They are worried that while most of the fake higher institutions were detected and sanctioned alongside their promoters by the regulatory agencies, an increasing number of them still offer courses including online programmes and get to award false degrees, diplomas and certificates.
About 66 false degree-awarding institutions identified to be operating in different areas, have since been closed. Again, 68 fake polytechnics, monotechnics and specialised technical and vocational institutions as well as an undisclosed number of colleges of education have suffered same fate.
The minister of education Malam Adamu Adamu, also disclosed at a media conference that the continuous proliferation of illegal universities, colleges of education and polytechnics masquerading with all sorts of affiliations, had become a source of embarrassment to the government and promised new measures to crackdown on them.
He identified a number of factors to be responsible for the explosion of illegal institutions including the fact that illegal providers were mainly driven by greed to make quick money, without any desire to comply with the required, prescribed regulations.
According to Adamu, the carrying capacity of existing NUC-recognised universities has not matched the number of qualified candidates which led to the inability of a large pool of qualified candidates to gain admission annually. He observed that such unsuccessful candidates were easily attracted to the fake institutions.
“The federal government, through the National Universities Commission (NUC), has increased access to university education through the increase in the number of licenses granted to establish universities from the initial three in 1999 to the present 165 in 2019,” he said.
He said fake higher institutions, particularly universities, thrive because they have no set standards for entry requirements while the non-existence of specific sanctions for operating illegal tertiary institutions had also contributed to the escalation in the phenomenon of illegal providers of tertiary education.
The minister said all regulatory agencies in the public education sector, namely, the NUC, National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), and the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), had been directed to work with relevant security agencies to ‘immediately crackdown hard’ on all illegal tertiary institutions within their jurisdictions while promoters of such institutions should be apprehended and prosecuted.
A professor of education in the University of Ibadan, and former executive secretary of National Commission for Nomadic Education (NCNE), Rashid Aderinoye, said although regulatory agencies had tried hard to put a stop to illegal higher institutions, increased public awareness campaign and mass education could help parents and students realise the risk of patronising such institutions.
According to him, lack of adequate spaces to accommodate teeming admission seekers every year had made a number of them to resort to illegal institutions which do not observe any standard admission criteria. “Conventional universities need to expand to be able to accommodate more applicants,” he said.
He also said incessant strikes by lecturers had, to some extent, discouraged many applicants from seeking admission into public universities and, in the long run, risk going to unapproved private institutions.
A lecturer with the Federal College of Education, Zaria, Dr. Ahmed Bello, said that, regardless of the fact that unapproved colleges more often than not, fell short on standards of education, their promoters consider them as profit-boosting ventures, adding that regulators must adhere to effective guiding principles in the establishment and running of colleges.
He said regulators must be empowered to be effective, such that the interest of students and stakeholders is protected and the reputation of higher education is safeguarded. He further suggested that universities, colleges and other higher institutions should introduce remedial programmes for thousands of candidates who are unable to gain admission, rather than leaving them defenseless or at the mercy of illegal schools.