In a candid interview with The Nation, Mahfouz Adedimeji, the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of Ahman Pategi University (APU) in Kwara State, has raised significant concerns about the potential consequences of granting full autonomy to universities.
He believes that such autonomy could lead to universities fending for themselves, which in turn might result in a steep rise in tuition fees, among other issues.
Adedimeji’s insightful remarks shed light on the complexities of the Nigerian higher education system and its current challenges.
He emphasised that while full autonomy could be achievable, it’s crucial to understand the implications fully.
One of the most pressing concerns raised by Adedimeji is the possibility of universities being forced to become self-reliant.
“In this scenario, public universities may resort to increasing tuition fees as a means to cope with the financial burden. This could have significant consequences for students and their access to higher education,” he said.
Adedimeji also stressed the urgent need to prioritise research and researchers in Nigeria.
He lamented the country’s tendency to celebrate politics and entertainment at the expense of intellectual pursuits, which he believes is hindering national development.
He emphasised, “In developed nations, research drives development and the impact is felt in the polity. In Nigeria, however, intellectuals and researchers are not accorded much value, and that’s part of why we are where we are. We glorify politics and celebrate entertainers.”
Reflecting on his role as vice-chancellor, Adedimeji acknowledged that it comes with both honour and responsibility.
He explained that being a VC is a service-oriented role that demands a strong sense of responsibility and a willingness to make tough decisions for the greater good of the university.
Regarding the challenges faced by universities, Adedimeji highlighted the importance of prioritising the welfare of university workers and addressing issues such as poor funding and inadequate infrastructure.
He also called for government intervention to make basic education free and compulsory to combat the problem of out-of-school children, emphasising that such a move would encourage parents to enroll their children in school.
When comparing public and private universities, Adedimeji noted that while public universities generally have more resources, the specific circumstances of each institution matter more than ownership. He pointed out that some state-owned public universities struggle due to neglect from their proprietors, while certain private universities thrive thanks to visionary owners.
As for his vision for APU, Adedimeji shared his ambitious plan to elevate the university’s status in Nigeria, Africa, and the world.
He expressed confidence in achieving this vision through innovative thinking and hard work, despite the initial challenges faced by the university.
Throughout the interview, Adedimeji’s commitment to his role as vice-chancellor and his passion for improving the higher education landscape in Nigeria were evident.
He concluded by sharing his five coping strategies for dealing with challenges: prayer, planning, practice, patience/perseverance, and persistence, underscoring the importance of a resilient and determined approach to overcoming obstacles.
In a time when the future of Nigerian universities hangs in the balance, Adedimeji’s insights provide valuable perspectives on the critical issues facing higher education institutions in the country.