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Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Professor Michael Faborode has revealed how government and stakeholders can assist the nation's universities overcome the numerous challenges they face currently. He also spoke on other national issues such as the African and world ranking of varsities, instability in the system, alleged hike in OAU fees, partnership with corporate bodies, among others.

Challenges facing Nigerian varsity system

The university system in Nigeria has today deviated considerably from the ideals of the quintessential ivory tower. So much energy is dissipated on issues and engagements that do not promote scholarship and advance the cause of the system. Hence the university system is hampered from making salutary contributions to national development and real development continues to elude the nation.

Universities can only excel and feature in the global quality league table if they have good enabling infrastructure, deliver good tuition to produce quality products and engage in productive research with visible community impact. These conditions can only be realized in a stable and peacefully polity. The time has come for us to rescue and restore the university system in Nigeria.

On the part of government and all stakeholders, it is imperative that we take the challenge of adequately funding university education very seriously. We cannot on the other hand desire globally competitive universities, while on the other we deny them of the much – needed wherewithal to attain such enviable heights. To be a great and technologically advanced nation, Nigeria must muscle the needed political will to demonstrate commitment to education at all levels, but more strategically at the tertiary level.

How to make world varsity ranking

To make the World league table, we have to face these challenges. We have to be committed to the issue of education and funding to underline the importance of education. There is no advanced countries and the new industrialist nations that have made it without feasible commitment to education. Education is the corner stone or bedrock of all their development. Unless Nigeria also adopt such strategy and with unbridled commitment to education, then as we yearn for development, it will continue to elude us. There is need for Nigeria to muscle the much needed political will to demonstrate commitment to education at all levels.

And I say most strategically, at the tertiary level. We are trying our best to ensure we produce graduates that we shall be proud and that can stand the rigor of international scrutiny but in effect we are facing great challenges and hurdles in accomplishing this task. What we do here to survive, our colleagues overseas will not do half of that.

Because the environment makes it easier for them to operate. When you talk about university ranking, what are the qualities people are looking for, quality of teaching, research, staff, publications in international journals, infrastructure, contributions to national development and then whether staff have won international laurels and awards. So, it is not one sort of problem, it is a mixed bag of things that a number of stakeholders must be involved. Don't forget, it is the same crop of people who were here, some frustrated and others refused to be frustrated who went abroad and are doing wonderful things. Nigerians are all over USA, Canada, Britain, Australia, even South Africa, they are making contributions because the environment gives them the opportunity to be able to make such. You know there are different types of university ranking now.

There is the local ranking where we are still leading the pack, but we are not happy were we are in African ranking, we should be number one at the worse among the top five in Africa. We know that with the quality of staff, we have the potentialities to be there but you can not compare our infrastructure with that of South Africa today, where the first eight universities would appear in the African ranking or the ones in Egypt and even Namibia. They have better equipped universities.

Sources of universities’ instability

The sources of Nigerian universities’ instability are the different strikes that do come up in the system. And again, the negotiation is between the Federal Government and ASUU, so part of the political will and commitment to education is to see how the issues at stake can be resolved in the interest of useful academic engagements. So, if we are to move forward, we must address the issues in dispute with ASUU and other unions in the university system. I don't think ASUU is as unreasonable, if there are good overtures; will it still want to go on strike when the academic environment is conducive?

Hike in fees

This issue is one of the things in the imagination of people who want to create panic where there is none. There is nowhere in our discourse or in management meetings this issue has featured, but people want to foist such a thing because they want to cause trouble. And so we are proactive in reacting and have said there is no such move. I want to repeat that I am not aware of any plan to increase fees in OAU this year, we have instructed the bursary and the computer center to use the same (old) schedule of fees to make it available on line, so that the students can do their registration.

Health insurance scheme for students

The National Universities Commission (NUC) called a meeting in Abuja recently and a number of students leaders were part of the discussion and they agreed that the Health Insurance Scheme be introduced this academic session and they itemized some fees and we said we are not implementing it this year. The university will use whatever it can to supplement that program for the time being because we cannot tolerate any increase in fees.

Post-UME test

The OAU post-UME exam this year was far better than that of last year. I am hearing this complaint for the first time that applicants were not given enough time to write the post-UME test. All the complaints we received were cross-checked with computer. To grade the results, it was possible to cross check and verify a number of claims and those who sat for the test in the place mentioned. we didn't have statistical evidence to show that they were totally disadvantaged. We tried to check what happened in each of the exam halls in order to verify the credibility of the logistics and the supervision system that was in place. This years post-UME got acclamation from both JAMB and NUC officials who were there. They remarked that all the grounds were covered, logistics were worked out. They wanted OAU to document it so that it will be a model that others will be able to follow in administering post-UME test. Next year's test will even be better because we are getting perfection. The post-UME test is bound to improve.

Law program

Our Law program has been accredited now and that is why we have graduates who have been admitted in the Law School. If the program is not accredited, they will not be able to proceed to the Law School, we admitted for Law in the current admission exercise. In November 2008, we are going to have full accreditation for our Law program.

New School of Business

The Business School is going to be autonomous. It is going to be for post-graduate studies for now, we wouldn't rule out the possibility of running undergraduate courses in future. It is going to be a unique school for delivering post-graduate courses in the area of Business, Business Technology, just like you find other business schools all over the world.

Success story of OAU in 2007 session

By December 24, 2007 we successfully concluded the 2006/2007 Rain Semester examinations, thus bringing the academic session to a safe berth, albeit four months behind schedule. We have every cause to thank God for taking OAU thus far. The import of this achievement can be better appreciated if we look back a few weeks earlier, when with the abduction of the Chief Security Officer by hoodlums who pretended to be students, the stability of the semester and our 2007 convocation seemed threatened.

By His grace, the examinations got off successfully and the 35th convocation and 45th anniversary ceremonies were executed, leaving memories of success and acclamation for our one-time beleagued institution. By the resounding success of the 45th anniversary ceremonies, we have shown to the whole World our resolve to sustain the great legacy of a great and truly unique institution established and bequeathed to us by the visionary founding fathers.

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