Professor Tunji Ibiyemi is an administrator and presently the Vice Chancellor of the first private University in Ondo State, Achievers University, Owo.
He spoke with BISI OLOMINU on the various issues in the education sector and the country at large.
How has Achievers University contributed to human capital and economic growth of Ondo State and Nigeria?
The University has contributed immensely to the overall development of Ondo State and Nigeria through its internally generated revenue (IGR) from the fees generated from students and also from the tax collected from the staff. Again from the admission subscription from the intakes, the institution has been contributing to the economic growth of the state and Nigeria at large. But it’s quite a pity that the economic recession has disturbed this contribution, it has reduced the fees and taxes being paid as students are now owing the institution a lot of money unpaid. It is really not their fault since their parents too are being owed salaries and it has affected the purse of the university.
Achievers University has graduated six sets in five convocation and the feedbacks we got from our products says a lot about the institution doing well.
The town and gown has become an issue in universities, how has Achievers University better the lot of Owo, the host community?
The primary reason of establishing a university is for the gown to serve the town. Again the autonomy given to universities is to serve the interest of the host community. But quite a pity that this is not in good shape all over Nigeria. The entire professors in Nigeria will double those in Britain, but no significant contribution to the communities where universities are sited. There have been a wide gulf between gown and town in Nigeria. Our universities do not know that the local problems of their host communities should be solved by them. In Britain a University produces the Queen’s dresses and this has been on for years. There the curriculum is not drawn by the academics alone, it involves the industries too. Both draw the curriculum to tackle the problems identified in the society. This too must be incorporated to Nigeria. Both the industries and academics must synergise together to solve myriad of problems confronting the host communities and the country at large. Again, the Federal Government must look critically at the school curriculum and involve universities in Nigeria to find solutions to some of the problems bedevilling the nation. The present economic recession is a blessing in disguise, it is either it catapults Nigeria to greatness or failure. The more reason why our universities should be involved to proffer solutions to our problems in Nigeria.
The governance of a University is a very critical one to its success or failure, what is your position on this?
Since my assumption of office as the Vice Chancellor of Achievers University,Owo, it has been rolling coastal through the grace of God and the founders of the institution. They have done extremely well to fund the institution, from its temporary site to the permanent site, more money has been committed to the university since it is established and the founders are committed to the overall well being of the university.
Higher education in Nigeria is terribly disconnect with research. What has Achievers University done in this aspect?
In this aspect, I will not blame the Federal Government, it has tried a lot in giving grants for research in the country. Quite a pity that the present academics are lazy in knowledge economy. Research grants are always available and the FG through the TETFUND has put in place grants to transform higher institutions in Nigeria, mostly the public ones to greatness and to be involved in research. Although it is restricted to public universities alone and this should not be. Notwithstanding, if money for research is not coming from the FG, there are several openings for academics to explore inside and outside the country to solve myriad of problems bedevilling Nigeria. Our major problem in Nigeria is that we celebrate the problem rather than solving them. The academics need to wake up before it is too late. The country never lacks research grants, but there have been no good proposals from those who need grants. Academics are pampered in this country, since the salary of those in public universities are coming as at when due, there’s no room for innovation. If the Federal Government can come out with a law that after 20 years, all public universities will be autonomous and no subvention again, you will see that the academics will put on their thinking caps and the country will be better for it.
For 40 years, Harvard University has been the first and best university in the world. It is a private university, best in world ranking, no subvention from the government and the standard is maintained. This exactly the FG should do in Nigeria to bring out the best from our academics.
Private universities have been accused of high fees, what is your take on this?
I don’t think that the money charged by private universities is that much. Although it varies, when compared with those charged by foreign universities, ours still is small.
In Achievers University we are still moderate and students can pay thrice, but despite our magnanimity, many students are still owing and have not been able to pay. This university has been subsidising student fee of 700,000 to the best paid student of the institution. There are some courses that you pay less than this amount, but when you see someone who uses a business to solve a natural problem, when you use your borrowed money to establish a business, if such is not bringing the desired results, you can stop it, but university is not like secondary school where you recoup your money immediately. Private, university that you see, it is subsidising each student and has not broken even yet. Presently we have 68 private universities in Nigeria, and 30 are in the Southwest, this shows the extent of people’s search for knowledge.
Private universities have been accused of awarding first class to attract more students, how true is this and what is the position of Achievers University on this?
I disagree with those having the notion that private universities dole out first class to students to attract more admission. Private universities are properly run like the public ones. They are run like you go to private schools. The first class made by students went through rigourous test and I don’t think that people should question that. An examination was conducted for 120 first class students in both private and public university in Nigeria , a private university came first. Again in a research conducted among 120 universities sponsored by World Bank, 18 proposals were picked, 10 in Nigeria and a private universities came first. Also in research and teaching , a private university made it. This has shown that private university is the way in Nigeria.
The issue of welfare, unionism, infrastructural development has become problematic in public universities. What is the situation in Achievers University, Owo.
No challenge of unionism in our university. The founders of Achievers University, Owo have been doing their bits to transform the university to a first class university in Nigeria and the entire world. The university is presently in its permanent site and it has been opened up for development. Presently the students are owing N200 million and we just need N150million to settle our debt in the university. I think this is where the Federal Government should come in by giving part of the TETFUND money to private universities to help them to grow. The founders of these universities do not establish them for their families alone, so the reason why private students in private universities should be supported with scholarship. Supporting them would make them to contribute to the economic development of the nation. Youth challenge in university in Nigeria is a time bomb waiting to happen. From admission problem to inability to pay school fees to graduating without job, all combined together are Armageddon waiting to happen in Nigeria. The Federal Government should therefore look at it critically to tackle it promptly