Public vs Private Universities in Nigeria

Published on: July 20, 2021 (Updated on: April 22, 2024)

Public vs private Universities
Public vs Private Universities in Nigeria

This post is a comparative evaluation of public vs private universities in Nigeria. Many prospective university students in Nigeria wonder if public universities are better than private universities or the other way around. Just as there are several public universities in Nigeria, there are also numerous options for private universities. There are so many options that it can be very overwhelming for students. There was a time when there were a handful of private universities in Nigeria. As a result, many opted for their public counterparts.

Public vs private universities in Nigeria is a frequent moot point. It took a lot of convincing back in the day for students to attend private universities. As of 2020, 79 private universities exist in Nigeria, and most appeal more to students than public ones. However, choosing a university to attend should not just be based on sentiments or even mere statistics. Since the real comparison appears to be between public and private universities in Nigeria, some factors should be considered.

The main difference between public and private universities in Nigeria

Public universities in NigeriaPrivate universities in Nigeria
A public university is one that is in state ownership and receives significant public funds through the government of Nigeria.A private university on the other hand, is one that operates as an educational non-profit organization. It is not funded by the government of Nigeria. However, it could also be partially funded by endowments that are given by private donors. In fact, funding is the first distinction between public and private universities in Nigeria.

Public vs Private Universities in Nigeria

Public vs private universities in Nigeria

Choice of courses

There is a significant difference in the number of courses offered by private universities compared to their public counterparts. Private universities tend to be smaller than public ones and may not offer the full range of available courses. Consequently, students who want a wider choice of courses can only find them at public universities.

Curricula, examinations and marking schemes

The curricula, examinations, and marking schemes of private universities are not as rigorous as that of their public counterparts. While lecturers in private universities often ensure that all students pass, their counterparts in public universities sometimes intentionally fail students. A lecturer said “In this university, A is for God, B is for the VC and C is for me. You can share the remaining grades amongst yourselves.” When I heard that, I knew I had to buckle up. In fact, it is commonly said of public universities that ‘they are not for the weak’.


In most public universities, students are free to do most things as they wish. This includes attending classes, hairdo, mode of dressing, mode of communication, and many others. Although this is viewed as ‘freedom’, it usually results in indiscipline as most students are given unnecessary free rein. Private universities on the other hand are very strict and disciplined. In most private universities, students cannot dress indecently or make weird hairdos.

They have to take permission before leaving the university premises and sometimes, certain gadgets are not allowed into the school. For private universities affiliated with religious bodies, students must attend services at the stipulated place of worship. This usually leads to the naming of such universities as ‘glorified secondary schools’.

Ease of getting admission into public vs private universities in Nigeria

After going through the rigours of WAEC and NECO, aspiring university students still have exams to pass. To read a good course in a Nigerian ‘ivy league’ public university, students have to make good grades in JAMB. Next in line is the Post-UTME which students also have to pass. Fortunately, competition for admission into private universities in Nigeria is not as high when compared to public universities.


As earlier stated, funding is the first difference between a public and private university. Public universities are funded by the government as opposed to private ones which are funded by private organizations. Universities generally need funding to cover the economic costs of running them. This means universities with adequate funding will run well. Therefore, any university, be it public or private without adequate funding might be incapable of offering much to its students.

Unfortunately, for most public universities, the government has fallen behind on funding. This has resulted in a lack of infrastructure and the faulty running of most public universities. Private universities fortunately are better funded thereby influencing the quality of education they offer positively.


Public universities expose students to the real world in terms of the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Private universities meanwhile pamper their students such that they find it difficult to blend into the real world after graduation. Sometimes, they do their laundry for them and most private universities generally cater for the feeding of the students. Some argue this claiming that students need time to study but the fact remains that such is just not feasible.

Learning conditions

It is not uncommon to see students outside the lecture hall craning their necks to see and hear the lecturer. Sometimes, the lecturers do not even attend class with no consequences. Some of those who even attend may not have much to offer. Worse still, they could be more interested in selling their handouts. Students in private universities are hardly faced with issues like these.

Strike actions

It is not uncommon for academic and non-academic staff of public universities to embark on numerous strike actions. They do this in order to make demands of the government that will benefit them. Unfortunately, this affects the academic calendar of the students. Academic and non-academic staff go on strike so frequently that a 4-year course ends up lasting for 6 years. So far, such does not exist in private universities and that alone has won over the favour of so many students.

Tuition payments in public vs private universities in Nigeria

Tuition payments are fees charged by educational institutions for instruction and other services. The tuition payments in private universities are higher than that of public universities. This makes private universities inaccessible to students from lower-class families except they get a scholarship. Why is this so? Funding affects tuition and the lower the funding, the higher the tuition payments. With the rise in an economic recession, however, the budget for education by the government has been reduced.

This has led to an increase in tuition payments in public universities. For private universities, the case is slightly different. Although they are better funded, they still have high tuition payments. Unlike public universities that receive funding from the government, private universities support themselves solely through tuition payments and donations. Without it, they cannot be run and that is why their tuition payments are higher.

Undoubtedly, students in public universities have to work hard to succeed while their private counterparts may not work so hard. Chances in the job market are still the same whether an individual attends a public or private university. However, some employers prefer graduates from public universities. In conclusion, attending public or private universities depends on individuals and how willing they are to get a quality education.

You may also be interested in schools with the fastest master's programmes in Nigeria.