he Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. AbdulGaniyu Ambali (OON), has called for improved funding of universities in the country to enhance the delivery of quality education and to enable more people have access to tertiary education through the expansion of existing facilities.

Prof. Ambali, who made the call in an exclusive interview with The News Magazine recently, also registered his support for the mooted plan by the Federal Government to establish mega-varsities in the country, saying they would substantially help in absorbing many of the university admission seekers who could not otherwise be admitted due to limited carrying capacities of the existing universities.

The Vice-Chancellor urged the Federal Government to “improve the funding to universities because with adequate funding, some of the existing universities will be expanded to accommodate more candidates”. He also appealed to the government to allow the universities to embark on online degree programmes just as many institutions now run some sandwich programmes. “If that is extended to the populace, it will reduce the backlog of unadmitted candidates that we have across the country”, he said.

While appreciating the efforts of the Federal Government for its support for the myriads of projects on the Unilorin campus, Prof. Ambali lamented that funding remains a major challenge confronting his administration because “we have so many projects that we want to execute.”

The Vice-Chancellor said, “We want to be able to provide more infrastructure, especially in terms of building more hostels to accommodate students; we also need more money to train more staff, though we are among the very few universities that have 60 per cent of staff with PhDs. We want to improve on that so that we can have better quality teaching staff. We need funds for our staff to attend more conferences, to be able to present their research papers and interact with their colleagues all over the world.”

Prof. Ambali also submitted that the prudent management of limited resources, as well as support from friends of the University, has made it possible for the University to execute many capital projects. “The little money we have is channeled towards improving the condition of the University, especially in terms of offices, laboratories, as well as equipment in the laboratories”, he noted.

Prof. Ambali expressed optimism that the Oil Palm Plantation, as well as others, like the Teak and Jatropha plantations, being embarked upon by the University, would contribute to the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the institution in the future, saying that the plantation was established to serve as a laboratory for

students in the Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry Department and other disciplines like Life Sciences, and even Engineering.

He said, “We want to be able to practicalise a lot of programmes that we have on campus so that Oil Palm plantation will serve as a field laboratory for those that are in those disciplines.

The Vice-Chancellor pointed out that “by the time the plantation must have reached maturity stage, we will be able to augment whatever the Federal Government is giving us as fund for maintenance. We also hope that when the time comes, it will afford us the opportunity to serve the community because during harvesting and processing, we would need extra hands and it is in those areas that the community workforce would be mobilised. Of course, we have to pay for their services, and that will translate into alleviating poverty among our people within the immediate community.”

Explaining the reason for the harmonious student-management and staff-management relationship that thrives on campus, which has also culminated in the stable academic calendar, which the University enjoys over the years, Prof. Ambali said, “We try as much as possible to be close to our students. We understand that when students are here, all the staff members become their parents. We try as much as possible to bring them closer to us, so that their challenges, fears and their moments of happiness can be shared and celebrated together.”

He added, “We try as much as possible to be transparent to them, showing them the way and addressing issues without necessarily resorting to negative attitude or approach; and we endeavour to address whatever hardship they are going through. Also, we try to re-orientate them to be focused and to have an objective that they would love to achieve before leaving here. This is working and we have quite a number of our students doing things that can improve their welfare as well as improve the image of the University as a whole”.

The Vice-Chancellor also submitted that the remaining part of his tenure will be devoted to providing a comfortable environment for students and staff to aid learning, research and work output. He acknowledged their diligent contributions to the rising profile of the University as the best in the country.

Prof. Ambali advised the staff and students, “In order to remain as long as possible at the top, we have to continue working very hard. We know that we have 129 universities in Nigeria, and if we are number one, it means we have about 128 universities watching and studying us and wanting to kick us out of that position. We just have to continue to work hard so that we can stay on top for as long as possible. We should continue to improve upon whatever we are doing, knowing that the other 128 universities want to be in our place.”

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