Nexford Varsity: Bridging the Student-Employer Gap with Quality, Affordable Education

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Apart from striving to become the largest and most affordable American university in the world, Nexford University is offering students a global education that will prepare them for the workplace, regardless of their physical location. Uchechukwu Nnaike reports

The problem of graduate un-employability in the country may soon be over, as US-based Nexford University, which recently commenced operation in Nigeria, is determined to provide learners access to quality, affordable, dynamic education that prepares them for the global workplace.

The institution’s Manager in Nigeria, Olamidun Majekodunmi was quoted as saying that: “Nigerian graduates are not lazy but are unprepared for the workplace. Major themes surrounded the fact that graduates are not well equipped with the soft and hard skills required to operate in today’s dynamic work environment.”

Thus, the institution stated: “We’ve thrown out what doesn’t work and created a modern solution that places learners and their future success at the core. It’s a tech-powered, globally affordable solution aligned to workplace needs.”

The university promises an educational model based on the mastery of relevant workplace competencies – from general education to professional and technical subjects; communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills to build a foundation of lifelong learning; a global community that bolsters students’ success through the innovative use of collaborative technology.

Others are: on-going lifelong education and credentials that are regularly updated based on evolving global workplace needs and an education experience that maximises students’ opportunities for success, offering flexibility, learner support and affordability.

According to the founder and Chief Executive Officer, Fadl Al Tarzi “with the rapid advancement of tech, skills are the only barrier between ambitious youths across the world and attractive economic opportunities. Our next-generation university focuses on precisely this.

“Around the world, the International Labour Organisation estimates that 75 million young people are unemployed. Including estimates of underemployed youth would potentially triple this number. This represents not just a gigantic pool of untapped talent; it is also a source of social unrest and individual despair.”

He added: “At Nexford, skills are the new currency. The university surveyed Fortune 500 companies and analysed millions of job vacancies to create a curriculum that delivers on the skills in highest demand. Nexford’s relevant, online educational model therefore addresses the systemic skill-gaps. Its students master the skills they need for day one at work, such as how to present a business strategy.”

On her part, Majekodunmi urged local universities to abandon the legacy approach and educate students based on the skills workplaces seek.

“Solutions like Nexford are welcomed and I look forward to tracking success stories. Critically informed by employer needs in order to create a direct-to-employer pipeline, Nexford is designing a competency-based, intuitive learning system that caters to each individual learner.”

She also advised Nigerian universities to adopt responsive approach as practised by Nexford, saying, “for Nigeria, this is an especially hard-hitting realisation. There are 34 million Nigerians who are unemployed or underemployed. We have a spiking population and an even higher spiking youth population, yet our higher education practices remain irresponsive to this looming catastrophe.”

To avert the barrier which lack of funds creates, Nexford has a flexible tuition fee payment plan. Students pay flat-fee monthly tuition similar to a monthly phone bill, which is designed to be less of a burden. “Students are never locked into a long-term commitment and pay the same monthly fee, regardless of number of courses or credits. The faster you finish the less you pay.”

Also, the university’s desire to empower people with the tools they need to increase their chances of success led to the introduction of its Entrepreneurship Scholarship and $200,000 start-up funding.

It said there would be 100 BBA or MBA scholarships announced as part of Nexford’s push to support more entrepreneurs, adding that scholarship recipients will practice real-world business concepts that act as a bridge to entrepreneurship. “Specialisations learners can choose from include ‘Building a Tech Startup’; ‘360° Marketing’; ‘Enabling e-Commerce; and ‘Doing Business across the World’.

“Scholarship graduates will have the chance to pitch their start-up idea. Every year, Nexford will fund five scholarship graduates at $10,000 each. Nexford Entrepreneurship Scholarship applications are open until September 15.”

The university has also concluded plans to empower entrepreneurs and owners of businesses in Nigeria to help grow the country’s economy.

According to Majekodunmi, there would be an open day on September 21 at Oriental Hotel in Lagos for entrepreneurs to showcase their ideas.

The open day with the theme ‘Entrepreneurs Breaking Barriers’, would see entrepreneurs winning scholarships and funds for their businesses. Registration is free at nexford.org/lagos.

Majekodunmi stated that Nexford is equipping entrepreneurs to reduce unemployment crisis in Nigeria. “The United Nations projects that Nigeria will be the third most populous country by 2050 with nearly 400 million people; we can’t create jobs fast enough to meet this demand of the labour force. Empowering entrepreneurs to create the jobs of the future is the only way out of Nigeria’s unemployment crisis.

“Nexford University operates a ‘glocal’ model with a curriculum that is globally relevant but also locally tailored. The MBA final project allows learners to focus on their local business in their immediate environments and also allows students to graduate in Washington DC and access their global network.”

While emphasising its passion about empowering entrepreneurs, the university said: “Nexford is a next-generation university passionate about forward-thinking entrepreneurs thinking about the future. The university recently launched a $200k start-up funding for its graduate earning undergraduate degrees in business or Masters in Business Administration (MBA) on an entrepreneurship track.”

The university also stated that Nigeria needs more entrepreneurs that could tap into various business ideas available in the country, adding, “in a recent seminar in Washington DC, Nexford professors discussed characteristics of entrepreneurs with students from emerging markets. Entrepreneurs are usually classified into necessity-driven and opportunity-driven types. Necessity-driven entrepreneurs are those who are pushed into starting businesses because they have no other source of income.

“Opportunity-motivated entrepreneurs are those who enter business ownership primarily to pursue an opportunity. Research shows that typically, necessity-driven entrepreneurship is more dominant in emerging economies like Nigeria.

“In the most recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor survey of Nigeria, 74 per cent of female early stage entrepreneurs reported that they were opportunity driven entrepreneurs. This was the same percentage recorded for men.”

While lauding the presence of many entrepreneurs in Nigeria, Nexford reiterated the need for quality.

“Low-income countries such as Nigeria and Zambia have the highest entrepreneurship rates in the world. For high value entrepreneurship to occur, quality matters more than quantity. Therefore, a country needs to have the best entrepreneurs, not necessarily the most. What the ‘best and the brightest’ do is important.

“Just as education prepares individuals for paid work, education also endows business owners with the needed expertise for success,” it said.