Our aim is to have at least 5% foreign students and staff in each of our departments —Professor Ayorinde, KDU VC
Currently steering the ship of the Kola Daisi University (KDU), Ibadan Oyo State, as vice chancellor is Professor Kolade Luke Ayorinde, a former deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Ilorin. He took office on January 8, 2018. In this interview, he speaks to MODUPE GEORGE on current developments in the university. Excerpts
IN less than one year of operations, KDU has won series of awards. What is the secret?
Our greatest asset is that we have a very understanding founder. The proprietor of the KolaDaisi Foundation has been very supportive. More so, having experienced men and women on the Board of Trustees and Governing Council as a university, seems to propel us to really want to attain the highest. We have also tried to assemble very qualified lecturers. All the lecturers who are lecturing presently in the university have PhDs, which has really qualified them to do their jobs in teaching, guiding and mentoring the students. We also have a crop of dedicated staff. So, with the support of the proprietor, Board of Trustees and the Governing Council, we don’t have any good reason not to succeed. That has been our major propelling force.
Recently, you gave out subsidy and slashed the school fees for the students. What are you aiming at for making such move at this period?
We were not looking at the short-term gain, but the long-term gain, especially to the youths. The founder of the university is a lover of education and he has always supported education. When KolaDaisi Foundation was established, one of the major focal points was youth development in terms of skill acquisition, giving of scholarship and bursary. He has also donated a number of facilities to primary schools, secondary schools and universities just to promote education. So, based on his own passion for education, he felt that we should have a re-look in the present school fees structure. Consequently, the management met and made some recommendations, which he graciously approved; so also by the Governing Council. So, what we have done is to reduce at least N50,000 out of the fees for every programme. This is to be able to make access to education available to the students and affordable to their parents. I said it is a long-term plan, because we are not really trying to capture everything now. We hope that with time, people will see the benefits that could accrue from that very kind gesture of the founder. More so, we are just starting admission for next session, so, we cannot really say we’ve got any benefit as such. However, ordinarily giving it out is a joy to us.
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Don’t you think this may affect the standards?
It is not going to lower our standard at all; rather, it will spur us to increase our quality so as to even attract many more youths to come and have their studies here. The founder on his own has been paying heavily for whatever we are doing here and that is what has really propelled us to go into this. This has also challenged us to look at other means of also supporting whatever comes from the founder. Standard is not going to be lowered at all. We have started building on what we already have. Very soon, we are coming up with new programmes, such as Law, Environmental Sciences and Nursing. The construction of the facilities are already at an advanced stage to show that we are not lowering the quality. We have written to the National Universities Commission (NUC). We are just waiting for their nod.
You operate JUPEB and remedial programmes. Aren’t these programmes serving the same purpose?
The university has established a School of Preliminary Studies. There are two programmes in the School of Preliminary Studies, namely, JUPEB – Joint Universities Preliminary Examination Board. This is a programme that is run by a consortium of 72 universities headed by the University of Lagos (UNILAG). We are just an affiliate. We applied, the body came here for inspection and based on what they saw and the quality of our staff and facilities, they gave us the go ahead. That programme is to run Advance Level (A’Level), where students will come and do one session, and if they are able to pass, they move into 200 Level for Direct Entry admission into this university or any other universities in Nigeria, as well as some other universities overseas that are also in collaboration with us on this. That is for those who have five O’level credits: English, Mathematics and three subjects in not more than two sittings. The remedial programme is also part of the programmes of the School of Preliminary Studies. This is for candidates, who did not sit or pass the Unified Tertiary Martriculation Examination (UTME) and who have either five O’Level credits or those who have three credits, but require two more. They would be able to come here for one session to receive intensive training to be able to meet up for their deficiencies, sit up and retake their O’Level and UTME and then move to 100 Level.
It was recently said that KDU is open to indigent students. How poor can a student be to secure a private university education?
The university is open to anyone who is qualified, whether poor or rich, no matter the race or religion. What we have done is to make it very easy for anybody to pay. You don’t have to pay all the fees at a go; you can just work towards it. We have made it so easy that you can pay in three instalments. All you need is just to work towards it. We also have what we call Scholar’s Programme. You may be poor, but brilliant; we are ready to assist you with scholarship. Once you are the best in your class with GPA of 4.5, we give you scholarship. That is, you don’t pay anything; you just have free education, so to say. We are also working on what we call the Student Work Programme, whereby you have some poor students who are brilliant but have to keep themselves busy. We want to get them a few things they can do and get paid for.
There are lots of private universities springing up these days. What is going to be the edge for you in this era of proliferation of private universities?
Our goal is to have a crop of graduates who are not only academically equipped, but have skill acquisition imparted into them during their stay here, no matter the programme of study. We have made it our point of duty that every lecturer must identify what the students can do, so that we don’t just turn them out and they become qualified graduates who employ themselves nor be employed. So we are emphasising seriously on skill acquisition or entrepreneurial studies as our focal point. We are also emphasising on critical thinking and logical reasoning. A student can be a first class graduate, but by the time you interact with her, you discover that she only has the book knowledge and her thoughts are not that really coordinated. Indeed, going by our academic brief and the master plan of the university, entrepreneurship is central to whatever we are doing at KDU. We have seven different programmes on entrepreneurship that every student must take and pass; not just the theory, but the practical aspect. When they finish, we have a certificate for each of them. We would also ensure that each student must choose at least two basic vocations that they want to acquire skill on. It can be photography, computer studies, sewing, among others, and you get a certificate on them. We already have a centre for this and we have just recruited a senior lecturer who will be in charge of the entrepreneurship centre. So, skills acquisition is really central and key to our programmes at KDU.
The vision of KDU is to be a world-class institution. How do you intend to attract international students and staff to the university?
Just some few days ago, a lecturer in one of the universities in Liberia was here to discuss how he could partner with the KDU either in terms of students or staff exchange. We are presently working on that Memorandum of Understanding. Also, currently, we have a visiting PhD student from the USA, who is here with us in our Department of History, working on African Medicine. We are already reaching out beyond the shores of Africa to America to also have a kind of collaboration with this university. We are also working with a university in Ghana to also have an MoU so we can work together on both staff and students exchange. We realised that a university is supposed to be a universal city, where people from all walks of life can come to. Our aim is that at least five per cent of our students should be foreign students and that is one of our strategic plans. We also want to ensure that at least in every of our departments we have at least one foreign staff and that for every of our programmes, there must be that touch of international associations and linkages.
Lack of enough funding to carry out serious academic studies, practical and processes worthy of providing a competitive world class tertiary education is always the bane of private institutions. How do you intend to take up this challenge?
I quite agree with you that funding is a challenge, but not to private universities. Even to the federal or state universities, funding has always been a problem, but the major difference is that the promoters of the university and our sponsors are committed to qualitative education. Based on that, money has been earmarked to ensure that the programmes are maintained on qualitative path. We as management have also started thinking of how we can generate more money on our own, by embarking on few things, apart from what you can get from our JUPEB and remedial programmes. We also have on our strategic plans that the university will endow some money every year to research. We call that Senate Research Grants, through which every staff can apply competitively and be able to get some money to do some meaningful research. The Governing Council at the meeting we had some three months ago also decided that we have a centre for research laboratory, which they are willing to fund and equip to world class taste. One major thing that the Governing Council has done is going into agreement with a firm that is going to supply us daily with solar- based power; you can’t do any meaningful research without adequate power supply. We have earmarked one hectare of land. Where we are going to build a solar park firm that will guarantee us power supply throughout the day.