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How true is El-Rufai’s claim that no country in the world offers free university education?

Claim: On the 17th of June 2021, during one of his live media chats, Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai claimed that there was nowhere in the world where university or polytechnic education is free.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s claim is false as it was made to reinforce his administration’s policy on the increment of school fees in tertiary institutions. Tertiary or higher education is free for citizens in some countries around the world like UAE and Brunei Darussalam.

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Kaduna State Government has been in an on- again, off- again battle with students of the state owned Kaduna State University (KASU) following an unprecedented increment in tuition fees. In April, news leaked that the university’s school fees had been increased by about 500 percent. Resident and non-resident students who paid between N23,000 and N38,000 depending on the faculty would now pay between N150,000 and N500,000, depending on the course of study. 

The school management had later denied the alleged figure circulating online and in a statement stressed that: “though tuition fee would be reviewed upwards with specific fees on each course, it is yet to be announced. The figures being spread on social media are false.”

Few weeks later, students of the institution took to the streets to protest the increment and called for a total reversal of the policy but the state government insisted there was no going back on the increment. The Deputy Governor of the state, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe had in a meeting with representatives of the students at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim Government House stated that the increase, though painful, was necessary. A statement later issued stressed that: “It is the only way that the institution can stay afloat. We understand the pain; we are also pained but sometimes, some decisions are taken for the betterment of the generality of the people.”

As the students’ protests persisted, the school management suspended academic activities for undergraduate studies and shut down the school indefinitely. However, to make his government’s position clear, on the 17th of June 2020, during a live media chat in Hausa, Governor Nasir El-Rufai claimed there was nowhere in the world where university or polytechnic education is free.

While discussing the impasse with the students of KASU and explaining that his administration offers free education from primary to secondary school, El-Rufai in the 1hrs 58 minutes chat with selected radio stations which was streamed live on Facebook said: “Education in the university or polytechnic, all around the world, there is no where you can get it for free.”


This reporter conducted a keyword search using the Google search engine to research countries that offer free tertiary education for their citizens. Some of the common countries that consistently popped up as offering free tertiary education for their citizens include; Germany, Brazil, Greece Austria, Czech Republic, Norway and France.

However, it is not clear how free these countries make tertiary education for their citizens as some of the countries still demand very low tuition fees while others demand semester and registration fees.  

The reporter also sampled some rich countries around the world and found that countries like Brunei Darrusalam and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) offer free education up to tertiary level for their citizens.

Brunei is a small country on the South China sea that borders Malaysia on the same island as Borneo and part of Indonesia. The country has enjoyed a tax-free policy since it gained independence from British rule in 1984 and financially supports a free education system for citizens throughout all levels of education. It is said that because of the country’s small population of 441, 660, most of its teachers are emigrants from Britain, Australia, or neighboring countries in Asia.

Screenshot from an online resource material that shows that tertiary education is free for citizens on Brunei Darussalam. 

Based on the country’s Ministry of Education website there are only four universities in the country. They  include; Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), UniversitiTeknologi Brunei (ITB), Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) and Politeknik Brunei. 

On the embassy website of the  United Arab Emirates  for Washington DC, the UAE clearly states that it is a country that places high priority on education which is why the literacy rate for both genders stands at 95 percent in the country. The UAE prides itself as home to a wide range of public and private universities and offers UAE citizens free education at government institutions.

Screenshot of the UAE embassy website in Washington DC

The website states that: “UAE citizens can attend government institutions free of charge, and the UAE has one of the highest application participation rates in the world. Ninety-five percent of all girls and 80 percent of boys enrolled in the final year of secondary school apply for admission to a higher education institution.”

Screenshot UAE embassy website showing higher education is free for UAE citizens. 


Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s claim that no country in the world offers free university or polytechnic education is untrue as online resource materials contradict the governor’s claim. 

The researcher produced this Fact check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with Daily Trust newspapers to facilitate the ethos of truth in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country. 

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One Comment

  1. which country in the world does not pay professors as highest paid civil servants?

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