By: Yemi Abioye
The University of Ibadan, known as UI, is Nigeria’s oldest university. Located in Ibadan, Oyo State, UI has steadily grown from six departments and 104 students at its founding in 1948 to over 50,000 students and over 50 departments today. UI Students pursue majors as varied as education, law, agriculture, technology, and medicine. Among the university’s notable alumni are novelist Chinua Achebe, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, and the late activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. UI’s mission, as stated by Vice Chancellor Professor Issac Adewole, “is to not only be counted among the top universities in Africa, but to remain locally relevant and globally competitive.” Through dynamic programs and international partnerships UI is actively working to fulfill this mission.
To be globally competitive, UI is engaging in a number of exciting initiatives. The university was recently named the host of the Pan African University Life and Earth Sciences Institute (PAULESI). Commissioned by the African Union, PAULESI’s goal is to offer graduate and post-graduates training in technology, innovation, and social sciences, and to develop a continent-wide professional workforce capable of contributing to communities and promoting good governance. Four of PAULESI’s many programs–plant breeding, reproductive health, environmental management and geo-sciences–will be based at UI.
To remain locally relevant, UI is investing in research on food (fish, animals, and crops) to help promote food security in Nigeria. Additionally, with help from the university’s Endowment Fund and the Nigerian government’s Tertiary Education Trust Fund, UI is building an International Conference Center and upgrading its maternal and newborn program.
However, despite the promising initiatives at UI, the university still experiences operational difficulties. Challenges with irregular electricity, inadequate water, and absence of other basic necessities leave the university in need of further support. As Vice-Chancellor Adewole explained, “funds that should go into providing needed infrastructure are used to provide electricity and water. This has greatly slowed down the pace of UI’s achievement.” One reason for UI’s financial problems is that it provides low-cost tuition. Although affordable tuition allows more students access to a quality education, it leaves UI with limited resources to improve infrastructure and build capacity.
To provide much needed support for UI and other Nigerian universities, NHEF was created. NHEF has already helped UI meet the MacArthur Foundation’s Fanton Challenge by successfully raising $250,000 in funds–matched by MacArthur–to support educational activities at UI. Additionally, with NHEF’s backing, UI was chosen in 2010 as one of 30 international partner universities in the Columbia University Earth Institute’s Global Master’s in Development Practice program. Furthermore, through NHEF’s SIMS database, technical experts are now being matched to UI to help address areas of need.
Thanks to support by NHEF, UI alumni, and other friends, the future of UI appears promising. The university’s goals include establishing a National Cancer Institute to combat Nigeria’s rising cancer rates and securing UI’s status as a “digital university.” Through continued support, UI will be able to reach its ultimate goal of positioning itself as a leading 21st-Century university.