In eight years, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD) rose from a newly licensed private university to an acclaimed Citadel of Learning which the National Universities Commission, NUC, the Regulatory Authority for University Education in Nigeria, has acknowledged as “a model, benchmark and a reference point” as well as the “pride of university system in Nigeria”, and endorsed by the Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigeria Universities, AVCNU, as “the most successful private university in Nigeria” and has therefore become a reference for quality university education in Nigeria and the West Africa region.
In a country where universities are besieged by the unending socio-economic malaise that stunts their progression in continental and global rankings, ABUAD stands out as an exception by taking giant, unprecedented strides that shore up faith and restore confidence in the country’s tertiary education. Today, it is being acclaimed as the institution that is widening “Nigeria’s recognition and contributions to scholarship across the globe”.
Successfully circumventing the encumbrances that weaken the Nigerian university system such as cyclical strikes by university unions, outdated curriculum, the dearth of funds and its attendant infrastructural decay, moral decadence, sporadic cultism, ABUAD bolstered the swelling ranks of private institutions.
However, the university, located in Ado-Ekiti, South-West, Nigeria, differs from the rest in the private university spectrum. Whereas a private university education means pricey tuition and elitist tag, ABUAD by its not-for-profit philosophy is affordable to Nigerians of all statuses.
Standing on the tripod of quality, affordability and stability, it has emerged as the dynamo leading the long-overdue reforms of the Nigerian university education.
FOUNDED ON A VISION
Since its establishment, ABUAD has been on a rising trajectory, fuelled by the vision of its Founder, Aare Afe Babalola, CON, SAN, a renowned lawyer and philanthropist.
Those familiar with the renowned Jurist are hardly surprised at the laudable development at ABUAD.
During his time as a seven-year Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Babalola had a first-hand experience of the rot in the university education, ranging from cultism to incessant strike actions by campus unions to poor decorum and morally bankrupt behaviour (epitomized at times by indecent dressing among teachers and students).
He had midwived interventions to salvage failing infrastructure, and as a professional saw the glaring limitation of the outdated curriculum in the Nigerian university system.
With his pedigree of being twice voted Best Pro-Chancellor of all universities in Nigeria and was chairman of Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Nigeria Universities, Babalola was in a position to proffer solutions to the hydra-headed problems bedevilling the university system in Nigeria. He did that by founding an institution, which in his words, is “an example of how a university should be run and how it ought not to be run.”
The university he had in mind is a world-class Centre of Excellence whose graduates have the professional skills that meet the challenges of the time and who are trained to push boundaries and bring forth innovations. This has since been confirmed by many national and international Education stakeholders like UNESCO which dubbed ABUAD as “a world class institution of Higher Education”.
A kernel of the dream is the materialization of a citadel of learning whose campus is a breeding ground for leaders, achievers, innovators and technocrats, rather than the regular academic mill that churns out the so-called half-baked graduates. His model of a graduate is an individual of strong intellect and character, who is morally upright, who espouses the virtue of hard work, integrity and service, someone driven by the philosophy of achieving the impossible.
He set out to groom graduates who would be problem solvers, self-reliant, employers of labour and active players in the global marketplace.
The challenge thereof was how to build a model university with a conducive environment for a stable academic calendar and pursuit of excellence in teaching, research and performance as well as community impact.
These dreams and goals, Afe Babalola pursued with incomparable passion, as he once revealed, that “I have emptied all my Bank Accounts, I have sold many of my properties to see this school grow and become the best I dreamt it to be”.
He also deployed his vast contacts in business and professional circles to muster support for the fulfilment of the vision.
According to Akinwunmi Adesina, President, African Development Bank, AfDB, not many are surprised by the exploits of ABUAD, “because anybody that knows Aare Afe Babalola would know what he stands for –– excellence.”
FROM A MODEST BEGINNING
THE aims and objectives of the Founder and Management of ABUAD were clearly evident from the outset. The strongest indicator of the university as a purpose-driven institution was its unprecedented accomplishment of having its permanent site ready with all Human and Material resources on the ground, that is, 130 hectares of land with College Buildings and Hostels, Staff Quarters and teaching facilities, even before its provisional license was granted. This strong statement of purpose has been a feat exclusive to ABUAD in the annals of Nigeria’s private universities.
Commencing Academic works on January 4, 2010, with 240 students, it had its first set of graduates on October 21, 2013. Over the years, the student population increased to 8,112 by 2018.
Graduating five sets of students in eight years, from 2013 to 2017, is a testament of a stable Academic Calendar devoid of the routine university strife that disrupts academic sessions.
This factor accounts for the reasons ABUAD is a top choice among over 270 institutions in the country. During the admission window, it receives over 15, 000 applications, a figure twice its Admission Capacity of 8, 000.
The university offers Academic Programmes in six Colleges: Sciences, Law, Engineering, Social & Management, Medicine & Health Sciences and Postgraduate Studies.
All its 47 programmes have full accreditation from the National Universities Commission (NUC) including seven (7) programmes in Engineering and other various programmes in Law, Medicine and Health Sciences, Accounting, Computer Science, Media and Communication, International Relations and Social Justice.
Its courses also enjoy accreditations from an array of Professional Bodies including the Council for Legal Education, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN), National Institute of Marketing, (NIM), the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) and the Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria (ICAN).
A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY
Continuous investment and fast-paced, focused expansion have styled the university as a forward-looking institution and of the ilk of the Ivy League.
As articulated by its Founder, Afe Babalola: “This university was set up to be a real example of a 21st century university. A modern university that can compete with any university in advanced nations”.
So far, it has demonstrated its clout as a modern university in various dimensions that includes curriculum development, whereby it surpassed the NUC benchmark by introducing five new modern programmes namely, Mechatronics, Social Justice, Human Biology and Intelligence & Security Studies as well as Tourism & Events Management.
The institution reinforced its pacesetter poise on May 21, 2017, with the inauguration, among others, two groundbreaking infrastructural projects. One of the projects, a Dome Planetarium with an astronomical observatory, the facility, a first of its kind in Africa, would aid research on how to explore the resources on the moon.
The second project, a range of Telemedicine equipment donated by Aster DM Healthcare of Dubai, elevated the 400-bed ABUAD Multisystem Hospital to a First-class Medical Centre in the country, with Teleconsulting, Telediagnosis and Telemanagement capabilities that enable medical experts from a remote location in Dubai to join surgical operations at ABUAD Multisystem Hospital.
Like a truly world-class university, ABUAD sustains its momentum without getting bogged down in the fund quicksand. Though a private university, its revolutionary non-profit motive means it is not reliant on tuition fee-based Internally Generated Revenue, IGR. Rather, ABUAD Management has forged an innovative paradigm of fundraising to drive its growth.
The university in May 2017 secured a $40m loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to further catalyze its growth and development which Vice Chancellor Prof. Michael Oluwafemi Ajisafe, broke down to include “high-quality education to over 10,000 students, create 250 new staff positions as well as many as 1000 temporary jobs across the construction, supplies and consulting in the value chain.”
Part of its growing global and international status is derived from the university’s strategic collaboration with reputable Research Centres, recognized higher institutions of learning, corporate bodies and international organisations across five continents. While it seeks collaboration in the key areas of programme development, curriculum studies, staff and exchange, some of its affiliations are skewed towards the purchase of equipment and materials, with a view to expanding the horizons of its students and staff while broadening the capability of the institution to stay abreast of technological trends.
Its Mechatronics Engineering programme, for example, is equipped with FESTO Automation and Mechatronics Laboratory equipment from Germany, while its Mechanical Laboratory is equipped by CES Industries Inc, New York. The university is also the Centre for the supply of Engineering equipment by United States National Instruments Limited. What it means, therefore, is that its Engineering students are receiving training in up-to-date development in their field.
By its eighth year of existence, ABUAD has become a metaphor of benchmarks and reference points for the Nigerian academia, one of its laudable achievements being its world-class Multisystem Hospital capable of triggering Medical Tourism in Nigeria and Africa.
The hospital’s inventory of sophisticated medical equipment includes digital X-ray machine with fluoroscopy, bone densitometer, immunoacid machines and Magnetic Resonance Imagery (MRI).
To ensure long-term usage of the equipment, their maintenance has been handed over to Abbot, a renowned global laboratory company.
With over 90 qualified consultants and teaching staff, including expatriates brought in from Aster Hospital in Dubai, the hospital stands as a Medical Centre capable of treating any ailment, though with focus on specialised areas such as Orthopaedic, Abdomen, ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat), Cardiac and Brain surgeries. Its sophisticated facilities provide a novel experience in medical services. For example, the live streaming equipment that allows patients’ and Resident Doctors to view ongoing medical procedures.
In line with its not-for-profit philosophy, the hospital is programmed to be accessible to the middle-class as it goes fully operational soon. Health Minister Prof. Isaac Adewole, who expressed optimism that the hospital will improve Nigeria’s poor health indicator said: “With what I have seen here, this hospital matches the best in the world and it will certainly put an end to medical tourism outside Nigeria”.
Commissioned on October 20, 2016, ABUAD Multisystem Hospital, built on 60 hectares and administered on a revolutionary paperless Information Management System, is positioned as Africa’s leading Medical Centre. ABUAD Provost, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Professor Rotimi Sanya has this to say about the Multisystem Hospital: “currently, ABUAD Multisystem Hospital is the best equipped in the country and it is capable of handling any complex medical case”.
The hospital stands as a bulwark against the brain drain syndrome ravaging the country’s medical sector.
Similarly, the university has won acclaims for its Law programme, with a plaudit coming from Professor Julius Okojie, former NUC Executive Secretary, who rated its Law college “The best in West Africa.”
Further testament is given by Prof, Smaranda Olarinde, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, DVC (Administration) and Provost, College of Law: “Among our former graduates, we had First Class and Second Class Upper Division in Law School in 2016––one from the Abuja Campus and the other one from Lagos Campus. Last year (2017), we had one First Class and several Second Class Upper Division students and the Council of Legal Education acknowledged our students for their performances by sending a letter of commendation to the institution and to the College.”
ABUAD is the first university to gain full accreditation for its Law programmes and the first to obtain an increase in quota from 50 to 188.
Agriculture is another area where the university has made a big impression, with its vast Agro-tourism farm, hailed as the best in Nigeria or elsewhere by the Federal Minister for Agriculture. ABUAD is the country’s first university to own a commercial farm of such size, a 1,000-hectare farmland used for the cultivation of fruits and commercial trees (such as Teak and Gmelina) as well as fisheries and the rearing of livestock such as pigs, snails, quails, guinea fowls and turkeys.
The farm is a commercial enterprise is sinew of the university. For example, yields from its moringa plantation are processed into various derivatives such as moringa oil, moringa tea, moringa soaps, creams and powder. The farm is designated a Research Centre in Agriculture by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (NIIA), Ibadan.
Engineering is another area the university has won plaudits for its outstanding efforts which have made the College worthy of being considered as “a template for Engineering Education in Nigeria” by the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE). The College of Engineering has 37 well-equipped laboratories and a Central Workshop.
Buildings and general infrastructure remain the university’s area of excellence since its inception. Its 7,000-seater Alfa Belgore Hall, 2000-seater Bimbo Owolabi Hall, N2 billion ultra-modern post-graduate building with Halls of Residence and N1.5 billion Social & Management Science Complex are indices of infrastructural capacity.
Others include its library, state-of-the-art Talent Discovery Building (housing 28 sporting facilities and 24 skills acquisition facilities), the 156-room ABUAD Inn and two cafeteria buildings.
The campus also has necessary utilities including a Printing press, laundry, sewage treatment plant, as well as water, paint and bread factories.
Its cutting-edge ICT Infrastructure and ultramodern banks all make the campus conducive for scholarly engagement.
AT different platforms and occasions, ABUAD has attracted commendations for its foresight, planning and giant strides. The acclaims have come from eminent Nigerians from all walks of life including politicians, educationists, technocrats, and heads of corporations and institutions. From the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, who described ABUAD Multisystem Hospital as one of the Best he has seen around. Prof. Julius Okojie’s eulogy of the university‘s Law Programme as “one of the best in West Africa,” to the ode by the Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, which declared ABUAD’s Engineering programme as the “template for engineering education in Nigeria,” every commentator’s compliments were merit-based.
For instance, the NUC, impressed by its preparation for take-off in 2009 had referred to ABUAD as “a model, reference point and benchmark for private universities,” and years later, still gave it an A rating as “the pride of the Nigerian university system,” a view that aligns with the opinion of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who called the university “a model to emulate”.
Eight years after it was founded, ABUAD is unrivalled as the ‘fastest growing private university in Nigeria’ and is being compared to the respected global universities. Hassana Alidou, UNESCO, Abuja Director, called it “a world-class University.”
Its rapid rise and popularity are supported by statistics from the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, which placed ABUAD in the second position among First Choice universities. The academic community also gives thumbs-up for the ABUAD strides. The Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigeria acknowledged it as ‘the most successful private university in Nigeria’.
It was not surprising then when the 2017 Webometrics ranking scored ABUAD as the Best Private University in Google Scholar (Transparent Ranking) in Nigeria, Number three best out of 249 higher education institutions including all private and public universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in Google Scholar (Transparent Ranking) in Nigeria. ABUAD is the number two best private university in Repository Ranking in Nigeria, number four out of 249 higher education institutions in Nigeria and lately, number two among private university in Webometrics ranking in Nigeria. That score rose higher with the July ranking.
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Other accolades for the institution include its 2011 Safest Campus of the Year” award by the Association of Heads of Security of Tertiary Institution (AHSOTI) and The most progressive, dynamic and fastest growing academic institution in Nigeria” Merit Award by National Association of Nigerian Students.
It won the University of the Year Award 2017 organised by the Daily Asset Newspapers, which in its letter explained, “the nomination of your university for this award was without (any) influence whatsoever from any quarters as it was purely based on merit.”
Its stature as an Academic giant was confirmed in November 2013 when ABUAD became the first Nigerian institution to mentor a foreign university when Ghana’s College of Industrial Development (UID), Accra, came under its guidance.
Outside Nigeria, the university has been making an impression. In 2015, it was crowned Africa Champion in Microsoft Imagine Cup in Seattle, USA and in 2016, it won the World Unilever Idea Trophy Competition in London.
EXPANDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS
ABUAD has remained true to its Founder’s vision of creating an exceptional educational experience for its student, including the provision of grants and scholarships. The institution’s Annual Scholarship and Merit Awards in 2011 peaked at N7.5 million. By 2012, it was N17.5 million. That increased considerably over the next two years to N32 million and N35 million respectively. The university successfully attracts scholarship from the corporate world with the likes of Chevron Star Deep Water Petroleum Ltd and Dragnet Solutions Limited awarding scholarships to Engineering students. Pan Ocean, an indigenous oil company, offers scholarships for 10 students every year. In 2012, ABUAD undergraduates benefitted from 24 different scholarships.
The range of bursaries available to the institution includes the United States Fulbright scholarship and a one-year scholarship from China Government for two students at Queen Ada Modestus-Fujian Norma University and Elizabeth Belema Sumiari-Zhejiang Normal Universities.
Part of the $40 million AfDB loan is earmarked as financial aids to some 500 students. Leveraging its university’s Farmers’ training and Entrepreneurial programmes, the institution’s plan to produce thousands of employable graduates by the end of the loan life is being implemented via a strategy whereby students who study Agriculture pay half tuition fee while they receive N250, 000 Farm grant upon graduation to start their own Agric-business.
The institution’s effort to also create training opportunities for its undergraduates in the wider society has been yielding results. For instance, Julius Berger Construction Company has an open invitation for Industrial Training for Engineering students of the university offering a prospect of acquiring practical training with the company and also studying in its parent country, Germany, with the objective to mould them into thoroughbred professionals by graduation.
To aid academic, research and professional endeavours, the university has created a global network for its students by its liaison with universities, organizations and professional bodies. Its array of partners includes Africa Rice Center, Bouaké (Côte d’Ivoire), Aster DM Healthcare, Dubai (UAE), Johns Hopkins University, USA, and Canadian Institute of Resources Law. Others are University of Calgary, Alberta, (Canada), Howard University, Washington CA, (USA) and Hangzhou Normal University, China.
Students of the university also enjoy Internship opportunities in United States, England, China, and Germany.
As a forward-looking university, ABUAD, keen on propelling its student to the global market, ensures that its students in Banking, Accounting and ICT graduate with professional qualifications and additional certificates in French or Chinese languages.
With a combination of rigorous Academic and Entrepreneurship training, students of the university are being groomed with a total education that would make them self-sufficient and employers of labour. In its journey so far, ABUAD has been a model university as envisioned by its Founder.