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    Tuesday, June 19, 2018

    Students Must Do Problem-solving Projects, Not Theses –Tech-U VC

    The Vice-Chancellor of Technical University, Ibadan, Prof. Ayobami Salami, tells OLUFEMI ATOYEBI that Nigerian universities must restructure to stop education tourism.

    What mandate did you have when the school began?
    The school clocked one year on June 6, 2018. The mandate we had was to bring in students within a year and put structures in place. We achieved this in six months and got the National Universities Commission accreditation for 15 academic programmes.

    There is criticism over the perceived high tuition fee of the school. Will this not scare students away?
    People have asked if the school is exclusively for the rich. The aim of the university is to provide quality education for children of the rich and the poor. The rich who can afford it can send their children here. For the poor who cannot afford the fee, we have been able to raise N.5bn in scholarship, to help indigent students.

    Where did you get the money and is the source sustainable?
    The state government, councils, private sector players and individuals contributed to the scholarship basket for the sake of the students. Brilliant students only need to apply but it is a competitive process that involves being tested to ascertain qualification.

    There are universities and polytechnics who offer technical courses. What gap does the school want to fill?
    The aim of establishing this school is to divert from the stereotypical of awarding certificates to students. That is why we have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nigeria Society of Engineers to train the students. We also have an understanding with various professional bodies and stakeholders who will one day employ these students.
    We want them to have an input in the training of these students so that the students  will not only have classroom teaching alone but also practical knowledge acquired from these professional bodies.

    Before the end of this month, we shall sign an MoU with Texas University. This will enable our students to spend one out of five years at Texas University as part of their training programme. They will come back for their certificates with an option to return to Texas for further studies. What this means is that students produced here are good enough to excel in the US.
    Parents do not have to spend so much to give their children quality education abroad. We need to reduce education tourism because it amounts to capital flight. Students must not just produce thesis but projects that will also solve problems in society.

    In one year of operation, this university has had a review of its young curriculum. What was wrong with the initial curriculum that NUC accredited?
    At the initial stage, we designed a curriculum but we are aware of the new development in the employment market. After one semester, we invited the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association to help review our curriculum because they are the end users of our products.

    We want products that will meet the employers’ expectation. We also invited the Council of Registered Engineers and other major players in the private sector for the review of the curriculum.
    If Nigeria has to tackle the issue of graduate unemployment in Nigeria, then the employers of labour must have a hand in the students’ training. Whatever courses we offer in Nigeria must fit into our society. If we have a graduate in Electrical and Electronics, he should be able to fit into the employment market.

    Courses like Cyber Security and Mechatronics are common in Nigeria education system but we should start having them because that is where we are going. Mechatronics is a combination of Computer, Electronics and Mechanical Engineering. We offer all these courses because of the advantage they have in the employment market. We should develop courses that are relevant to our economic development.

    What kind of agreement do you have with professional bodies?
    Industrial training today is a matter of taking a report to the schools that the trainees attended. The students are posted to companies that have no facility to train the students. That is what we must change in the training programme. Only companies that have the facility will accommodate Tech U graduates for training. Forty per cent of the training will come from practical knowledge while the rest is offered in the school.

    We have private schools starting with as low as 25 and 30 students. How many students did you start with?
    We have our own challenges which are infrastructural problems that we are tackling with support of partners and the Oyo State Government. We have 183 students in the school now. We had a mandate of starting with 50 students but we had matriculation for 183 students.

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