Herbert Wigwe, co-founder of Access Bank—the country’s biggest bank by assets—is building a $500 million eponymous university in his hometown in Nigeria’s oil-rich Rivers State. Wigwe told Bloomberg this week that Wigwe University will offer undergraduate courses in management, science and engineering, information technology, and creative arts.
Wigwe is borrowing from the playbook of wealthy Nigerians like Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president, by venturing into tertiary education. The license for the university was approved by the Nigeria University Commission in June, bringing the total number of universities in Nigeria to 238, of which 79 are state-run and 147 are private.
With 1,400 students expected to be enrolled next year, Wigwe is betting that by leveraging technology, the institution will offer the same quality of education as universities in the US and UK—where he plans to recruit 30% of teaching staff. Wigwe told BusinessDay that the university has built a power plant to supply electricity to the university and will use holograms and artificial intelligence to ensure a hybrid system for students. But like other private-run universities, it is expensive for one of the world’s poorest countries. Wigwe University’s annual tuition is pegged at around $12,500 plus 3.5 million naira ($4,171), per Bloomberg.
uLesson—Nigeria’s biggest and most capitalised edtech startup founded by Sim Shagaya—recently matriculated students of its online university Miva Open University. The argument about the scalability of education in Nigeria, considering the country’s infrastructural challenges, is valid.
Wigwe, who has decades of experience in the banking sector, also hopes to train the “next set of leaders in banking” and will recruit some of the country’s notable business tycoons, including Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, to teach at the varsity.
Wigwe University will be led by Professor Miles Davis, the former president of a private university in the United States, as the Vice-Chancellor, and Professor Nelson Uzoechi-Uzoma Alino, a former professor of accounting at Quinnipiac University, as the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Administration, and Professor Dal Didia, a former professor of economics at Jackson State University, as the deputy vice-chancellor of academics.