Professor Muhammad Kabir Faruk, a former Vice Chancellor of the Federal University Kashere, Gombe State, in this interview, says the university system cannot contain the rising number of undergraduate degree-seekers in the country.
The university was set up five years ago; have you attained the rank of leading research universities?
We are doing very well in spite of the challenges we have. We presented the largest number of programmes; 22 degree courses and all of them were accredited. We have also done the best we can in the area of infrastructural development with a lot of challenges. But over 90 percent of our funding for the development of infrastructure came from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).
We have established linkages with some foreign universities and we have started seeing the benefit. We did that because we want to be among the leading universities. Establishing those linkages with foreign universities is important to our mission, vision and goals. For example, we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and also Lincoln University which is the premier University of Agriculture in New Zealand. Right now, we have six or seven of our staff that are pursuing PhDs in both universities in New Zealand. We have also signed a MoU with Florida International University, in the USA, that is focusing more on research collaboration with the development of our libraries and human resource and it will include training of our staff and exchange of academic staff.
Our biggest challenge is funding , we need funds to build additional classrooms, lecture theaters, staff offices, students’ hostels, road networks and to address the problems of gully erosion. We would continue to have challenges in retaining our academic staff because the requirement in Nigeria for teaching in the university is PhD and the number of PhD holders today is not enough for Nigerian universities. The minimum qualification for teaching in the universities is Masters Degree, we have many graduate assistants and most of them have completed their masters and come back, while some have even started their PhDs.
Certainly, funding is our major challenge; Nigerian universities have reached the stage of depending on government for funds and because of the financial situation in the country, we must diversify our sources of finance.
Do you have plans for indigenous students?
There are different categories of students; the high performing students need to be rewarded for the effort and hard work they have put into their studies so that they can perform at even higher level. We also want to give an opportunity to every student regardless of their background to be able to attend and obtain a good university education. So, we already have an indigene scholarship scheme and several students have benefitted from it over the years. We also set up a scholarship fund for students with disabilities.
What efforts are you making to increase the number of courses being offered?
The establishment of faculties and colleges will be done in phases; every five years for the next 20 years we will be establishing new faculties. In phase two, which will be 2016/2017 academic session, we will establish the school of post graduate studies, faculty of management sciences which will be taken out of the existing faculty of management of social sciences and faculty of Law. In phase three, we will establish faculty of engineering, in phases four and five, we will establish college of medical and health sciences and college of dentistry. Then after the establishment of the college of dentistry, we would have completed our first circle of 25 years. By that time the university would have matured. We expect about 10,000 students at that stage.
This year alone, we admitted 1,160 students and I believe we are going to exceed students’ population of 10,000 in 20 years from now because of the high demand for university education. Even with the establishment of these universities, the university systems are still not meeting the needs of our qualified secondary schools graduates who desire to go to the universities.
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