Private or Public Universities – Which is Better?

Private or Public Universities – Which Is Better?
I was doing a research recently on private universities in Nigeria, and I was surprised that there are currently over 100 private universities in Nigeria!

I can remember a time (not too long ago) when there were only a handful of private universities in Nigeria. In fact, many people needed a lot of convincing to opt for a private university. The story is slightly different now.

Many students these days choose private universities when making a choice of institution. However, others believe that public universities still churn out better-quality graduates!

Sure, I agree that private universities have benefits like the absence of strikes and easy access to lecturers, but are they really better, especially in the quality of graduates?

How do public and private universities compare with each other?

Image of university undergraduates
University undergraduates

Let’s do some comparisons below and see how they perform.

  •  Funding

The major difference between private and public universities is in how they are funded. Public schools are funded by the Government, while private schools are funded by individuals and organizations.

Unfortunately, most Government funded universities have fallen into varying stages of decadence – with the government falling behind on funding. On the other hand, private schools seem to be better funded, which somewhat affects the quality of education there

Verdict: Private Universities Win This

  • Tuition

Funding affects tuition. And since private universities are privately funded, they are obviously more expensive. Tuition in private universities is approximately 9-10 times higher than it is at a public university.

Some people even attest that the tuition can build a comfortable 1-bedroom apartment!
This makes them inaccessible to lower-class families (except if they get a scholarship).

Verdict: Public Universities Win This

  • Prestige

Just the word “private” gives the impression of exceptionalism and prestige. Private is exclusive, and it’s not for everyone.

Students in private universities carry a sense of being in a better situation than their public counterparts.Is this really an advantage? Some people think so.

Verdict: Private Universities Win This

  •  Strike Action

Except you live under the rock, you must have heard of the numerous strike actions by academic and non-academic staff of public universities.
Academic staff go on strike so frequently that a four-year course ends up lasting for 6 years (that is if you are lucky).

It was in the wake of these issues (which seemed to defy all solutions) that parents started seeking better alternatives – fueling the private universities ‘business’. So far, I have not heard of any academic staff strike in a private university.

Verdict: Private Universities Win This

  • Ease Of Getting Admission

Try getting into any of the ‘ivy league’ public universities (Like UI, Unilag or Ife) to read a good course, and you will realize that you have to pass Jamb very well!

Private universities, on the other hand, have admission options that automatically accept students to read certain courses! They have made getting into the university so easy that the rigor required to get into a public school is being looked down on.

Verdict: Public Universities Win This.

  • Lecturer/Student Relationship

Students in private universities generally build stronger, more personal relationships with their lecturers as there are avenues designed to increase communication and dialogue between them.

This generally does not happen in public universities. Lecturers in private schools seem to owe the students the duty to be available to them, unlike in public schools. This increase in communication may lead to a better learning environment

Verdict: Private Universities Win This.

  • Developing Independence and Street Wisdom

Public universities expose students to the real world in terms of the hustle and bustle of everyday life, unlike private universities that consist of semi–spoilt children who are literally spoon-fed.

They are so pampered (I hear some schools even do their laundry for them) that they may find it difficult to blend into the real world when they graduate.
Some might argue this point, claiming that they need time to study, etc., but what sort of backbone would they be developing being treated this way? These are undergraduates who should be growing into adulthood!

The rules in some private universities are so ‘childish’ that it underscores the joy and essence of being in a University. This is the stage in their lives where they need to become very independent as they transition to adulthood.

Verdict: Public Universities Win This.

  • Curriculum and exams

The curriculum of private universities may not be as rigorous or difficult as that of public universities. And to make matters even worse, there are rumours that lecturers in some of the ‘well known’ private universities have been given the mandate to ensure all their students pass. What is the incentive for the students to study?

If you were such a lecturer, what would you do? Little wonder there is a flurry of first-class graduates from these universities!

No such sentiments exist in public universities – lecturers have no qualms about failing you if you don’t sit up. That is why students who desire first-class and second-upper in public universities go through so many rigours to study. No wonder they are usually preferred by some employers.

Verdict: Public Universities Win This.

  • Size and Degree Offerings

Another difference between private and public universities is their size and the number of degrees they typically offer. Private colleges tend to be smaller than public universities and may not offer the full range of available courses.

Students who want a wider choice of courses can only find them at public universities. In public universities, undergraduates will be enrolled in academic programs ranging from traditional liberal arts to highly specialized professional courses (like Medicine and Engineering).  Some private universities may not be equipped enough to offer Medicine or Engineering courses

Verdict: Public Universities Win This

  •  Learning Conditions

The class size of public universities is a real problem.  At public universities, the lecture rooms are small and do not accommodate the number of students admitted. There are many students that even spill outside the lecture hall, with students sitting on the floor, on window frames and even on the lecturer’s table! How easy can it be to learn under these conditions?

Students here have to work exceptionally hard to succeed. Some lecturers do not even attend class (with no consequences), and even those that show up may not have much to offer – they are mostly interested in selling their handouts! Students in private universities are hardly faced with issues like these.

Verdict: Private Universities Win This

So, public or private university – which will it be?


You need to consider every factor in making a decision. Identify your goals, course of study, costs, culture, and environment before choosing between a public and private university.

Note that whether you go public or private, your chances in the job market are basically the same (though I hear some employers still prefer graduates from public universities). So whether you have spent millions or thousands of Naira getting educated may not matter in the job market!

Private or public, a lot depends on the individual and on how willing they are to get a quality education.
Or don’t you agree?

Tell us your opinion in the comment box below.

    1. Weight your choice from the above comparison even though some points may not be valid. During my school days, I was offered admission into a private college. I had to visit the school to find out what their activities looks like and then I found out the school authorities were less concerned in caging students within the premises and one good thing I also liked was the conducive environment and lecture halls. This is a personal interest as I’m the student/worker type and wouldn’t like restrictions of any kind
      So I think you should be able to know what you want! Better still do some research on the colleges you’re interested in, that would help you choose better! Goodluck

  1. I have not been to the wall of any private school in my life. From primary to University. So personally, I will say public is the best. This is because I still got the best education despite the fact that, I paid less

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