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Ajimobi and Tech-U | Femi Macaulay


First Technical University (Tech-U), Ibadan, Oyo State, is a visionary‘s idea. The institution’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ayobami Salami, acknowledged the innovative inspiration of Governor Abiola Ajimobi, who leaves office this month after two pacesetting terms.

Salami said:  ”I must give credit to the Visitor to this university, His Excellency, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who conceived the idea. I keep on saying that he’s the dreamer and visioner, I’m just the interpreter of that dream. When we started, not too many people gave us a chance. People thought it was not going to work. We came at a point when the economy wasn’t too good. People wondered and asked how we were going to pay salaries, get students and all.”

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The university’s story is a study in focuself-belief.  Salami was appointed in May 2017. Three months later, the National Universities Commission (NUC) approved 15 programmes for the university. The university’s first set of students started their studies within six months after the NUC’s verification. Its first matriculation in January 2018 involved 190 students.   Courses available at Tech-U include Mechatronics Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Food Sciences and Technology, Cyber Security, Computer Science, Software Engineering, Physics with Electronics, Petroleum Engineering, Industrial Chemistry and Statistics.

Obviously, the university’s courses have a 21st century character. Tech-U is designed to produce entrepreneurial techies.  French is compulsory for every student, which says something about the university’s international outlook. In addition, every student is required to take two skills in any field of artisanship along with any course of their choice, and must be certified in such skills before they graduate. This blend of academic, entrepreneurial and vocational education is expected to prepare the university’s graduates for the challenges of the 21st century.

The university’s programmes show that it is on course concerning its orientation. Tech-U has demonstrated that it understands the meaning of specialisation.  This is a lesson in a country where specialised universities are known to have gotten off track.  Two years ago, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said: “Some of these specialised institutions include universities such as Universities of Agriculture, Universities of Technologies, Universities of Medicine, amongst others. The Federal government has observed that these institutions have derailed from their statutory responsibilities, thereby running programmes that are antithetical to their mandates.”

Adamu added: “The government notes the unfortunate situation where Universities of Agriculture offer programmes in Law, Management courses such as Accounting, Banking and Finance, Business Administration, among others. As if that was not enough, some institutions change the nomenclature of some of the courses to read, for instance, Banking Engineering, Accounting Technology, among other names. This is an aberration and should be stopped with immediate effect.”

Deviation from specialisation has been attributed to funding challenges. On the issue of funding, Tech-U, according to Salami, has pioneered “a new model of tertiary institution entirely. This university is today the only self-sustaining public university in Nigeria.”

Salami explained:  ”This is a university that was established from the word go to be self-sustaining; a public university with private-sector orientation. So with that, except the law is changed, I do not see any problem with that. Let me say clearly that this university is not running on government subvention. What government gave us is the take-off grant; apart from the take-off grant, we are supposed to really, you know, generate resources to actually forge ahead while the government takes care of infrastructural development and that’s what we have been doing in the last one year. We have been partnering with so many agencies and we have been running the university smoothly.”

Governor Ajimobi had emphasised Tech-U’s public-private partnership model at an event last year:  ”The commitment of government is to provide resources for its takeoff; after this, you pay your bills. While government will honor its commitment in this regard, it is imperative that the university begins to look out for partnerships that would make it attain full financial autonomy as a self-sustaining university.”

There is no doubt that the Tech-U model calls for creative thinking on the part of the institution’s management. It is a model that deserves to be emulated by tertiary institutions in the country that continue to cry about poor funding. Salami’s words: “We are supposed to solve problems and we can’t solve problems without having resources. We don’t depend solely on government subvention. Yes, government has a responsibility to support education but what we are saying is that we are not going the way of other public universities that rely solely on government. We are able to survive because we do not depend solely on government.”

A particular arrangement highlights Tech-U’s internationalism. “We are focusing on the international – in terms of research, staff, content, faculty,” Salami said. “ To that effect, within the first one year, we have gone into collaborative arrangement with Texas Tech University, in America… we are signing ‘4 plus 1 X’ arrangement which allows our students to spend 4 years here if you have come for a 5-year programme. And once you can afford it, you spend the next one year in Texas Tech University and come back here to earn our degree and use that our degree to have automatic admission for master’s degree programme in Texas Tech in the U.S. This means that our curriculum (with what is going on in Texas) is comparable, and that means we can exchange our staff. We want to create an environment whereby our students can be here and get instructional materials from Texas Tech and then our staff will go into joint research partnership with the staff over there so that we look at the Nigerian environment and the challenges; and then we take advantage of the findings we have there to really deal with our local problem in the country.”

Tech-U is for brilliant students, irrespective of their socio-economic context. Its scholarship basket, which attracts contributions from government and the private sector, had over half a billion naira in less than one year. “Those who ordinarily wouldn’t have seen the four walls of the university, even a public university, are now being brought to a university like this through scholarship and they are embracing it with both arms. They are very happy about it from the feedback we have,” Salami remarked.

Governor Ajimobi’s Tech-U idea is the stuff of legacy. It should inspire forward-thinking governance.

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