Life of a Public University Student in Nigeria

The moment comes, when you need to enter university and get a higher education. University can be very stressful but going to a public university in Nigeria is extra stressful.

Hi, My name is Janet. I’m a student currently studying Human Anatomy in University of Calabar, Cross River State (a Federal/Public University in Nigeria) and I’ll be talking about how Public University works below.

First of all, Public University is a university that is a state ownership or receives significant public funds through a national or subnational government, as opposed to a private university.

The development of public universities in Nigeria began when Yaba Higher College became the first institution of higher learning to be established in Nigeria. Although, as at 1930 other forms of post secondary education were introduced in some government departments like the Railway and Agriculture. Within this period, nationalists were getting more vocal in their request for an institution of University rank in Nigeria (Kosemani & Okorosaye-Orubite, 1995). Consequently, the few students available at the Yaba Higher college were offered courses in Civil Engineering, Medicine, Agriculture, Survey, and teacher training for Secondary Schools, later commerce, forestry and Veterinary Science. The major objective for setting up the college was to train Africans to hold positions of responsibility whether under government or otherwise and would in effect be able to do a large portion of the work in Nigeria for which Europeans are employed to do. This is because, it was becoming expensive to foot the bill of the expatriate quota involved in the colonial administration. Hence, if the Africans take over the junior positions as administrative officers, Pharmacists, Medical Officers, etc, allowing the senior level to be occupied by Europeans, this will reduce the high expatriate wage bill. Nigerians made more agitations for a comprehensive higher education and this led to the setting up of Asquith and Elliot Commissions on Higher Education in 1943. So at last, Nigeria won and the University College was born in 1948. Entrance Examination into the college was conducted in November 1947 and on January 1948, the University College, Ibadan opened on a temporary site at Eleyele,Ibadan as an affiliate of the University of London with 104 students and 13 instructors. The remaining students of the Yaba College became the first batch of undergraduates in the new university college (Okafor,2001). The establishment of a university was long expected in West Africa and indeed Nigeria.

In April 1959, the Federal Ministry of Education appointed Ashby Commission on Post-School Certificate and Higher Education to conduct an investigation and recommend to the government among others on the needs for higher education in Nigeria. The recommendations of the commission on university education are summarized in the government White paper titled “Investment in Education” among others: To concentrate higher education in university institutions through providing degree courses suited to Nigerian needs, To increase the university population in Nigeria, All universities in Nigeria should be national in outlook and Unnecessary duplication of expensive courses should be avoided and professional qualification in commercial subjects should be gained through courses leading to degree programmes. The federal government in conjunction with the regional government and other interested organizations and individual decided to accept the recommendations in principle after careful study of the report of the commission. But the federal government made amendments mainly in respect of targets. With the recommendations, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka was formerly opened on 7th October, 1960. It became the first autonomous university in Nigeria with an American orientation. Other Federal universities established were the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Ahmadu Bello university, Zaria in 1962, University of Lagos,Lagos State in 1962, etc.

State-Owned Universities: It is noted that the first and second generation’ Universities were established and owned either by the regional or Federal Government. However, the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria transferred the University education from the exclusive list to the concurrent legislative list, meaning federal and state legislation. By this, the state were allowed to establish their own Universities if they desired. Therefore, by 2015, there were eighthy degree awarding institutions of Federal and State government. Universities in Nigeria are made up of: 43 Federal Universities, 48 State Universities and 79 Private Universities. There are 23 specialized Federal Universities as follows: 16 University of Technology, 3 Universities of Agriculture, 1 Defense Academy, 1 Open University, 1 Nigeria Police Academy and 1 University of Petroleum Resources.

People desire to study in Public University because:

•The school fees is affordable.

Public university gives one freedom: Yes, there are rules in Public university but some of these rules are not implemented. There is freedom for students who live off-campus, you can actually do what you like.

•Students can work and school too. You can have a full scale job and still be a student in Public University.

•You get to meet people of different cultures and tribes.

•It gives you your first taste of “real life”. It is in public university that hustling starts. Some students hustle to bribe those corrupt lecturers.

Now, let me tell you how I carry out my daily activities in University of Calabar, Cross River State: I wake up by 4:00-4:30am to pray and read my devotional/Bible. Then I’ll prepare food, wash cloths, bath, dress up and step out for 7:00am class. And also I do this when I’m going for Morning Church Service which is 7:00am.
If I have 8:00-8:00am lectures, I’ll wake up by 5:00-5:30am to prepare for classes. Sometimes, I trek to school and on those days, I arrive late to class. I end up meeting a class filled with students. Most times, it’s hard to hear the lecturer’s well because of unavailable/inadequate resources example microphone. Sometimes, I have to struggle to get into the lecture hall when having a compulsory subject. And then the lecture hall only has one exit and it’s poor conditioned…this is so frustrating. In my current level, I have classes from 7:00am – 2:00pm and then practicals from 2:00pm – 6:00pm. Some days, when I don’t have time or appetite to eat, I stay till the end of school to eat at home.
On Saturdays, I go for tutorials, make my hair, wash and Iron my cloths and clean my room.
On Sundays, I go to church and when I return, I read/study my school books and carry out extra-curricular activities.

Challenges facing Nigerian Public Universities

Poor Funding of Public University Education: One of the major challenges facing the management of this sector of education is inadequate funding. The budgetary allocation devoted to education has been considered to be grossly inadequate considering the phenomenon increase in students’ enrolment and increasing cost, which have been aggravated by inflation. Eventhough there appears to be increase in fund allocation to the education sector over the years, yet there is financial crisis in education (Uzoka,2007). The issue of funding university education has caused the development of the education to be stagnant and acquire degree certificates at the expense of acquiring skills that will enable them to be self-reliant. Even the meagre sum of money made available is often mismanaged. Much money is required to maintain the existing infrastructure, execute capital projects, embark on educational research and pay salaries of staff.

Curriculum Content and Delivery in the Public Universities: Curriculum is the broad programme of activities designed by the government or school in order to help achieve the general goals or objectives of education. A systematic approach should therefore be taken in order to effect a change in both the content and the context of the school curriculum. The idea of curriculum relevance in our universities is to make university education more responsive to the needs of the country, to update and modify our curriculum for relevance to both national needs and global demands. The curriculum that was brought into Nigeria, is still being used till today and is outdated!

Strike Actions of the Public Universities: It has become a known fact that students across various universities in Nigeria are constantly faced with industrial actions embarked upon by the Academic and Non-Academic Staff Unions of various institutions. The disagreement or lack of understanding between government and unions arising from non-implementation of agreement reached, often results in deadlock that usually disrupts the academic calendar. As academic activities are suspended for a long period, the students reading abilities fail. Even the previous knowledge acquired is even forgotten by some students. This mostly turns some students from certificates seekers to knowledge seekers. The perception of falling standards coupled with the escalating incidence of examination malpractices, low rate of completion of university programmes at the required time due to closures and strikes all confirm and provide bases for the fear of the public regarding the outputs of higher education and has cast serious doubts on the credibility of Nigeria’s degrees and certificates both within and outside the country (Ahunaya and Ubabudu 2006).

Decline in Quality of Research: It is important to make research the hub of university education considering the problems Nigerian universities now face. Research in higher institutions contributes to the acquisition, development and inculcation of the proper value orientation for the survival of the individual in the society. Today, this function is saddled with poor attitude of government towards research and inadequate funding of research programmes. Okafor (2001) argued along the same line when he stated the lack of funds is affecting research in the universities and that there is no indication that this problems will not continue in the future. The universities are supposed to engage in research not only to push out the frontiers of knowledge, but to solve the problems of the society.

•Issues of Autonomy and External Control: Autonomy is a principle upon which the university education system tries to maintain its operational stability and actualization of goals. When the autonomy is enthroned in the right perspective, it then facilitates academic freedom and accountability. However in 1973, universities in Nigeria started what would be called first threat letter to university autonomy. A trade dispute ensured between the governing council and university teachers in 1973 over the issues of autonomy and review of their conditions of service was thwarted by top officials of the Federal Ministry of Education. The University lecturers were ordered by General Yakubu Gowon to go back to work or face dismissal and ejection from their official residences. When key decisions are made outside the university, meritocracy is eroded and replaced with nepotism, godfatherism, lobbying and political patronage.

Lack of ICT Integration in the Universities: The concept of information and communication technology(ICT) is about the process of acquiring, processing, storing and disseminating of information by means of electronic devices. In developed countries, various kinds of technological devices have been used to improve educational system especially in research and development. It is therefore the raw material for making decision, for creating knowledge to make the society to become a global village. The automation of library and information systems and services has today become an acceptable norm being the most realistic way and means of providing timely, accurate and efficient information services. However, E-learning, E-library, E-booking,etc is most essential in our universities today (Ololube, Umunadi 2013). E-learning is an innovative technique or a form of information and communication technology used in providing learning experiences to the students online through the use of internet services and web technology of the computers (Magal and Magal 2009). However, In Public University, E-learning is very bad and their very backward in digitalized education. In 2020, during the covid-19 pandemic, some private universities were using zoom for online classes but public university mouths were sealed, not because there was ASUU strike but as a result of their incapability to practice e-learning.

Faculty Exodus/Brain Drain: Nigerian public universities are faced with rapid faculty exodus or brain drain. Some faculty members abandoned universities for other sectors of the economy where professionals and scientists receive higher salaries and greater social recognition. Odetunde(2004) commented that there was mass exodus of many brilliant lecturers to the business world and others left Nigeria for better services. Oni (2000) added saying that many experienced and young lecturers are fleeing from the frustration of university life into more rewarding and more challenging sectors of the economy and even migrate to oversea countries. The result of the faculty exodus is observed in the quality of graduates, that our universities produce.

Inadequate Infrastructural Facilities and Equipment: University infrastructure and equipment are fast decaying in terms of maintenance. All the required resources for education production process are in short supply that poses hindrance to learning and research work. A good number of Nigerian universities are offering technological education programmes. The question is how many of these universities offering computer course, do you have students graduate without touching computer? The dearth of infrastructure in the university is sucking and runs short of ideal academic environment. Today, students are learning in dilapidated buildings. Enogholase(2013) stated that students were using kerosene stoves instead of gas burners to conduct experiments. Specimens are kept in bottles instead of the appropriate places where such specimen should have been kept. The equipment used are not enough for the students. Example: If you enter Unical Hostel, you will cry. The buildings looks like it will fall any time, some part of the roof went out. Rats that look like the size of cats are seen in the hostel and the toilets/bathroom is so dirty & stinky. During the rainy season, the hostels look disgusting. Sometimes there is no water and lights for students to use and they end up trekking to far places to fetch water.

Lack of proper ventilations in lecture halls: These lecture halls are very stuffy and hot. When I was in year 1 and even in this my present year, students struggle to enter lecture hall through one door and those lecturers will just stand there and be looking at them. Some students faint in their struggle to get the front seat in lecture hall in order to hear the lecturer’s voice. Meanwhile, most lecturers don’t even come with microphone and they expect all the students in a class of more than 2000 students to hear them. A lecturer told my course representative to buy microphone and he had to rent microphone but it is still the school’s responsibility to provide microphones for lecturers use while teaching. In Gross Laboratory, there are only 3 cadavers for 3 departments (with more than 1000 students) and the laboratory is always stuffy and has a strong offensive smell.

Cultism/Insecurity and Campus Brigandage: Most of the University problems are traced to cult-related activities among our students. It has become a monster in almost all the universities in Nigeria. The Government’s efforts to eradicate cultism in these universities have not yielded any positive result. Cultism has physically,emotionally and psychologically maimed and rendered a good number of our youths useless. Without mincing words, the activities of cultists are threatening to undermine and erode the very essence of university education (Nwankwo 2016).

Political Interference in Public Universities: There has been political Interference in the establishment of universities in Nigeria. With the return of civil rule in 1999, the establishment of federal universities continued, beginning in 2002 when the Obsanjo administration resuscitated the National Open University, Lagos which was suspended in 1948. The administration also established the Federal University of Petroleum Resources (FUPRE), Effurum in 2007. The political crises that surrounded the establishment of this university in particular began to manifest, when the Yar’Adua’s regime attempted to relocate the university to Kaduna State. This attempt was met with brick walls as it was vehemently opposed by the people of the Niger Delta region through students’ protests, and threats from South-South Governors’ Forum.

Corruption: Any fund made available often go down the drain through the corrupt practices of those entrusted with the implementation of University programmes due to inadequate monitoring of university income and expenditure, such is the grim state of affairs, thus the future will need a paradigm shift. Corruption is way too much in Public universities and it is jeopardizing the future of the students.

Bribery: Students are told to bribe their lecturers in order to get good grades. We don’t see our results on time and some results are altered. When I was in year 1, I remember how I studied so hard for my physics examination. When the results came out, I saw Fail in Physics. Omo, I was so perplexed. I cried so much and even went to the extent of stigmatizing myself 😩😩😭When I finally had the courage to go to school, one of my coursemate told me, “Sorting(Bribery) is the sure way of passing”. I was speechless.

•Sex for Grades: Do you know that male lecturers most especially, tell female students to sleep with them so that they will increase their grades? Some male lecturers threaten female students to marry them and bear them children. Most of these female students have no choice but to comply and some end up as school drop-out as result of contacting STIs from these male lecturers and some die because of this! Some female students end up staying at home to take care of the children that they bear for the male lecturers instead of being in school.

Bad leaders: When bad/corrupt leaders rule Nigeria, then it automatically affect the Nigerian University System. For example: In the aspect of financing, the funds meant for public university end up being embezzled. Another example is this Buhari’s Regime. Every year in the budget, large amount of money is allocated to the Education sector but we see no positive change, things still remain in the same terrible state. Some Vice Chancellors are very corrupt!! They embezzle money at the slightest opportunity.

Possible Solutions to the challenges facing Public Universities:
For the way forward for our pubic universities, the following solutions should be applied. They include:

•Get close to God: When you have God by your side in public university, life will be easier for you. Jesus is Everything! Whatever problems you have, entrust in God and he will surely help you. Let Jesus be your number one friend and confidant 🙏🏽💕.

•There should be deliberate attempt by the governments(federal and state) to promote education through financing in order to meet UNESCO’s budgetary prescription of 26% of annual budget.

•Nigerian Public Universities should develop curriculum content that is relevant to the needs of the learners and that of the society.

•There is need for adequate utilization of funds by the universities to provide and maintain infrastructural facilities.

•There should be deliberate attempt to make research and development the centre of public university education activities.

•There is need for universities to be granted autonomy to be free from external control.

•Federal and State Governments should embark on policy of implementing ICT in the universities.

•There is need for thorough investigation in public universities. Any lecturer involved in corruption should be sacked and those lecturers involved in Sex for Grade should be jailed!

•Governments should assume the responsibility of staff welfare and better working conditions to avoid exodus of faculty or brain drain.

•There is need for collaboration of ALUMNI and partnership with banks and other non-Governmental organizations for the building of hostels and other infrastructural faculties necessary for the university’s development.

•The University authority should devise means of using adequate securities to check cult-related activities.

•Government should discourage ideas of allowing politics to determine the estsblishment and locations of Universities.

•Get your PVC ready! In 2023, we have to vote and win a good leader that will help change the terrible condition of pubic universities. And also elect a good leader as Vice Chancellor because when the leader is good; things will be good for the students and lecturers as well.


It is important to recognize the challenges faced by the Nigerian Universities today. Nigerian Universities must seek to remove the constraints that prevent them from responding to the needs of a rapidly changing society. It is unfortunate that the university education in Nigeria is a reflection of Colonial (British) education system which does not equip our graduates with practical skills of entrepreneurship. Hence, Nigeria should implement education policies that will exploit science and technology as the hub of university development.

Being a Public University student is really not easy at all. Some lecturers just purposely fail students in order to get money or sex. They derive happiness from seeing students in pains. From my experience and in my honest opinion, it’s better to go to private university because you are sure that 5 years course is 5 years course or 4 years is 4 years course and there will be no strike or unnecessary problems. If you’re coming to public university, be ready to face every challenges because Public University is evil, wicked and tough. But with God by our side, I know you and I will be able to conquer and win over every problem that comes our way. Always remember to tell God to guide you to make good and right decisions 🙏🏽. Stay Blessed! And have a lovely week ahead 🎈💕.

Source: IIAD – International Institute of Academic Research and Development.

10 thoughts on “Life of a Public University Student in Nigeria

  1. This is really really sad.a country that doesn’t care about their citizen’s future.i hope many people gets to read this..more grace huni n greater height.May God safe us 🙏🏻..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is really really sad.a country that doesn’t care about their citizen’s future.i hope many people gets to read this..more grace huni n greater height.May God safe us 🙏🏻..

    Liked by 1 person

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