‘Edo Varsity is Developing Needed Skills for Knowledge-based Society’

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In this interview with Funmi Ogundare, the management of Edo University, Iyamho, Edo State explained why research component of higher education is essential in helping students develop the skills to create the knowledge needed in the 21st century, as well as enhanced teaching for staff. It highlighted the institution’s efforts to ensure that its products become employers of labour after graduation, among other issues

The importance of research component in higher education cannot be overemphasized, as aside informing action, proving a theory and contributing to developing knowledge in a field or study, it also help keep university staff stimulated and challenged so that they can continue to learn.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Emmanuel Aluyor told THISDAY that the institution, which was established to address the challenge of accessing qualitative education in Nigeria, has been training its students and challenging its academic staff in the areas of research and innovation, adding that two of its staff in the Faculty of Biological Science have just acquired patents which have been registered.

“We have really commended them for putting their research to be patented. After you have patented, you would do further research on it and go on into something that can be commercialised, but before you get to that, you need to protect your findings.

“We have also been training our students to have the can-do-spirit. In other words, by teaching the students, they have to allow their thought process to work, as there is nothing the human mind cannot achieve. A lot of times, we don’t achieve what we should achieve because you believe you can do it, so if a student with that mind-set gives it enough thought, does research and looks at what people have done and keeps knocking on the same door, it will open. It is part of the training we are giving to our students,” he stressed.

The VC disclosed that the institution has instituted a N5 million grant for the best entrepreneurship idea from its graduating students, adding that the idea is to put what they have been taught in entrepreneurship into practice.

“Every student has at least two units entrepreneurship course. The idea is that we have taken it a notch higher to skills acquisition. We are interested in innovation and creativity, which will be in tune with their area of specialisation. The governing council supported the idea to institute the grant.

“This year, we will be graduating our first set of students. As we speak, they are already putting on paper what their entrepreneurship ideas are, which will be assessed by external assessors. The process is already in place. At our graduation ceremony which will be on November 2, one student whose idea is adjudged to be the best will be given the grant. The idea is to get our students to put what we are teaching them into practice in several forms.

“We believe that every student that passes through Edo University should be employable. If he is unable to find a job, then he should be able to create a job from what he has been taught or create employment for others. That essentially is a major plank of our delivery of quality education to Nigerian citizens.”

Aluyor said the institution has also embraced the Outcome Based Education (OBE), which lies in teaching competencies as part of its training processes, adding that it also requires that the institution engages in continuous discussion with the industry that would allow its students to have a feel of their area of specialisation before they graduate.

“We are discussing with nearby industries. Our students visited Bua Cement Company two weeks ago. They have also visited the Warri Refinery and Petrochemicals company. Our Mass Communication students have been to NTA studios in Uzairue and Benin and to the JW facility at Igieduma. Our Law students visited the prisons to see what it looks like and they have also been to the courts. The Political Science students have been to Edo State Government House to have a feel of how public service works and to the EDHA. Essentially, we believe that when students leave here, they will be able to know how their areas of specialization look like before they get to the labour market.

“Also, the best part of Edo University are our personnel, we take the pains to ensure that we get the best personnel. We do not assume that because you have passed an interview process, you are good enough. Our training process, train-the-trainer is a continuous process. As a matter of fact, in the last two weeks, we have had two trainings.

“We know our staff by what is required of them and they put in extra work compared with what you normally find in an average public university. We have an enhanced salary scheme in place and ensure that aside training them, we provide facilities that will enhance teaching and learning.”

Asked if the institution has any linkage with other institutions, the the Professor of Chemical Engineering said: “As of today, we have partnership with University of Sunderland, UK and Worcester State University, US. We are still working on these collaborations which will include staff and student exchanges.”

On the relationship between the university and its community, he said, “our relationship with our neighbouring communities is excellent. In terms of scholarships for indigent student, we have about 100 students every year and ensure that those who complain about the cost of acquiring quality education in Edo University can have an opportunity; provided they can show that they are from indigent backgrounds.

The acting Chairman, Governing Council, Emeritus Professor Thomas Audu also told THISDAY that quality education cannot be quantified in terms of monetary value, but the impact the products of education are able to create in the larger society.

“The quality of education is not what you can place money on. The important thing is for the products of that education to create employment opportunities for Nigeria’s teeming youths. The education they get from here is what makes them employers of labour such that they will not depend directly on seeking employment.

“They are expected to be creative individuals of the institution and must be flag bearers. So the quality will be judged from that aspect. It is what others perceive from what they produce that will determine the quality of education,” he said.

Emphasising on the quality of facilities in the institution, he said aside a conducive learning environment, the university can compete favourably with top notch private institutions in the country, adding, “staffing has been properly organised in such a way that only the best will work in the university. We have made every effort to ensure that we keep to the 60\40 ratio; 60 for academic, while 40 for non-teaching.

“We have not even exceeded that, but placing more emphasis on teaching staff. We don’t want a situation where those who are to teach the students are not qualified. We are also using the canvas learning management system, which allows for interaction between the lecturers and students. It is run using ICT and software for lecture delivery so that when students are given assignments, they can do them using their computers anywhere they are within the campus with internet connectivity.”

He attributed the quality of facilities to the foresight of the founders, especially under the tutelage of the former Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, adding that his successor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has continued to follow Oshiomhole’s footsteps by encouraging the management of the university.

“Each time the university achieves some milestones, the governor is quick to send commendation letters to the vice-chancellor.”

Asked about his perception on the university’s handling of resources, Audu said, “we ensured that we were transparent in our dealings with individuals who have had to do business with the university and ensuring that whatever was entrusted to management was judiciously utilised.

“For instance, during the inspection tour of members of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), the VC showed the engineering family the projects that were funded from Internally Generated Revenue (IGR); one of the projects is the building presently housing College of Medical Sciences and the new one coming up that will serve as Faculty of Engineering complex with 22 ultra-modern classrooms.

“For the hostel, we are collaborating with Sterling Bank, with one already completed. What you see is what encourages us to do more.”

Asked how many of its programmes have been accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC), he said: “All the programmes due for accreditation, have all been accredited. The latest is the Medical Laboratory Science accredited last month. For our accredited programmes, our scores have not been less than 82.1 per cent, even though what is required is required for full accreditation on that programme, is 70 per cent.”