Varsities Talk: Be Careful, Private Universities Can Fold Up:
“I can’t validate anything like that because I just came to close down the school. I’m here to close the campus down; we are closing the school in 30 days. Academic programmes have since stopped”. Pete Sith, President Saint Paul’s College, Virginia, U.S.A
According to Sahara Reporters, the College (University) where Ms Stella Oduah claimed to have attended for her Master’s Degree in Business Administration, had not only stated that: “we do not have any graduate programmes at all”, exposing the fraudulent claim, but it has disclosed that the school was closing down due to “financial reasons”.
The College was founded in 1888 – one of several universities established by various Christian denominations for the education of kids born into those faiths. The most widespread were Catholic colleges. As populations grew and the people became more wealthy, on the aggregate, it was assumed that college enrollment would also increase for ever. In fact, the baby boom, which occurred after the Second World War, encouraged the expansion of many universities.
Nobody foresaw the break that would come as the generations which would follow started practicing birth control and having fewer babies. Today, some American universities are experiencing a scarcity of students and a few, like St Paul’s College are closing down. There is a lesson for Nigerians in this development. The next series of articles might as well be titled THE VULNERABILITY OF PRIVATE UNIVERSITIES, and it will still be correct; because, the sustainability of Nigerian private universities is more suspect than most people realize.
It is a matter of money and control. We start with fate-based universities and the sustainability problems which they pose. The Federal Ministry of Education through the National University Commission, NUC, had eagerly accredited private universities merely by assessing the individuals or groups promoting them at the moment and without asking if their successors will be able to carry on for – ten, twenty, fifty, hundred years from now.
St Paul’s has only served to remind us that universities, like all things established by people, actually die. Some sooner than expected.
Below is the list of the few Nigerian private universities which had been established by religious groups – Christians and Muslims in alphabetical order:
2. Ajayi Crowther
5. Benson Idahosa
9. Joseph Ayo Babalola
There might be one or two missing from the list, but, that would not invalidate the points being made here.
About two weeks ago, writing on the Business pages of the VANGUARD, under the title THE INHERITORS: WHY NIGERIA’S ONE MAN BUSINESSES DON’T LAST, the point had been made that the spirit of the founder of a great business empire had not been demonstrated to be inheritable by his successors. No big Nigerian business had survived beyond the founder. The series is still on.
Unfortunately, when we examine the history of most religious bodies established by Nigerians, using Christian churches as examples, we can easily observe a unique trend which might pose dangers to the fate-based universities in Nigeria. Two churches will be sufficient to illustrate the point – the Cherubim and Seraphim Churches and the Christ Apostolic Church.
There are, at least, twenty separate groups laying claim to the name Cherubim and Seraphim; yet all started from the church established by Mose Orimolade. The Christ Apostolic Church is once again going through the motions for “reconciliation”. There are now over twelve bodies to be reconciled. But, the Christ Apostolic Church started with Joseph Ayo Babalola.
Fortunately for the C&S churches, Mose Orimolade died before the arrival of private universities. The same can be said of the Celestial Church of Christ under Oshoffa and the Aladurra Church under Ositelu. But, virtually all these churches broke up into splinter groups after the founder.