By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
The authorities of Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife, have two major goals which currently pre-occupy their minds: to lessen the financial burden on government as regards the funding of the first generation university and to make the institution self-reliant by 2012.
One of the strategies which the universityâ€™s management is adopting in achieving these ambitious aims is accessing of funds available internationally. In this regard, the university, according to its Vice Chancellor, Professor Michael Faborode, has been able to forge a highly rewarding partnership with the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
The Carnegie Corporation, through the partnership, first gave support to OAU on specific projects in the areas of strengthening and promotion of gender equity with a grant of $2 million.
In the second phase of funding, Carnegie Corporation also supported five projects in the university with $2.5 million which was used in further enhancing various projects on the campus, including the promotion of entrepreneurial resourcefulness of the universityâ€™s graduates.
Apart from Carnegie Corporation, the university has also been successfully attracting grants from donor agencies and development partners to support both institutional research and research by individual staff. In this regard, the institution has been enjoying tremendous goodwill from the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the MacArthur Foundation, the International Federation of Scientists and Ford Foundation.
Also, external research grants have been pouring in for members of staff from international bodies such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, International Foundation for Science based in Sweden, Von Humboldt Stiftung Corporation and so on.
Importantly, the PHEA grant given to the university is to further exploit the partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the highly successful i-lab project, which enables OAU students to run real time experiments using laboratory facilities at MIT during off-lab times. The OAU i-lab group has now demonstrated the technology to enable other institutions around Ife benefit from this accomplishment. OAU is also one of the universities that recently won the step B grant.
OAUâ€™s academic linkages and partnership have continued to widen in scope. Currently, the university has over 134 MoUs with institutions in Africa, Europe, the Americans and Asia. The university has taken the initiative to intervene in the Republic of Liberia to assist in the revitalisation of higher education in that country as well as in the Republic of Lesotho to train 100 medical personnel for its health sector. In fact, the first batch of 20 students have already registered for courses such as medicine, dentistry and nursing in OAU.
This goodwill from international partners and the leadership position being assumed by OAU locally and internationally have, according to Faborode, been possible because of the relative peace and stability fostered in the university by his administration prior to the debilitating ASUU strike which ended last month.
However, the intervention from these international agencies have made very positive impact on the university, making it possible for the university to execute projects which would have remained in limbo if the management of the university hd relied solely on government subventions.
As a way of making the university self-reliant, the management has been reaching out to alumni of the institution, some of whom have been responding to the clarion call One of them has built a bottled water plant/refinery at the university which is meant to shore up the internally generated revenue of the institution.
OAU Investment Company Limited is to take charge of this business just as it is also involved in other profit-yielding ventures to give the university enough financial muscle that will push it on the fast lane of attaining self-reliance.
These are highly impressive accomplishments which other universities should be interested in taking a cue from.