By SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN-CITY
National Universities Commission (NUC) Open Educational Resources has ranked Edo State University Iyamho as the third best university in Nigeria barely two years after it was established. The Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Emmanuel Aluyor, in this interview, speaks on how the feat was achieved while advising state and federal governments on the steps to improve university education.
Your university has just been ranked the third best by the NUC. How did you achieve the feat given that you came on stream only two years ago?
It is a development we are very proud of; we worked hard and Edo State government gave us enormous support by helping us to put in place world class infrastructure. We complemented the support by raising a wonderful management team and a wonderful Council for the university. And as the management team, we tried to reciprocate this confidence that the Edo State government has reposed in us by recruiting quality academic and non-academic staff. Our academic staff compare favourably with the one you can find in any world class university. We have taken the pains to ensure that when we recruit any staff, it is the type that will make our university proud. Open Educational Resources ranking is done globally for universities. The fact that the NUC has done it will encourage Nigerian universities to improve on their presence on the web, and improve on their delivery of education to the populace. Many people may be surprised that Edo University, just in two years, has been ranked the third best university in Nigeria. But if you visit our website and access the quality of the materials there, you won’t be surprised. So we are happy that in two years, we are already rubbing shoulders with universities that have been around for decades.
Why we are unique
We don’t just recruit the academic staff and send them to the class to teach. We invite experts to give them training on how to teach. Our classrooms are fitted with multimedia to deliver lectures using power point. Of course our classrooms are temperature controlled. But the ranking that was done was essentially to evaluate our intellect on the web. Apart from that, the welfare of our staff and students is paramount. We have hostel facilities for all our students comparable to what is available in 5-star hotels. If you go to our laboratories, we have some of the best with the equipment you cannot find in any university in Nigeria. When we started, we invited experts to draw the curriculum for our programmes.
In the case of our medical programme, we were told that the Federal Ministry of Health had advised that Nigeria should adopt the modern way of training doctors which is the competency based curriculum. The advice must have been made based on what is predominant in Nigerian universities today: The traditional based method of training doctors. It is expensive but those we invited to come and draw the curriculum for us agreed that, that is the way of training modern doctors. The only university in Nigeria that had put in place a competency based method of training doctors before Edo University embraced it is University of Ibadan. That is not also surprising because it is the pioneer university in Nigeria. We heard that the University of Lagos just started implementing the competency based method of training doctors.
We have acquired some of the facilities required to aid this method of training doctors. One of them is the anacomag machine. And that is the kind of things we are doing across all our faculties and departments. In the Faculty of Engineering where we have approval to run chemical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering and computer engineering, our workshop is a beauty to behold. We have equipment that will enable our students have hands on experience before they go to work in an industrial environment. If you come to our Nursing Department, we are already putting in place the type of equipment that will make us the envy of other universities.
We are discussing with foreign universities to partner with us. We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Worcester State University, Massachusetts, US. We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Sunderland. The collaboration is such that our students, if they so wish, have the opportunity to do part of their education overseas. The vision of the founders of the university is to put in place an institution that can compete with any university in the world, so that Nigerians will not necessarily need to go outside this country to get the quality education they want. And with our discussions with these universities, they are willing to send their students under an exchange programme to Nigeria while our students go there too for a short period as part of their training. That is the kind of thing we should be doing in our universities.
Of course unionism has not yet come up and we are doing everything to ensure that, but it will not be the type that will result in the closing of the institution every now and then because the staff members have one grievance or another. And our students come from virtually all parts of Nigeria, and we have a scholarship programme in place to ensure that even though we charge commercial fees, students who cannot afford to attend the conventional university can come to Edo University. Nine students have just been given indigent student scholarship.
Quality is not necessarily in the number of students as we have shown with the kind of result we are getting. Edo University Iyamho has student population of 1,500. But we have not yet exhausted the capacity. In some areas like medicine, we have approval for 50 students. We have others areas where we have not got the kind of numbers that we require. We want the university to develop in all areas, so we are not concentrating in any one area. Our law programme has just started because we needed to get the Council for Legal Education to come and assess the facilities on ground and I think when they came they were very impressed with what they saw. Our engineering programmes are in the second year. We have a Mass Communication Department with a world class studio which some people say some television stations don’t have. So I am quite proud.
What do you think the Federal Government should do to improve our varsities?
I think the problem of state and federal universities is not so much about government not putting funds in those universities. It is the sustenance of funding that is the problem. All over the world, if something is good, somebody must pay for it. I think government needs to put more funds into scholarship for indigent students rather than giving free education to those who can afford it and those who cannot. When that happens, it has the capacity to improve funding of universities and you have a situation whereby indigent students have free education while the children of the rich pay for their education. Government can put loans in place for students who can afford part of the fees but can’t afford all and repay the loans when they graduate and start working. That is what they do in the developed world which our government in Nigeria can explore. In Edo, the state government has invested quite a lot of money to put the university in place. It is our responsibility to sustain it to ensure that about ten, twenty years from now, it remains a world class facility as it is today. And to do that, we must find creative ways of raising funds to ensure that the facilities are not only maintained but also improved upon. And we are trying to do that.