Professor Luke Okechukwu Anike is a Professor of Geology, an accomplished researcher, academic and administrator. He is the Vice Chancellor of Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT). In this interview with Vanguard, he spoke on the road map towards universities attaining global visibility and other sundry issues. Excerpts:
By Dayo Adesulu
ESUT is rated as the number one state university in the country and the number 17 in the recent webo-metric survey rating of universities. How do you feel about this?
Well, we are happy as a university for such rating. It is good to stay at the top. What we are trying to do is to maintain the feat for such recognition.
In view of the above, what is your roadmap towards ensuring that the momentum is sustained?
From the on-set, I have promised that our university will take bold steps to ensure global visibility and excellent academic rating.
We have also tried to build best practices and skills so that they will be strengthened and be more confident to carry out whatever functions that come their way. We have tried to build linkages and connections with institutions around the world and we will continue to build such linkages.
Memorandum of Understanding
In fact this morning, I will be signing an MOU with Anglo Ruskin University in the United Kingdom for staff and students exchange programmes, as well as for collaboration and research, which is one of our principal actions.
In addition to the collaboration and linkages with other varsities and agencies, and as a way of enriching and enlarging its coast in terms of academic content capacity building and internalization, the university has successfully signed a MoU with a number of foreign organisations in areas of staff and student exchange, curriculum development and other areas of mutual benefit.
Some of the institutions include Dolphin University Ireland, which was attracted by Governor, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, when he visited UK, as well as University of Wolverhampton, England to mention a few. We believe that any university that focuses on this will be able to meet its goals and aspirations. As a result of this, our emphasis is on research alongside teaching and community services.
In your convocation address, you listed some challenges, what steps are being taken to find solutions to them?
We as a university cannot say we have everything that we need to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves, especially as regards funds and materials. For instance, laboratory materials and other important features and structures that the university requires. In terms of funding, it is pertinent to mention that the government of Enugu State has shown deep interest in allowing the university to function by providing subventions regularly.
Funding: We are also grateful to the 17 local governments in the state under the umbrella of ALGON. These are local governments in the local umbrella association, the Enugu state chapter is also helping in funding the university and they regularly send subventions the university. Even though, like Oliver Twist, we will want some more in order to carry out other activities.
We have devised means of reaching out to our alumni, as well as to well meaning individuals and philanthropists in Nigeria and elsewhere. We also look for funds through international organizations like UNESCO. We make proposals and sometimes we are lucky we get approvals. All these are sources in which we get our funds.
As I mentioned one of our recent doctoral degree awardees, Prince Arthur Eze, has voluntarily agreed to invest the sum of N100million every year for five years with an additional N50 million for street lighting of the university. I think that this is necessary to motivate other philanthropist and other well-meaning persons to invest in education because the gains to the community and the nation are unquantifiable.
Pace of development: Such funds will allow universities like ours obtain some features and materials that are necessary for the smooth running of universities. We still need to continue to work at this pace or increase the pace in order to achieve the goals of which the university was set up and set the pace for the development of our university.
I should also state at this point that TETfund has assisted greatly in providing infrastructure within the university. In fact, some of the structures built by TETfund include lecture halls, laboratories, classrooms, as well as an auditorium.
We are very grateful to TETfund and the Federal Ministry of Education through the NEEDS assessment implementation committee. We are also grateful to the Central Bank of Nigeria for providing us with a central laboratory that is currently under construction. We also have the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)which has provided an ICT laboratory that has been put to use.
We are also grateful to Innoson Group for providing us with the General Studies complex. Arthur Eze has also donated books to strengthen our library. We see these moves to supporting education as very essential and positive to the Nigerian university system.
We are also grateful to our Chancellor, Wakili Adamawa who has mobilized his friends in support of the university projects.
We are one of the universities that have moved to permanent sites in recent time and we are working hard to ensure that all our activities are concentrated within the permanent site of the university in order to maximize the use of the facilities. We look forward to other persons and corporate organizations, especially in the areas of housing, so that we can accommodate our staff within the campus to boost mentoring and enhance their effectiveness and increase all campus activities that are required to enhance the development of the students and staff.
What is your take on the issue of university system and Nigeria’s socio-economic development?
The relationship is very close and important to ensure that there is a seamless relationship in this regard. The essence of the university is to proffer solutions to societal issues. That is why the cardinal objectives of the university are community service.
Skills for solutions
When problems arise, the universities take them up as challenges and looks at all the options using knowledge and skills to find solutions. So you cannot separate the university system from the society. They must work together. So we want the government to challenge the universities by giving them more tasks specified towards finding solutions to particular problems in the country, both socially and economically. With the right funding and motivation, we will be able to provide sustainable solutions to some of our contemporary problems in the country.
What is your take on universities picking cut off marks
I believe that it is important that there is a statutory cut off mark so that every university will operate at the same level. If you begin to establish different standards, then there will be a problem in future of acceptability.
University will begin to discriminate against the students.
Considering the prevailing economic recession in the country, what are your plans for IGR to keep the institution afloat?
IGR is always there even though universities are not commercial ventures, even federal universities charge fees.
Recession has a very critical impact on universities because they are expensive to run and in a cash strapped economy, it is more difficult to get quality materials we require to carry out the critical functions we need to to maintain the standard with other universities. That is why I said that government should challenge the universities more by asking them to carry out specific tasks geared towards solving particular problem.
What is the relationship between management and the staff?
The university management cherishes its teachers and programmes. It is very critical for us. We have been able to do this by laying every information to the unions and other interested members of the university. When you tell them the truth, everybody becomes aware of the situation on ground in the university. There is nothing to hide. We maintain seamless information flow between management and staff and we call meetings often.
How have you been able to handle issues of regular payment of salary?
This administration believes in the humane person. We believe that the staff should get what is due to him or her. As a result, we put prize target to providing their emolument. When we pay them, we can then ask them to do their work. If you do not pay them, you do not expect them to do their work. We make every effort that is legitimate to ensure that staffs are paid. As long as we have the resources to do that, we pay them and ensure that the staffs re-dedicate themselves each month in carrying out their functions.
What are the steps taken to find solutions to challenges facing the University?
We reach out to persons, individuals and corporate organization by convincing them to help us. In terms of electricity, Arthur Eze committed N50 million to that.
What will you describe as your roadmap towards positioning ESUT to what you want it to be?
We want ESUT to be globally competitive. We want ESUT to be a university that people seek to enter and graduate from. In that line, we are ready and committed to hire the best staff and leadership, timely intervention for any crises, for information that will be valuable for staff and students and then organize them. We emphasise research because we believe in that because it was established for the purpose of providing research. We should be able to carry out such mandate by emphasising collaboration and linkages to solve contemporary problems.
The university has a congenial relationship with its immediate community.