Reactions recently have followed the number of first-class graduates produced at the convocation ceremony of one of the most prominent private universities in the country. This is not the first time. Various stakeholders unfamiliar with how private colleges work have labeled the 12.28 percent first-class recorded by that private college as “cheap grades.”
This article aims to educate “Unbelieving Thomas” with such an erroneous notion that their presumption is not correct given the following verifiable facts about private higher education institutions.
Private universities are not cheap. They come with their price tags and value for what parents pay. Parents and guardians are paying for quality education at private universities, which is in fact vanishing at public universities, as some of our renowned professors and other academics are now enrolling their wards at private universities, having performed their comparative analyses.
The teacher-student ratio at most private universities is less than 1:30 for courses in law, arts, administration, management, and social sciences. For the sciences, the teacher-student ratio ranges from 1:10 to 1:15 compared to public universities where the ratios are much higher. Imagine a situation where a professor at a public university has to deal with about 850 students or more compared to her contemporaries at a private university teaching a class of 50 students or fewer. The latter will be more effective in teaching, tutoring, evaluation, correction and grading. The first one has been loaded with too many students. Often such a teacher hands students’ test scripts over to less experienced hands for correction and grading.
At private universities, students have 24-hour access to internet services for their research, homework, and other academic activities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, private universities were teaching their students online because they had the right facilities to serve their students. Some of them also went further and carried out their registration and convocation ceremony online, as required internationally. By contrast, public universities were crippled and stagnant, giving their students excuses for lack of performance.
Private universities do not go on strike. Never! That is why its academic calendar is precise and uninterrupted. Therefore, a seriously dedicated student who applied for a 5-year course would dedicate exactly five sessions and graduate in record time. This is not the case at our public universities where a student who enrolled in a 4 year program would end up spending seven to eight years due to the prolonged strikes by the Universities Academic Staff Union. How can we expect many first-class graduates when the educational psyche of students has been damaged by years of unresolved strikes?
Professors at private universities are encouraged to be courteous to their students. Many of them have emotional intelligence in their tutoring and are highly interactive in their lectures compared to many public university professors who have sadistic tendencies to forever deflate their students. It is at public universities that students experience statements from professors like, “No one gets an A in my course, only the very bright students get a B.” Any professor caught with this act of arrogant cruelty at a private university is shown the way out of the system. In private universities, students can send their assignments to their professors through emails and other Internet channels when the need arises. They can chat with their teachers about their projects and take their corrections at the agreed times. Professors at public universities see this as an insult to their students and use it as a delay tactic.
It is good to emphasize here that private universities invest a lot in current books for their students. The latest books are available in its departmental libraries and major universities. Those who care to know may be surprised that most of the students in private universities are being empowered with modern and current books/facilities in their e-library resources where various subscriptions for Proquest, LexisNexis, Law Pavilion, Research4Life comprising of Hinari, Agora, ARDI, OARE, Goalie and many others are made annually in millions of Naira unlike most public university professors who rely on their old notes and textbooks. It has been proven that some public university professors use the same material to teach the same course for years.
At private universities, students have access to their department heads, deans, and even their vice chancellors, who call them in when they have complaints or challenges, and resolve these issues accordingly. In fact, most of these interactions between management and students are treated as feedback to help improve the services of private universities. Most private university students live on campus. Thus, they have dorms conducive to refreshing your brain after lectures. They also enjoy the abundant supply of water, as well as an uninterrupted supply. Wifi in their apartments which makes life easier for them. Clearly these are not available in Nigerian public universities.
In private universities, professors are encouraged to review everything they have taught during the semester before the exam. Most public university professors will not review due to their arrogance and assumption that students are not to be pampered.
In private universities there is quality control. All teachers are supervised by the Department of Academic Planning on the method, duration and quality of the lectures. So, there is no room for absenteeism in class. Teachers who miss their classes are penalized by the registry or by the vice-rector himself. In public universities, professors who miss classes are not penalized because some of the professors are ‘greater’ than the vice-chancellor. Some will even go to class a few times during the semester.
Several members of the accreditation teams of the National Commission of Universities have confessed that the facilities that are on the ground in some private universities are not available in public universities or are moribund.
At this juncture, the number of first-rate graduates from private universities is the product of large investments, quality control, and proper supervision of human and material resources by managers of private universities. Whoever has doubts about these facts can check with first-line private universities.
Katib is Senior Public Relations Assistant to the Registrar, Crescent University, Abeokuta