Without JAMB as clearing house, universities’ admission process will be in disarray —Professor Timothy Olagbemiro
The immediate past Vice Chancellor of Edwin Clark University, Kiagbodo, and a former Vice Chancellor of Bowen University, Iwo, Professor Timothy Olagbemiro, in his interview with Saturday Tribune, shares his views about university education development in Nigeria, among other issues.
How did you find yourself in academics?
I had my primary and secondary education at Baptist Primary and Baptist High School, both in Jos, Plateau State, followed by a one-year Higher School Certificate education at Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo, with subsequent degrees of BS, MS and PhD and a postdoctoral training from Stetson University (Baptist-owned) in DeLand, Florida, Fisk University (Methodist-owned), in Nashville Tennessee, and Howard University, Washington DC, all in the United States of America.
When did you join the Nigerian university system and what are your experiences so far?
I returned to Nigeria in 1978 to join the Chemistry department of Bayero University, Kano, as Lecturer I, having taught at Fisk University as Assistant Professor of Chemistry. At Bayero, I rose to Readership in 1984, and was appointed Professor of Chemistry the same year. I was appointed Vice Chancellor of Bowen University in 2003 by the Nigerian Baptist Convention and was in that capacity for 10 years (two terms).
After my exit from Bowen in August 2013, I returned to the United States of America to rest. One afternoon in December 2013, l received a phone call from Chief Edwin Clark, requesting that I should return to Nigeria to assist him to start a university in Delta State. I prayed about it and after consulting my family, I returned to Nigeria, having accepted the offer. That was how I joined Edwin Clark University on January 14, 2014. We began academic activities on 15 May, 2015 with the issuance of an operating license as a private university by the National Universities Commission (NUC). I completed my term as Vice Chancellor on May 14, 2023, having spent nine years and four months.
This means that you are one of the longest serving vice chancellors in Nigeria.
By the grace of God. I believe so, having served for 19 years and four months continuously as vice chancellor from 2003 to 2023. During this period, I had the privilege to serve as Chairman, Committee of Vice Chancellors and Registrars of Private Universities in Nigeria (CVCRPUN) for over nine years of its 22 years of existence and was also Chairman, Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU) for a period of two years. These are all of Nigerian universities, private, federal and state owned.
How did it happen?
It is the grace and mercy of God. One thing I know is that whatever your hands find doing, do it to the glory of God. I believe in integrity, hard work, team work and quality service delivery with results to satisfy employers.
What can you say about Edwin Clark University?
First and foremost, Edwin Clark University is one of the fastest growing private universities in Nigeria. It has what it takes to produce 21st century graduates who can influence their world positively. Our nation needs employable and self-employed graduates to move it forward in every aspect of growth and development.
Moreover, the university has the lowest fees in Nigeria. The huge investment of the proprietor on the procurement of teaching and research equipment abroad and fund to create conducive learning and peaceful environment validates its acclaim as a standard Nigerian university. Chief Edwin Clark, the proprietor of the institution, is a visionary statesman who believes in quality education. He is the driving force behind our achievements. All our 27 academic programmes have full NUC accreditation status.
What can you say about the growth and development of private universities in Nigeria?
The approval of private universities to co-exist with public universities in Nigeria by the Federal Government since 1999 has been a blessing to the Nigerian university educational system. These private universities have been able to establish academic stability and quality education laced with discipline. I commend the efforts of all owners of private universities, the individuals, organisations and groups that have shown utter resilience, particularly in granting Nigerians the alternative to state and federal universities.
How can the country promote research in the university system?
Research must be funded for development. For this reason, Nigeria must earmark reasonable fund for research of prime relevance to the needs of our people. There must be accountability with checks and balances nonetheless. Government and private agencies must dedicate some portions of their annual budgets to research and development and it must be mandatory and monitored. It is true that the TetFund gives research grants to institutions and individuals. There must be proper monitoring and accountability. The work accomplished; what the fund was given for must be properly examined and approved. There must be adequate result for funding.
What is your advice for the NUC as regards quality academic education and research control?
I believe the NUC is doing its job of standardisation of our universities. They have been providing the guidance and monitoring their directives really. It is left to the universities to fulfill their own part. NUC cannot interfere beyond a certain level. Each university has to be true to its calling and mandate. Government should ensure it meets world recommended budgeting on education. Health, education and food must take a critical aspect of Nigeria’s budget, not on paper but in reality. The core of the powerhouse for strategic planning and development is resident in education and tertiary education takes the forefront. Once that is destabilised, government and universities must work hand in hand to proffer solutions to its teething problems. Government funds these institutions and they must have degrees of beliefs in their abilities to proffer solutions to them symbiotically. This is what the technologically advanced countries do.
Some stakeholders are asking if JAMB is still relevant in the university admission process.
JAMB is pretty relevant and will continue to be relevant if we still believe in anything called quality or standard. What do you think will happen if there is no clearing house on standardised admission? Chaos, The number of secondary school graduates seeking university admission swells from minute to minute. This has been a saving grace for Nigeria’s educational endeavour. I commend those who had served along with the present Registrar of JAMB. It is an enormous responsibility and really, that is where people work. We would have meaningless admission process without the UTME. Everyone would own a university degree and diploma. The US still has its.
We need a clearing house. My only suggestion is that it should be done at least three times in a year. I know it is cumbersome, but it is crucial for the ease of the candidates.
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