As Oyo state inaugurates South-West’s first technical university

Ibadan technical schoolThe foil of pessimism that lay over the realization of the much talked about technical university, Ibadan, Oyo state, may have been removed on June 6, 2017, when Governor Abiola Ajimobi commissioned buildings and items donated by the Central Bank of Nigeria at the Kilometre 15, Ibadan-Lagos Expressway site of the university.

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The technical University, Ibadan, the first of such university in Nigeria, had been granted operational license on December 7, 2012, upon a visit to Ibadan by then Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Professor Julius Okogie. Since the grant of the license in 2012, takeoff dates had been adjourned several times while many wondered where the university was to be sited and what structures were on ground for the latest October 2017 takeoff date.

However, Governor Ajimobi’s appointment of Professor Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe as Pro-Chancellor, Professor Ayobami Salami as Vice Chancellor of the university and commissioning of CBN’s donation of 24 lecture rooms, 10 offices with six reading areas, two boreholes, Senate hall, 500 KVA Generating set, 500 seater capacity electronic library were evidences that the state government meant business.

Technical universities around the world in Kenya, Munich, Denmark, Cluj-Napoca, Maldova, Berlin, Kosice, Mombasa focus on entrepreneurship, technology transfer, innovative research and skills-based teachings. In sum, technical universities, with faculties of Engineering Sciences and Technology, Social Sciences and Technology, Applied Sciences and Technology, emphasize education and training for the real world.

Typically, technical university targets the promotion of entrepreneurship, production of graduates with skills for employment generation, experiential learning, assisting students to create business enterprises, providing incubation for industrial enterprises, cultivating strong partnership with industry corporations and other universities.

In this light, the technical university, Ibadan, as conceived by Ajimobi and former Head of Service of the federation, Professor Oladapo Afolabi has a mission to cultivate a cadre of technical professionals with requisite entrepreneurial skills capable of creating business that will provide employment for the populace, especially the youths, through courses like Renewable clean energy resource technology, cyber security, in-vitro fertility technology, construction engineering, architecture, planning and geo-informatics, metallurgical and materials engineering, and, automotive engineering.

Ajimobi, at the commissioning, did state that the university aimed at a marriage between knowledge and skill, classroom and industry, theory and practical. “We plan to produce exceptional graduates who are not only socially conscious but technically competent enough to turn around the fortunes of our state and the nation.

This university will provide succour to parents who send their wards abroad for higher education. The takeoff of the university was delayed due to the withdrawal of the University of Texas, citing safety and security concerns,” he said. At the event, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III had also avowed optimism that the university would attend to the need for Nigerians to practicalise theoretical knowledge and engender the possession of an entrepreneurial mindset.

Whether federal, state or privately owned, tertiary institutions in Nigeria face challenges of funding, enrollment pressure, increasing scarcity of public revenue and politicisation. While handing over the university’s operational license, Okojie echoed the fact that state-owned universities usually faced the problem of change of political leadership (politicization and attendant lack of continuity), and the tendency for technical universities to lose focus thereby failing to translate theory to practice. Okojie did charge Ajimobi to consider these challenges if the university was to survive.

While amending the 2012 law establishing the university, some members of the Oyo State House of Assembly expressed concerns on the public/private partnership running and manner of investment of private individuals and organizations in the university which could make tuition fees close to those charged by private universities. Those legislators had also questioned whether the establishment of the university would not heave more burden on the finances of the state government.

In addressing those fears, Ajimobi said the state government only midwifed the establishment of the university, and that its adoption of public/private partnership in its running would cushion the challenges of financing tertiary institutions in the country. The argument is that the university will be self financing whereby emphasis would be on skill acquisition rather than on rigorous theoretical discussions. “Technical university, Ibadan is conceived as a public/private initiative where self sufficiency through partnership subscriptions and stakeholders’ contributions locally and internationally shall be entrenched. We appeal to well meaning individuals and organizations to emulate the CBN to partner with the institution,” Ajimobi prayed.

According to Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor Ayo Salami, the university will not rely on government subvention hence will charge higher than the typical fees of government-owned universities. Suffice it to note that state-owned universities charge between N65,000 and N300,000 while privately owned universities charge between N450,000 and over N1 million, as tuition. “Government will set us up but will not rely on subvention. So, we will not charge fees like normal government universities, our fees will be higher. Our fees will definitely be close to what is charged in private universities. The university will be for those who can afford it. We have to get it right from the beginning so that we don’t go the way of some other state-owned universities and run into the problem of lack of funding. We will look at competitive fees and charge appropriately,” Salami said.

Towards ensuring adequate funding for the running of the institution, aside from tuition fees, he added, “There is the option of linkages, endowment, partnerships. I will vigorously pursue partnership with local, international and regional organizations, whether in public or private sector to ensure that we have adequate funding to run the institution. There is Tertiary Education Trust Fund. Most of the structures in federal universities are sponsored by TETfund. State universities can access this.”

Students of the technical university are expected to emerge if they meet the national cut-off mark set by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and the National Universities Commission (NUC). Drawing a distinction between a university of technology and a technical university, Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor Ayo Salami explained that while the former dealt with principles, concepts, theoretical underpinnings that drive development, technical university combined theoretical underpinnings with hands-on knowledge. “You don’t only learn about principles and theories. You take the theory to the field and make it practical. So when you graduate, you are endowed with theoretical knowledge and practical skills.”

“We don’t want graduates that roam about the labour market. My dream is to ensure that every graduate of the university gets a job. Not a single graduate of the technical university should be unemployed. Everybody that is a graduate of the technical university must be duly engaged, either based on your skills, or you create a job and employ others. None of our graduates will be in the labour market,” Salami said. Similarly, Pro Chancellor of the university, Professor Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe avowed that courses to be offered in the university will tackle unemployment in the country, noting that teaching emphasis will be on building skills, aside from imparting knowledge.

(Edited By Olamide Michael)

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