Prof. Ernest Izevbigie is the Vice-Chancellor of Mudiame University, Irrua. In this interview, he discussed the plans of the university, the competitiveness and the need to raise market-ready students for industrial development in Nigeria and Africa
What is this institution bringing on board differently from the universities we already have in the country?
My response, though not exhaustive, are the following: In the first place, the university has the vision to produce technological innovation such as patents/ intellectual properties that contribute positively to economic and national development. The tightly-coupled vision and mission statement to be a world-leading university for technological innovation that addresses challenges in agriculture and food safety, energy, health, manufacturing, oil and gas, security, and transportation on regional and global levels. The mission or reason(s) for our existence is to contribute to the sustainable welfare of society with expertise in science, technology, and business, and through teaching, research, and community service. Secondly, MUI seeks to redefine the standards of education in Nigeria. Consequently, it will close the academic/ industrial gap to stimulate employment and national development. The vision bearer of MUI, Prof. S.E. Eromosele is an astute visionary who has helped to redefine the frontiers of the oil and gas sector in Nigeria and beyond by the incorporation of standards and calibration measures that affect the bottom-line and operations of the industry. The chancellor is a man who has enjoyed the platform of the prestigious Oxford University, U.K, to impart knowledge.
The university plans to bridge the gap between the academic field and the industrial sector. What does this mean, and how do you intend to achieve this?
The ‘gap’ is the production or graduation of students deficient in required employment skills. In other words, not employable. Employability is defined as possession of transferable skills needed for employment. The skills are to be provided by academia and employment to be provided by the industry. Therefore, there is a need for a cross-talk between both. MUI will do an industrial needs assessment and reflect them in its curricular development and research and development activities. MUI is member of a conglomerate (organization) composed of many companies and subsidiaries (Mudiame International Limited, Mudiame Welding Institute etc.) with national and global partners. Mudiame Welding Institute, which is part of the university, is currently training students sponsored by Shell Nigeria Limited in welding technology, scaffolding, ridging etc. The parent organisations have succeeded in addressing the challenges in the oil and gas sector. They have improved the standards for the construction sector and have extended that to the aviation industry for calibration equipment for the Nigerian Airforce and other aviation companies. These backdrops make it easier for the university to leverage extant and new local and international cooperation to complement materials presented in classrooms with hands-on training in the work/practical settings for our students. The motto of Mudiame University is ‘Mind of Innovation’. That is a priority for us at a time that Africa is looking forward to developing locally-tailored innovation and technologies to enable the continent to process existing raw materials before exportation. Let it also be on record that MUI is the first university in the world to offer the Employment Guaranty Policy (EGP) for all first-class-honours graduates effective with the first graduating class. This is novel because it applies to all not few as obtains currently globally. Therefore, I dare every qualified candidate seeking admission to take the MUI EGP challenge by coming to MUI. MUI enjoys the blessing of sharing the established and recognizable family name “Mudiame”, a name that is not only special with spiritual meaning, to us at MUI, it is synonymous with diamond as diamond cannot be spelled without the sequence of letters 3-6 (diam) in Mudiame and the first four letters in diamond.
In terms of economic and national development, what will the university offer?
American writer Andrena Sawyer said, ‘We don’t have a blessing shortage, we have a capacity crisis’. While Nigeria is blessed with so many resources, capacity development is the leeway to our prosperity. The Mudiame family has been passionate about human capacity development. Over the years, that has helped the country to reduce importation of skills into the oil and gas sector, stream in-country capacity, reduce pressure on foreign exchange earning of the country and reduce the time spent on job delivery. These efforts accounted for the reasons, at least in part, why local content moved from about 5 per cent to 33 per cent in the space of 10 years in the oil and gas sector. Employment brings about service provision and products manufacturing. Both contribute to national GDP; Most developing countries suffer a high level of unemployment because there is an inverse relationship between national development and unemployment. MUI will produce job market-ready students; do job placement internally, within the other members of the Mudiame organisation; and utilize our partners and collaborators locally, nationally, and internationally.
Do you think Nigeria needs more universities or quality education as the skills gap persists?
It appears that many people tend to assume that a positive correlation exists between many universities per capita and national development. Hence the yearning for more universities. Let’s not forget that in the last decade alone, Nigeria has witnessed a substantial increase in the numbers of universities in the country: There have been 58 private, 19 state, and 17 federal universities established between 2011-2021, totalling 94 universities and representing 47% of all the 198 universities currently in Nigeria. Another way of saying this is that the number of the universities in the country has almost doubled in the last decade! Unfortunately, such increase has failed to produce proportional economic or national developmental growth in the country. What happened? I believe the best way to answer this question is to present the fact before you and other Nigerians for individual decision; your answer is as good as mine. The United States has the most universities per capita in the world with 1: 63,000 (one university to every 63,000 people. She has the largest economy in the world with about $22 trillion GDP; produces more Nobel laureates every year than any other countries combined; and has more stable economic and political systems globally. Fine and good, it seems to suggest a positive correlation between high numbers of universities per capita and these attributes? If it were, then good, we can continue to establish more universities. But there is a contrast here which is that Brazil and Mexico came second and third on the numbers of universities per capita spectrum with 1:82,000 and 1: 103,000 respectively. These countries do not have membership at the G8 (best economies in the world) forum, and do not have the attributes of the US. In fact, Brazil and Mexico have more universities than Japan, Germany, the UK, France—all of which belong to the G8 forum. In the Continent of Africa, Nigeria has more universities than Ghana and South Africa per capita. I think that answers your question.
Are you currently admitting students for the 2021/2022 academic session?
Yes, lectures will begin in the middle of January 2022. We strongly encourage students to apply for admission. We have 13 departments and 15 undergraduate programmes. Under the School of Engineering and Technology, the programmes include Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Engineering, Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Food Science and Technology, Materials and Metallurgical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering. Under the school of Entrepreneurship and Management, we are offering, Accounting and Finance, Business Administration and Entrepreneurship and Economics while at the School of Science and Information Technology, we are offering, Chemical Sciences, Chemistry, Information Technology, Computer Science, Software Engineering, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Physical Sciences with electronics and Biotechnology.
Part of the plans of the school is to link outstanding students up with the Labour market locally and internationally. How do you plan to do this?
Our Quality Management System (QMS) mandates us to determine and perform needs assessment for all stakeholders: such as students, the job markets (employers of students), the host community etc. Implementation of these assessments will enable MUI to turn out market-ready students. In addition, the Career Placement Unit (CPU) of the Human Resources Division (HRD) prepares students for job placements. Besides, with the Employment Guarantee Policy (EGP), we will bring our partners to recruit our students.
What are your safety plans for students and the general environment?
The Irrua community is relatively safe. MUI’s take-off is preceded by its CSR and consequently enjoys the broad support of the host community.
What’s your advice regarding the education sector?
Review the process for the selection of vice-chancellors in the country, particularly the federal institutions! In the era of globalisation of universities, Nigeria’s universities are being localised for political gain, insisting that vice-chancellors of universities must come from the host communities or tribal lines. We all witnessed what happened recently in the selection processes of some vice-chancellors of some federal universities. It is a shame! Selection, in any view, should be televised for the public to see for the purpose of fairness and transparency. After all, there are public hearings by the judiciary.
How is MUI positioned to address the Nigerian students seeking overseas education?
At MUI, we will do our part by providing a so-called Western education and more right here in Nigeria. Western education has worked for the West. Western education will be customised with Nigerian peculiarities in mind. Those peculiarities will be determined and addressed together with the industry.
What is the relationship between MUI and MWI? What do students stand to benefit from this?
The MWI possesses workshops for welding, fabrication, woodworks and more. These workshops will complement those of the School of Engineering. There will be synergy and complementation.