‘We’re trying our best in terms of preparing students for the job market’
The Vice Chancellor of Federal University Oye Ekiti (FUOYE) Professor Kayode Soremekun, during the week marked his 65th birthday and his second year in office as the head of the institution. In this interview with The Guardian, the VC reflects on the journey so far as the Vice Chancellor.Excerpt:
Congratulations on your 65th birthday. Can we meet you sir?
I am Professor Kayode Soremekun, a public- spirited intellectual who occupies the critical interface between Journalism on one hand and academia on the other. I turned 65 years precisely on Monday, May 21, 2018. Till date I only have a faint memory of my father because he died just when I was four years old. On June 6, this year, it would be 61 years my father passed on.
I was born and grew up in Lagos where I attended, Kings College, Lagos. At Kings College, I was a Scholarship Student. I preceded to the then University of Ife, now, Obafemi Awolowo University where I was a National Award Scholar.
Eventually, I took a trinity of degrees from Ife: B.A English/History, M.Sc. International Relations and PhD International Relations. My studies at Ife have been complemented with Post-doctoral studies in Holland and in the United States of America.I was initially a journalist; I joined academia on a full-time basis in 1982, as an Assistant Lecturer. I rose through the ranks and became a Professor in 1997. In the course of my career, I obtained a number of fellowships; these include, Ford Foundation Fellowship, Netherlands Fellowship, Salzburg Fellowship, Senior Fulbright Research Fellowship and Resident Rockefeller Fellowship in Bellagio, Italy.
Prior to coming to Federal University Oye Ekiti, I have been Dean, Faculty of Administration, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife and Dean, College of Development Studies, Covenant University, Ota.
You have presided over the affairs of FUOYE for two years running, could you highlight some of your major achievements?
When you talk of achievement as it pertains to educational institutions, most people tend to focus on structures and expansion, whereas such achievements should look far beyond structures.Most often than not, we are losing sight of what a university idea means. For example, the Vice Chancellor should not be seen as a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the University. He is by Divine providence, primus interpares (first among equals). We can liken a University to the Editorial Board of a newspaper. Despite the fact that newspaper has a Chairman of the Editorial Board, that does not make him the sole fountain of knowledge. The Board is a concentration of various individuals with ideas. At the end of the day, superior ideas prevail. This is the deepening and activation of a university idea.
Be that as it may, in the areas of academic attainment, we have in the last two years expanded our programmes from 22 to 49 while our faculties have been increased from 4 to 7. For a young university, we now have a Post Graduate School. As I speak now, we are cultivating the international academic community. Recently, we hosted a workshop in partnership with the Social Science Council of New York. This was a programme that was combined with a public lecture with the theme: Peace Building In Africa In A Post Cold War Era.
We have also increased our admission capacity from 3,000 to 12,000. This is an exponential growth. The implication of this is that we are helping the indigent students and children of peasants who lack the financial wherewithal. We equally now have pre-degree and JUPEB programs.We also have in the pipeline, programmes like the Faculty of Law, Pharmacy and Basic Medical Sciences.
How about the accreditation of your programmes and courses as a new university?
It will interest you to know that most of our programmes have full accreditation status and recently, we presented 22 programmes for accreditation and 18 were given full accreditation.In the areas of structures and infrastructural development, most of the uncompleted facilities we met on ground are now completed. For example the Central Administrative building has been completed and handed over. Also, the Engineering Workshop at Ikole Ekiti campus and the 500 capacity lecture theatre at the Oye Ekiti campus have been completed.The 3-in-1 Science Laboratory, which will be the starting point for our prospective Faculty of Pharmacy, is also completed. Equally, the main library is completed and almost ready for occupation.
We have also built a 500-capacity lecture theatre for the Faculty of Science. The most fascinating of it all is that the significant parts of these structures and facilities were carried out on the platform of our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).When I resumed in 2016, the two campuses were operating on 24/7 generating services, at the moment however, the university is now connected to the National Grid. This development has significantly reduced the huge sum expended on diesel.
In the area of Internet, before we came in, the university did not have its own portal. We were dependent on the portal of a first generation university. Today, we now have FUOYE Portal. Since our main customers are students who are imbued with a measure of restlessness, we now have a comprehensive Sports Complex at the Oye Ekiti campus. Also banks are now on campus to ease our students and staff financial transactions.
Funding generally has been the major challenges of most universities in Nigeria, is FUOYE an exemption?
Thank you for that question. In as much as the challenges of finance have constituted a drawback to most universities, we at FUOYE are surmounting that challenge. I told you earlier on that some of our projects are funded by Internally Generated Revenue. For example, we have an Entrepreneurial Centre headed by Dr. Abimbola. He came with a robust experience from Covenant University. This entrepreneurial skill has placed our students in good stead to fend for themselves.
We are also getting support from Tetfund. In all, we are trying our best in terms of preparing our students for the job market. They are well placed to take care of themselves.
Be that as it may, we cannot wish away funding as the oxygen of education. We are contending with the fact that government in view of her numerous commitments is not doing enough for FUOYE. FUOYE should have a special status especially in view of the fact that we are running two campuses with a capital-intensive course like Engineering to boot. We are in the process contending with the issue of buying Engineering equipment and the rigours of accreditation with the Council of Registered Engineers in Nigeria (COREN) and the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC). All these are some of our major challenges.
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