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Some top academic programmes will soon be irrelevant – VC

V-C of Fountain University, Osun State, Prof Amidu Sanni, who is also board member of Times Higher Education, a publication of university rankings, says capital…

V-C of Fountain University, Osun State, Prof Amidu Sanni, who is also board member of Times Higher Education, a publication of university rankings, says capital flight from Nigeria to other countries with poorer standard of education will continue unless more university education spaces are created to cater ‘for our children.’


Many applicants into higher institutions are said to be going through difficulties while seeking admission. Why?

Space is a major constraint. If we are to go by statistics, we have less number of universities than we are supposed to have in Nigeria today. People say we have many universities but that is not correct. We need more philanthropists to invest in university education to create more space than we currently have, so that our children can be catered for. If not, the capital flight to our neighbouring countries with poorer standard of education will only continue.

But what is the significance of the new universities being established almost day in, day out by government and individuals?

There are many reasons why many of the universities being established cannot significantly help in reducing the number of applicants roaming the streets. Funding is a basic challenge, even for public institutions. The funding challenge has led to poor facilities and human resources. Many institutions cannot engage quality hands because they are not attractive in terms of facilities.

There is something referred to as the ‘carrying capacity’ of every institution. If your facilities can only cater for 40 students in a particular programme, you cannot admit 80. So if we have about 200 people qualified, scoring above the minimum, it means about 160 would be denied admission due to space. And the major reason for this is because we politicise everything in this country.

Rather than expanding existing facilities across major higher institutions, we would always want to allocate universities to every community as if they are drainage construction projects that must reach every village. There is astate in Nigeria that has about four universities but cannot effectively run a single one. But by the time a new government wanted to harmonise the universities, it became a serious political issue.

What is the way out?

Government must liberalise investment in education, they must assist the universities to run properly, including privately-owned ones. Lecturers must be assisted academically through research grants, endowment funds and different packages of interest on loans. The truth is that if a lecturer at a private university wins a Nobel Prize, he or she would first be addressed as a Nigerian lecturer and not a private university don.

We must realise that it is the inability of the public institutions to accommodate all the applicants that led to the establishment of private ones. So they must be accorded the respect of providing complementary roles, and should be supported except it is discovered they are only profit-driven.

Is that part of the reasons our universities are not rated well on the global scale?

Yes, we cannot dissociate all these issues of dearth of facilities, poor infrastructure, terrible learning environment, lack of adequate human resources and poor visibility on the global scene from the poor ranking records our universities keep at both the continental and global levels. The most disastrous of them all is the industrial disharmony on our various campuses.

Each time our university workers go on strike; we have demarketed the institutions. We can neither attract foreign students nor foreign lecturers. We have restricted ourselves to local champions. So we need to demilitarise the workers’ unions on our university campuses. Too much unionisation leads to arrogance of power, and as we have seen in our own cases across public institutions in Nigeria, the issues leading to industrial actions are usually selfish and not about what will lift the institutions.

So what is your take on this controversial issue of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) introduced by the federal government but rejected by the Academic Staff Union of Universities?

The simple truth is that employee cannot dictate how he or she would be paid by the employer. What is sacrosanct is that your labour must be adequately remunerated and you receive it as and when due. But for university lecturers to dictate how they will be paid by the government is something unheard of. In a sane clime, if you are not satisfied with my own accountable means of ensuring your payment, then you leave my system.

Having identified all these issues, what are the things Fountain University is attempting to do differently?

By March this year, I would be two years in office as the vice-chancellor of this faith-inspired university. Many people call us faith-based but we are not. Instead, we are simply faith-inspired and when we get to the areas of partnerships we have created, you would realise that Fountain University is like any other university globally.

As an individual, I had my first degree from the University of Ibadan in 1979 and my PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of London. I have served as visiting professor at Oxford University, New York University, and as a scholar in Cambridge, and across other universities in Israel, Netherlands, Middle East, UK and America. But primarily, I had been with the Lagos State University (LASU) from inception in 1984 until my appointment here. I have given this background to let you know how much of the experiences I have garnered over the years are currently being put into use at this institution. Within the last two years, we have redrafted a new master plan for the university, which has just been submitted to the NUC.

Currently, we have a land space of 258.53 hectares and we are determined to maximise this. The truth is that modern universities are not built on massive landmass but technology. Our investment is in the area of technology. The new master plan is projecting nine colleges within the next 10 years with an enrolment population of 10,000 students and 714 academic and non-academic staff.

How are you working towards achieving this?

The first thing is that we are reviewing our curricula because the truth is that the reigning academic programmes of today will be largely irrelevant in the next 10 years. So, our focus is on rebuilding our programmes and making them more practical-oriented. Even our students in Political Science classes must experience internship before graduation. Let them be posted to institutions like electoral commissions, houses of assembly, political institutions but not political parties. Currently, we have two colleges of Management Sciences, and Natural and Applied Sciences.

We started with 11 programmes but about five others were added a few years later. I can tell you that recently, the university senate has approved 38 new programmes, cutting across Law, Education, Basic Medical and Health Sciences, Arts and, of course, Engineering. We’re going to do this in phases because we need to put the materials, equipment and structures in place first. Before the end of 2020, we would have the College of Basic Medical and Health Sciences in place for our nursing programme and other paramedical courses.


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