Private institutions are not money-making ventures (3)

As I have extensively discussed in the previous editions, private universities are the flagship of the Nigerian education sector as the premier private universities have consistently outperformed the public universities in terms of quality education, technological advancements, infrastructures, etc. To put this contention in proper perspective, last week, I highlighted some of the accolades attributed to the Afe Babalola University which has been remarked as the ‘model, benchmark and reference point’ for university education in Nigeria. Equally, I commenced an examination of the grants and financial support given to private universities by the governments of other countries, and the rationale for such assistance, which essentially is to permit both the poor and the rich in the society to access the quality education provided by private universities. This week, I will proceed to give illustrations on the extent of government support for educational advancements in private universities over the world.

It has been estimated that there are over 5,300 colleges and universities in the United States of America, most of whom are heavily funded by the federal government, whether private or public. In addition to research funding, government funding also includes need-based grants to undergraduates awarded through the Federal Pell Grant Program. While across all universities – private and public – Pell Grant aid totalled $30.6 billion in the 2014-15 school year, being the same amount awarded as research grants for this year, these funds are much more evenly distributed across U.S. universities. I have identified some private institutions in the United States and the level of financial support they have received from the government which, no doubt, has contributed to their research and academic prowess in the comity of

  1. Yale University

Total federal funds: $480.2 million

Annual R&D expenditure: $803.0 million

2015 enrollment: 12,385

2016 endowment: $25.4 billion

The federal government transferred $480.2 million in grant and contract money to Yale University in 2015. While $3.0 million of the federal government’s obligations to Yale were in the form of Pell Grants to undergraduates, the remaining $477.1 million were grants and contracts for research and development. Yale dedicated an estimated 83% of its R&D expenditures to life sciences, a bulk of which went to medical research at the Yale School of Medicine. Yale has a history of significant accomplishments in medical research, including the identification of Lyme disease and the creation of the first insulin pump.

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Total federal funds: $491.4 million

Annual R&D expenditure: $930.7 million

2015 enrollment: 11,331

2016 endowment: $13.2 billion

MIT is one of the world’s premier research institutions, and the money the United States government grants the university each year suggests as much. The school spent $930.7 million on Research & Development in 2015, more than half of which was provided by the federal government. This institution devotes the majority of its grants to its engineering program.

  1. Harvard University

Total federal funds: $550.5 million

Annual R&D expenditure: $1.0 billion

2015 enrollment: 29,652

2016 endowment: $34.5 billion

This institution has the largest endowment of any academic institution – $34.5 billion. Harvard dedicates an estimated 9.6% of its Research & Development spending to the social sciences, heavily in the field of political science and is financed by the school’s internal funds. A majority of Harvard’s R&D expenditures are dedicated to the life sciences and are largely funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.

  1. Duke University

Total federal funds: $562.8 million

Annual R&D expenditure: $1.0 billion

2015 enrollment: 15,984

2016 endowment: $6.8 billion

Duke University received $562.8 million in federal research funding in 2015, being just over half of its total Research & Development budget, and Duke’s endowment of $6.8 billion is one of the nation’s largest. About 60% of the university’s 2015 R&D spending was in medical sciences. The university owns and operates the Duke University Health System, which includes Duke University Hospital, one of the largest and most renowned hospitals in the country. Duke Health system is one of the largest private employers in the state.

  1. Columbia University in the City of New York

Total federal funds: $599.9 million

Annual R&D expenditure: $868.2 million

2015 enrollment: 28,086

2016 endowment: $9.0 billion

Columbia University is one of four Ivy League schools receiving more than $450 million in federal funds for Research & Development. Along with state government funds, nonprofit funding, and money from the school’s own coffers, Columbia spent $868.2 million on R&D in 2015. That same year, Columbia was awarded 119 patents, ranking it among the most innovative universities in the United States of America. The majority of R&D spending at the school goes toward life sciences research and encompasses a range of pursuits, from the ecology of tick-borne illnesses to neuroscience and the study of Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. University of Pennsylvania

Total federal funds: $617.5 million

Annual R&D expenditure: $864.1 million

2015 enrollment: 24,876

2016 endowment: $10.7 billion

The University of Pennsylvania received $617.5 million in federal funding in 2015, more than any other Ivy League institution. Like most private universities in the United States of America, the vast majority of government research funding for the University of Pennsylvania comes from the Department of Health and Human Services. As part of its R&D investments, the University purchased and renovated an old industrial site, converting it into a 58,000 square foot laboratory and is intended to commercialize research discoveries.

  1. Stanford University
  • Total federal funds: $679.6 million
  • Annual R&D expenditure: $1.0 billion
  • 2015 enrollment: 16,980
  • 2016 endowment: $22.4 billion

While the federal government provides Stanford most of its Research & Development funding, private corporations provide a relatively large share of the university’s research funding. An estimated 8.8% of all Stanford R&D spending is funded by private businesses, one of the largest shares of any university. The university’s Office of Technology Licensing, through its work with Silicon Valley tech firms, has helped support Stanford’s strong relationship with private enterprise. The OTL helps students and faculty license their inventions and find business applications for their research. Stanford was awarded a total of 205 patents in 2015, the most of any academic institution other than MIT and the University of California.

  1. Johns Hopkins University

Total federal funds: $2.0 billion

Annual R&D expenditure: $2.3 billion

2015 enrollment: 22,686

2016 endowment: $3.4 billion

With $2.0 billion in federal R&D funding in 2015, Johns Hopkins University is the largest university research partner of the federal government. One of the major centers of innovation on campus is the Applied Physics Laboratory. Established in 1942, the APL has provided the Department of Defense with research in missile defense, space, and weapons systems. The DOD funds 40% of Johns Hopkins annual R&D spending, compared to the 14% average for all universities. NASA funds account for 11% of the school’s R&D expenditure, compared to the 4% average. Among the school’s many research accomplishments, Johns Hopkins was responsible for the first spacecraft to land on an asteroid and helped develop the first effective treatment for sickle cell anemia.

From the foregoing few examples, one thing is certain: there is a synergy between private universities and the government which constantly allocates and channels budgetary allowances into grants, endowment, and research and development for the universities, perhaps with the deep-seated understanding that the nation’s development is intrinsically tied to the research activities stemming from the universities. No doubt, this synergy has consistently yielded dividends which has propelled the nation forward in terms of science and technology, and the field of arts. As shown above, the research emanating from the Johns Hopkins University in the field of Applied Physics has contributed immensely to the nation’s missile defense, space, and weapons systems. Likewise, the award of many patents for innovative inventions have been attributed the researches emanating from these private, government-funded universities.

Coming back home, there is no doubt that the Federal and State governments pay little or no attention to the education sector – as often evinced in constant strikes of the lecturers of public institutions due to non-payment of salaries and other entitlements, absence of any tangible education materials or research facilities, etc. Private universities have risen to the occasion to bridge the inherent gap in the education sector by providing quality education, developing sustainable infrastructure, ensuring a predictable academic calendar, prompt payment of staff salaries, capacity building, among others, all without any help from the federal or state government.

It is then to be imagined what level of progress, particularly in the field of research, will be made if the federal government grants private institutions access to TETFund. Against the backdrop of the extensive progress already made by private universities, the inclusion of private universities in TETFund will, certainly, not only present limitless potentials in the field of research, but will equally guarantee the accessibility of quality education to all and sundry.

Next week, I will proffer insightful arguments as to the need for the inclusion of private universities into TETFund.

To be continued…




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