Stories abound of private universities treating students as children, restricting movements, prescribing dress codes and even enforcing strict wake-up and bedtime regulations. How can character be built without infringing on the students’ rights?
The issue of freedom is a very serious issue in all civilized world. A university environment is a citadel of learning, where youths and adults alike learn things that they take out to the wider society. A university undergraduate is a leader in his/her right. So, it is important he imbibes good orientation that pervades his/her consciousness. This is what informs his behaviour and the impact he makes subsequently.
The issue of good discipline, knowing how to do the right thing at the right time is important, which include dress code. There is a common saying that you should dress the way you want to be addressed. These virtues have to enter the subconscious of our youngsters at an early age so that they become their second nature. Having said that, we are advocates of human rights and freedom. But we promote freedom that goes with high sense of responsibility. There is nowhere in the world that people enjoy absolute freedom, as every meaningful freedom goes with responsibilities. That is why men of reasons see freedom as a heavy burden and challenge. At Christopher University, we will treat our students with a measure of respect, but they must show reasonable standard of responsibility.
There have been calls for private universities to be allowed to access interventions by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and other such agencies of government. Is it morally right for private universities to be asking for government funding?
Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) is a child of necessity. It came at the point where public universities were under immense financial crisis. It is more or less an intervention financial institution to foster research, training and development in the tertiary institutions. It was a great idea from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and they must be commended for this. The universities would have been in a greater crisis if not for this outfit. At its creation, nobody thought of the needs of private universities. Things have changed since its establishment, and it has become clear that public universities cannot cope with the upsurge in the demand for university education and the need for accelerated development in our struggling economy. Given this situation it is imperative to have a second look at the law establishing TETFund with a view to accommodating the needs of private universities. The fund for TETFund is pooled together from the private sector; it does not make much sense to exclude private universities that are also patronised by Nigerians from gaining from the fund that avails public institutions. If you do a little research, you will find out that most of the universities in the western world, especially in the United States are private universities, but the students there enjoy scholarship and awards from both the governments and other public institutions, bearing in mind that knowledge is a universal commodity, which when acquired, serves entire human race.
The Federal Ministry of Education has over 25 agencies and parastatals under it. Many see this as very clumsy and cumbersome and so want some of these agencies and parastatals merged for them to be more effective. Do you see this as the right thing to do?
Education is critical in the life of every nation. It is also the sector that could easily be abused. For this reason, it requires regulation to maintain standard and check the incident of exploitation. For this reason, a body such as the Joint Admission and Matriculations Board, the National Universities Commission (NUC), the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and such others are very important. In their absence, our education system will be in jeopardy. But it is important to phase out some other regulatory bodies whose functions are not clearly spelt out because some of those institutions could be a clog in the wheels of progress. Over regulation is as bad as no regulation.
What is the philosophy behind the establishment of Christopher University?
We aspire to be one of the best in the business of human capital development. We aim to marry theory with practice to become an international powerhouse in management education, preparing managers, scholars and entrepreneurs. Our institution puts immense premium on the marriage between town and gown. Our graduates should be well grounded not only in theory, but also in practice. We hope on a regular basis to invite captains of industry and notable figures in the private sector to deliver intensive and serious lectures to our students; this is aside from our plans to expose them constantly to field works and practical orientations as our programme dictates. On the whole, we wish to work together within and across organisational boundaries in pursuit of human excellence.
Considering the avalanche of private universities in the country, what are you bringing to the table, and what is your unique selling point?
The Christopher University aims to educate our students to become pathfinders, trailblazers, leading researchers and practitioners in their fields. We lay a lot of emphasis on management science, but we are nonetheless conscious of the need to make our students to excel in their various specialities. In all, we place premium on praxis–pragmatism as the leading spirit in all human endeavours. We are focused on creating a specialised institution committed to the pursuit of academic innovation, skill-based training and a tradition of excellence in teaching and research, with private sector participation. Christopher University was established to fill existing gaps in the traditional universities. We intend to run regular and summer courses designed to ensure that every student meets academic and professional standards in existence in any part of the world.
How many academic programmes offered by the institution have received full accreditation from the National Universities Commission (NUC), and what are the academic programmes available in your institutions?
The National Universities Commission (NUC) approved three faculties and eight departments as take off programmes for us. They are Faculty of Business Studies, consisting of Accounting, Banking and Finance, Business Administration, and Marketing; Faculty of Humanities, made up of History and Diplomatic Studies, English Language and Literature’ and Faculty of Social Sciences, made up of Economics, Political Science and Psychology. The University has been given a go-ahead to run the above programmes.
Most universities that are coming on stream begin academic activities with skeletal facilities and infrastructure. How is your school faring along this line?
Christopher University is taking off on a solid foundation. We have adequate infrastructural facilities for healthy academic pursuit. We have sporting facilities for students’ recreation, and a well-appointed medical centre. There is adequate security arrangement in the campus with CCTV covering all nooks and crannies of the university.
We are interested in providing healthy and friendly environment where learning, research and development will be pleasure for both students and staff. We will continue to upgrade our facilities as the need arises.
One of the greatest criticisms trailing private universities in the country is the high fee regime, which many still see as a disincentive. How affordable is education in your institution?
University education is a capital-intensive project. Its return is slow and gradual. Most proprietors of private universities went into it not because of their anxiety or quest for profit, but because of their love for knowledge and education. They have strong desire, I believe, to give back to the society. Otherwise, if fees in the universities are calculated in terms of investments in both material and human resources, many people will not be able to afford the fees. And more importantly, in a poverty-stricken environment where the urge to acquire higher education is in the ascendancy, it amounts to crime against humanity and progress to price universities out of the reach of the common man.
In Christopher University, our fees are students/parents/guardians friendly. We took into consideration, the economic hardship in the country in fixing our fees, which covers tuition, accommodation, caution, medical etc. It is low enough and in fact affordable, and very significantly, we allow students to pay their fees in two instalments. We are fundamentally different in this from others. Our fee regime is one of the lowest around.
6. Your school is under the mentorship of the University of Lagos (UNILAG). What does this entail and what are the implications?
That is a very interesting and basic question. We are under the mentorship of not just any university, but the University of Lagos. We are very happy and proud of that association and we want to make great use of the opportunity.
Yes, we are under the academic and administrative mentoring by the University of Lagos for a five-year probationary period. The university of Lagos, by this, is meant to provide expert advice and oversee the following: appointment of the governing council, recruitment of principal officers, academic and administrative staff, availability of human and material resources for commencement of any academic programme, implementation of carrying capacity, assistance in staff development, moderation of student examination and the results, general quality assurance, moderation of admission and external examination moderation.