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AE-FUNAI @ 13: AN EMERGING TOP EDUCATION BRAND IN NIGERIA AND AFRICA

By Elom Iyke Ubochi

Professor Sunday Oge Elom

 

Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi State was established with 8 other universities by the Federal Government of Nigeria on 26th February, 2011 with the goal of expanding and improving access to quality university education to every part of the country. It had the name, Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ikwo up till 2nd February, 2018 when it was renamed in honour and recognition of the contributions of the first elected civilian Vice President of Nigeria, late Dr. Alex Ekwueme. It has Excellence, Integrity and Entrepreneurship as its core values. AE-FUNAI is situated in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, which is about 25 kilometers from Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital.

Though, the University was established in 2011, yet it did not commence academic activities immediately. There was rather a deliberate decision by the pioneer Vice-Chancellor, the late Distinguished Professor Oye Ibidapo-Obe and his team to take their time in order to develop a sound and robust academic brief, and also build a solid foundation for academic excellence and manpower development to ensure the University achieves its vision of becoming a world-class institution in the nearest future. Consequently, the University commenced academic activities on 5th November, 2012, with 3 Faculties (Basic Medical Science, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Science), 10 academic departments and 41 programmes.

At the expiration of the tenure of the pioneer Vice-Chancellor, the Federal Government appointed Chinedum Uzoma Nwajiuba, a Professor of Agricultural Economics the 2nd           Vice-Chancellor of the University. His tenure witnessed numerous landmark achievements, especially in the expansion and reengineering of academic programmes and activities, and infrastructural development unprecedented in the history of the institution.

More importantly, on 11th February, 2021, after a transparent selection process, Professor Sunday Oge Elom emerged the 3rd Vice-Chancellor of the University. Elom, a professor of Medical Biochemistry brought on board over 18 years of post-professorial and uninterrupted academic and administrative experience in the university system. On assumption of office he promised to sustain, consolidate and expand on the achievements of the two previous administrations of the university, assuring that he would keep the flag of the University flying at full mast at all times and that under his watch the world-class vision of the institution would be vigorously pursued with full intentions and irrevocable commitment..

The University, over the past 13 years has witnessed rapid academic development and expansion, and some appreciable infrastructural transformation. In the sphere of academic, the University presently has 14 Faculties, 54 academic departments and 65 programmes as well as a College of Medical Sciences and School of Postgraduate Studies. The Faculties are Agriculture, Basic Medical Science, Basic Clinical Medicine, Biological Science, Clinical Medicine, Education, Engineering and Technology, Environmental Science, Health and Allied Sciences, Humanities, Law, Management Sciences, Social Sciences and Physical Science, It is also worthy to note that all the 65 programmes of the University have the approval and accreditation of the National Universities Commission. In addition, the Engineering, Medical and Accounting programmes have also been accredited by their professional bodies – Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Nigeria Medical and Dental Council (NMDC) and Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) respectively while Education has the imprimatur of the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN).

 

These positive indicators have galvanized the academic activities of the university, leaving it on a strong and sound footing and serving as catalysts to the successes that have been recorded in the past 13 years. The university has an unwavering reputation for graduating students on schedule without the hitches often associated with such process in many public universities. Graduating students of the institution are also mobilized for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps programme every year, every batch and in every stream because of the insistence of the University Management on the timely release of students’ results; which has left no room for backlogs.

 

At a time when graduates of many Nigerian universities lack the capacity to communicate in English language of basic level, the introduction of a zero-credit but mandatory Language Enhancement Programme (LEP) in AE-FUNAI, the first of its kind in the Nigerian University System, has further distinguished the students and graduates of the institution from their peers because of their good grasp and command of written and oral English as well as their capacity for logical reasoning. In order to promote the Nigerian culture and language, the university further mounted an elective and non-mandatory GST course – BIL 101 (Basic Communication in Igbo Language) to help interested students to freely learn how to speak and write the Igbo language. This is one of the numerous community service contributions of the university to the local political economy of where it is situated.

 

AE-FUNAI is regarded as one of the most serious public universities in Nigeria. That is why most candidates prefer the University as their choice destination for admissions into higher institution. In fact, the university is one of the most sought-after public universities Southeast of Nigeria, in spite of its relatively young age. Consequently, the students’ population has risen from 293 students in 2012 to a students’ population of about 15,000 in 2024, and this has helped in jump-starting the local economy of the host community and other surrounding towns, thus promoting the town and gown relationships. To further underscore the seriousness of its academic activities, the university places premiums on the integrity of academic grades of students. This is to ensure that the sanctity of academic certificates awarded by the institution is not tainted in any form. In guaranteeing this, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Elom constituted             a Students’ Grades Verification Committee to ensure among other things that academic grades are not awarded frivolously and without merit and that course contents, examination questions and marking schemes meet acceptable standard. The University also introduced and sustained the Inception Quiz – a 10-mark test usually taken after 2 weeks of school resumption, meant to ensure that the academic calendar is strictly followed. This has positively rubbed-off on the attitude of staff and students as they return immediately school resumes for a new semester and session to teach and learn in order to be part of the quiz. The inception quiz is also a first of its kind in the Nigerian University system.

 

The high quality of the University’s academic activities has helped the institution to increasingly achieve the reputation as one of the emerging top educational brands in Nigeria and Africa that equips students with relevant functional knowledge and sellable skills to be competitive in a globalized knowledge-based economy. This is underpinned by the quality of the institution’s students and graduates, and the research outputs of its academics. AE-FUNAI Students’ Debating Team is currently ranked first in Nigeria in public speaking and sits amongst the top 5 in Africa while a good number of its scholars and researchers has been ranked among top 500 authors in Nigeria by scholarly publications and output, and academic citations by Scopus, SciVal and AD Scientific Index. Similarly, many of its academics are engaged in post-doctoral fellowships with international universities and research institutions around the world.

 

AE-FUNAI is the only university in Nigeria with a postgraduate scholarship partnership with the French Government, and the collaboration has led to Masters’ and doctorate degrees’ training of about 45 young academics of the institution in France. More so, the PG partnership is geared towards building a critical mass of academics that are proficient in at least, two international languages – English and French. In the nearest future, it is expected that AE-FUNAI would be the most sought-after university in the Gulf of Guinea because of the capacity of its staff and students to teach and learn in English and French languages respectively. The university also has functional partnerships on staff and students’ exchange programmes with many international universities such as the University of Gavle, Sweden, Mississippi Valley University, USA, TUB University, Germany, Texas-Southern University, USA, and the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) on Blended Learning.

One of the fundamental milestones of the university in the 13 years of its existence is the massive recognitions it has received from global rating institutions. Under the administration of Prof. Elom,      AE-FUNAI has been ranked highly by international bodies like Times Higher Education and such other high-profile rating institutions. Instances of the rankings will suffice: Firstly, AE-FUNAI was ranked 3rd among Nigerian universities in the 2023 Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Ranking of World Universities. The Times Higher Education Impact Ranking measures global universities’ success in delivering the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Goals (SDGs) in the discharge of their core mandates – teaching, research and community service (outreach), and stewardship A further breakdown of the 2023 ranking shows that the university was ranked 1st amongst government-owned universities in Nigeria, while it was further ranked 1, 021 out of 1,591 universities that were ranked globally. Secondly, in the maiden edition of the Times Higher Education Sub-Saharan Universities Ranking, 2023, AE-FUNAI was ranked 27 in Nigeria and 71+ in the African continent out of 121 universities that contributed data. In fact, the university was among the 51 universities in Nigeria that were ranked by the renowned London-based education body. Thirdly, AD Scientific Index, a renowned global academic data-gathering body based in Turkey in its 2024 Universities Ranking rated AE-FUNAI 35 out of 257 universities in Nigeria;  216 out of 1, 115 universities in Africa and 5, 160 out of 17, 846 universities in the world in academic citations.

In the area of infrastructure, the University has also made some quantum leaps. It started from a few rusty buildings vacated by Community Secondary School Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, without access roads and electricity. In fact, at the outset, dust and mud were common sights on campus during dry and rainy seasons respectively. However, in spite of the daunting infrastructural challenges faced by the University at inception, it has been able to bridge the gap to a large extent with efforts in top-gear for further expansion.

AE-FUNAI is the first public university in Nigeria with 24 hours uninterrupted power supply on campus courtesy of the 1mw hybrid solar power plant constructed by the Federal Government through the Energizing Education Programme, and commissioned in August 2018. The Green Energy has helped in supplanting carbon dioxide and combating climate change in the university. This is in addition to over 50, 000 fruits, ornamental, herbal and timber trees that have been intentionally planted in the university through the Campus-Green Initiative geared towards making the university one of the most beautiful and eco-friendly campuses in Nigeria., and to generate internal revenue in the next 20 years.

In addition, the senate building, administrative block, Faculty buildings, office blocks, lecture halls and theatres, laboratories, medical students’ hostels etc. have been completed and are now in use. This has ameliorated the challenge of accommodation on campus. More importantly, the University now has over 5 kilometers of asphalt road network fitted with drainages and street lights around the campus, yet more still needs to be done to make it the university of our dream. The Vice-Chancellor is therefore using this auspicious occasion to invite the organized private sector, good-spirited and philanthropic individuals, government agencies and the alumni to partner the university in mutual-benefitting areas to enhance the development of the university especially its infrastructure.

In concluding, in the past 13 years, Alex Ekwume Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi State has evolved into a top academic brand, and acknowledged as a serious public university in Nigeria and beyond. This has been made possible by the quality of its leadership, and the dedicated and enterprising workforce the University has had from inception till now. As the University celebrates this milestone, the Vice-chancellor, Prof. Sunday Oge Elom is not unmindful of the onerous tasks that still lie ahead as he strives to take the University to the next level.

Elom Iyke Ubochi is the Public Relations Officer, Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ebonyi State