The establishment of private higher education in Nigeria is traced to the colonial era. It was the Christian missionaries who introduced private education to Nigeria for various reasons which include religious and educational reasons. In the past two decades, there have been need to widen the access to higher education in Nigeria, and in the bid to achieve this, private universities were introduced. As education keeps advancing, people keep discovering its benefits, and the need for employable workforce in all sectors of the economy keeps being an issue of much concern; these have triggered the introduction and increase of private universities in Nigeria (Sawyer, 2004; Effah, 2003).

Higher education in Nigeria comprises Universities, polytechnics, institutions of technology, colleges of education that form part of, or are affiliated to, Universities and polytechnic colleges, and professional, specialized institutions (IAU, 2000). These Universities could either be Federal, state or private Universities.

Many countries in the world have adopted privatization in most sectors of the economy, including the education sector. Privatization of the education sector has been embraced by many African countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia (Uwakwe et al., 2008). Considering what is happening in the global economy, the policy of privatization has been accepted by the Nigerian government in order to assist in the distribution of resources and this is applicable in the education sector; that is why we have crèche, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions being owned by private individuals.

The establishment of private institutions into Nigerian higher education is traced to 1979 during the civilian government era, when education was classified in the concurrent legislative list between the federal and state government; meaning that both governments have the power to establish, fund and manage universities. However, Imo Technical University was established by Ukaegbu, which this move was questioned in court by the government in power, but the ruling by the Supreme Court led to the emergence of twenty-six private universities in six months:

  • National College of Advanced Studies, Aba, Imo State.
  • Theological College sponsored by the Christian Association of Nigeria.
  • Afro American University, Orogun, Bendel (now Edo) State.
  • Ekpoma University, Illeh, Ekpoma (now Edo State University, Ekpoma, Edo State).
  • Uzoma University, Ajowa Akoko, Ondo State.
  • Pope John Paul University, Aba, Imo State.
  • Ogodogu International University, Abuja.
  • University of Akokwa Ideato, Imo State.
  • University Courses College, Port Harcourt, Rivers State Ajoni Middle Belt University, Ibadan, Oyo State.
  • Afendomifok University, Ikot-Ekpene, Cross Rivers State.
  • World University, Owerri, Imo State.
  • Institute of Open Cast Mining and Technology, Auchi, Bendel (now Edo State).
  • Imo Technical University, Owerri, Imo State.
  • Akoko Christian University, Akungba Akoko, Ondo State.
  • Open University College, Kaduna, Kaduna State.
  • Laity School of African Thought, Nembe, Rivers State.
  • Feyson University, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State.
  • Epe Graduate Teachers University, Epe, Lagos State.
  • Ezena University, Owerri, Imo State.
  • Trinity University, Awo, Omamma, Oru, Imo State.
  • West African University, Ikwerre, Imo State.
  • Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Onitsha, Anambra State.
  • God’s University, Umuezena, Ojoto, Anambra State.
  • Technical University of Afa, Imo State.
  • Islamic University of Nigeria, Alabata, Ogun State (National Universities Commission, 1987).


During this period, the state of Nigerian education even with the advent of these private universities did not really improve the quality of education, as a result of this; the military government abolished these private universities and approved the establishment of new ones through Decree 19 of 1984. In line with actions to resuscitate private higher education, alongside problems associated with admission into the higher institution, the Federal government revoked Decree 19 of 1984 which paved way for the re-emergence of private universities- establishment of three private universities (Babcock at Ilishan Remo in Ogun State; Madonna in Okija, Anambra State, and Igbinedion in Okada, Edo State) in 1999. Since then, private universities have continued to grow in quantity, as at March 2009, there were thirty four (34) approved private universities in Nigeria (National Universities Commission, 2009).

Due to this tremendous growth in the higher education of Nigeria, many were of the opinion that this will contribute to both long and short term development of the economy (Adewale, 2007).

However, the results achieved after the establishments of these private universities have actually called for concern considering its future implications. The issues related to the survival of private universities in Nigeria include competition, profitability, workplace motivation, technology, etc. the challenges include funding, accreditation of school/departments, location, government policy and trained personnel (Oginni, 2011).

These are the aspects of private higher education that this study seeks to take a critical examination of.






Due to the fact that many students are seeking for admission, yet not admitted by the available public institutions; this led to the establishment of private higher institutions. Notwithstanding that private higher institutions solved admission problem, it still did not improve the state of Nigeria’s education.

There are still problems experienced by private higher education that hinders the improvement of the education system of Nigeria, development of human capital and sustainable development of the economy. The problems are:

  • Lack of adequate teaching and learning equipment (projectors, computers, textbooks, etc.)
  • Problems with accrediting bodies
  • Lack of adequate finances needed for growth
  • Inadequate infrastructure (lecture halls, residence halls, offices, etc.)

These are the problems private institutions still encounter, and this study seeks to recommend solutions to.




1.3   OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY                          

        The major objective of this study is to examine the evolution of private higher education in Nigeria: key issues and challenges.

                Other specific objectives include:

1.To investigate the significant relationship between the rate of students’ admission and private higher education in Nigeria.

2.To examine the relationship between private higher education and Nigeria’s quality of education.

3.To examine if the evolution of private higher education contributes to the increase of sustainable development of the economy.

4.To recommend solutions to the challenges of private higher education in Nigeria.

1.4   RESEARCH QUESTIONS                                                        

The following research questions are generated to guide this study:

  1. What is the significant relationship between the rate of students’ admission and private higher education in Nigeria?
  2. What is the relationship between private higher education and Nigeria’s quality of education?
  3. Does the evolution of private higher education contribute to the increase of sustainable development of the economy?
  4. What are the solutions to the challenges of private higher education in Nigeria?


H0:   Evolution of private higher education does not contribute to the increase of sustainable development of the economy.

H1:   Evolution of private higher education contributes to the increase of sustainable development of the economy.




This study is meant to inform, educate, sensitize and enlighten the general public, universities’ administrators, and government on the evolution of private higher education in Nigeria, their key issues and challenges.

This study aims at informing parents and particularly students on what led to the advent of private universities.

On the part of universities’ administrators, especially private universities, this study serves as a reminder to them to tackle the challenges they face in the administration of the school.

For the government, there is need for them to address the problems associated with admitting students, even as the private universities’ fees are exorbitant. Admissions should be based on merit, and not people buying their ways into the university.  

This study will be of immense benefit to other researchers who intend to know more on this topic and can also be used by non-researchers to build more on their work. This study contributes to knowledge and could serve as a guide for other work or study.




This study is restricted to the evolution of private higher education in Nigeria: key issues and challenges.


Limitations of study

  1. 1.        Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
  2. 2.        Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.





EVOLUTION: The process by which different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the earth.

PRIVATE HIGHER EDUCATION: Private University refers to any type of university which is outside the public university education system (non-public, non-government, quasi-public, etc).

KEY ISSUES: The highest-priority problems that are affecting a business, or the problems which are creating the largest negative impact.

CHALLENGE: Is something new and difficult which requires great effort and determination.


Sawyer, H. (2004). Challenges Facing African Universities. Available at Retrieved on June 23, 2011.


Oginni, B.O (2011): A study of employee retention strategies and Organisational survival in Private Universities in Southwestern, Nigeria (unpublished M.phil research thesis).


Effah, P. (2003). In D. Teferra & P.G. Altbach (Eds.), African Higher Education: An International Reference Handbook. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Retrieved on June 27,2011., (Sep

tember 25, 2008). Retrieved on June 27, 2011.


International Association of Universities (IAU) (2000). Nigeria education system. Data for academic year: 2000-2001.


Ajayi, T. and Alani R. A. (1986). A study on lost Recovery in Nigeria university education: issues of quality, access and equity. Financial Report Accra. Association of African universities (AAU).


Uwakwe BU, Faloye AO, Emunemu BO, Adelore O (2008).

Impact of Decentralisation and Privatisation on the Quality of Education in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Nigerian Experience. Eur. J. Soc. Sci. 7(1):160-170.


National Universities Commission (1987). 25 years of centralized universities education in Nigeria. Lagos, Nigeria:

Federal Government Press.


National Universities Commission (2009). Monday Bulletin. 20th July.

Adewale, O.O (2007): Higher Education in Nigeria; Private or Public, Journal of Nigeria institute of Management, vol. 45(5), 23-29.

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