Apostolic Church Nigeria (TACN), recently set up another branch of the GVU in Lagos in an obvious capitulation to the demands of her members, who had been complaining over the siting of the institution.


According to BH findings, the leadership of the church had in October 2023, established another branch of the GVU at The Apostolic Church Grammar School, Orishigun, Ketu, Lagos, one of the mission schools taken over by the military government in the 70s, but later returned to the church by the administration of former Governor Bola Tinubu in 2001.

The move to site a branch of the university in Lagos, a National Executive Committee (NEC) of the church told our correspondent, is to encourage some members of the church, who complained bitterly about the location of the main campus in far away Ogwa in Edo State, to start enrolling their wards in GVU.

“You are quite aware that the university (GVU) has really suffered because of the uninformed choice of Ogwa as site by the church leadership.

“Apart from starting with unattractive courses in arts, humanities and management, the location of the college is too far away from those that can afford it.

“To go by road is stressful and hazardous. It takes a whole day to get to the school from Lagos or Ogun State. There are several instances, where our students were attacked on the notorious roads leading to the school.

“As a result, several safety conscious parents desirous of good education for the children prefer to send them to nearby universities like Redeemers University in Ede, Osun State; Babcock, Mountain Top, The Bells and Covenant, all in Ogun State, as well as other nearby universities in the South West.

“We warned the leadership of the church then on the choice of Ogwa, but we were overruled. Now, that decision has come back to hunt them.

“However, the decision to locate a campus in Lagos, I believe, will transform the fortune of the university”, said the NEC member.

Apart from siting a branch of the university in Lagos, the management of the university has also introduced competitive and sought-after courses like computer science and nursing in order to attract more students.

A parent, who is a member of the church while speaking to our correspondent on the matter on the condition of anonymity, said he decided to send his children to Landmark and Covenant Universities in Kwara and Ogun States.

“Why will I send my wards to a place as far as Ogwa to study history, philosophy, mass communications or public administration, when I can easily get them the same courses in nearby schools.

“The cost of transportation alone to study these almost useless courses in today’s world, not to talk of the risks on the road, will dissuade you from taking that option.

“I thank God that common sense is coming back to the leaders of the church”, said the elated church member.

The management of other private universities, BH findings revealed, are also offering several incentives to eligible students. Checks show that universities like Mcpherson owned by Foursquare Church, Anchor by Deeper Life Bible Church and Redeemers (RUN) by the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) all offer flexible and convenient fee structures, where admitted students can pay their tuitions multiple times.

For instance, students of Redeemers University (RUN) have the opportunity of paying in three (3) instalments, 40% on resumption, 30% before the start of first semester examinations and the balance on resumption of 2nd semester.

Mcpherson on the other hand, has four payment options (full payment; two instalments; three installments and four instalments.


The four instalments option made it possible for students to make first payment of 40% of the total fees at resumption, 30% before first semester examinations; 20% on resumption of second semester and 10% before the commencement of 2nd semester examinations.

Also, the school in 2023, reviewed downwards the tuition paid by students studying some courses in the faculties of arts, humanities and social sciences. Some students of the institution, who spoke to BH on the institution’s flexible payment structure described it as a welcome development.

According to a student of the university, who resumed at its Sekiki Sotayo, Ajebo campus on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in January 2024 to study computer science, Tolulope Ijaduade, it would have been difficult for her patents to afford her fees if not for the incentives.

“My father is a civil servant earning about N3 million annually, while my mother supports him with by engaging in petty trading.

“With my two other siblings to cater to, it would have been impossible for them (parents) to cope without the flexible payment schedule, where we pay as little as N245,000, N170,000 and N60,000 like ajo (contribution). And even with that, it has been quite difficult for my parents.

“You can then imagine how difficult it would have been if we are made to cough out over N1.5million at a go”, Ijaduade explained.

Apart from establishing more accessible campuses in main towns/cities and introducing flexible fees, universities, especially mission-owned ones, are also wooing students by relaxing some of their rigid rules.

Our correspondent, who visited three institutions, Babcock University, Mountain Top and Covenant University last week, observed that tough and rigid rules that were enforced before now have been relaxed.

For instance, some female students of Mountain Top University were seen in pants (trousers) unlike before when it was frowned at. Several others were seeing decked in jewellery like earnings, neck chains and bracelets.

“A staffer of the institution told our correspondent that the students seen adorning ornaments like earnings are not members of Mountain of Fire and Miracle Church (MFM).

“By their seeds you shall know them. I don’t think any true MFM member will be interested in the indulgence you noticed.

“The leadership of the church and school, I believe, are looking the other way in order not to chase away students, especially, those from other denominations from the institution”, the worker stated while trying to explain away the indulgence.

Other private universities, it was reliably gathered, have introduced one form of scholarship or the other, as well as student loans to some of their students, particularly church members, to be repaid at an agreed date.

The students drive, experts in the education industry argued, will no doubt, help the institutions to attract more enrollment.

“No doubt, these (incentives) will surely help to boost the student population of private schools. My only fear is that the expected growth will be minimal because of economic challenges in the nation.

“If the economic trends continues, there may be more contraction in students admission. What this means is that while the population of students seeking admission in private varsities will remain the same or even decline, institutions with better conditions will start poaching students from established ones”, said Dr. Chinyere Agu, CEO of Minders Institute, Lagos.

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