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AE-FUNAI VC’S 3RD YEAR SCORECARD: A RELENTLESS PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE

By ELOM IYKE UBOCHI

 It was on 11th February, 2021 that Sunday Oge Elom, a Professor of Medical Biochemistry assumed office as the 3rd Vice-Chancellor of Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi State with the vision of consolidating, sustaining and expanding on the achievements of the two previous administrations of the university.

As a man who went through the ranks in the Nigerian University System, and later became a Vice-Chancellor, he was adequately prepared for the onerous task of leading a 21st century institution. Having led the university through change in his first and second years as Vice-Chancellor, his 3rd year in office could be summarized as a ‘relentless pursuit of excellence’ in every aspects of the university’s life.

 

It is the firm belief of the Vice-Chancellor that the biggest brands in the world are built on authenticity. Thus, with his eyes on the goal of making AE-FUNAI a      world-class university, he ensured that the teaching, research and community service activities of the university were carried out with excellence and integrity. No wonder, the university has achieved the reputation as one of the emerging top educational brands in Nigeria and Africa.

Under his watch as Vice-Chancellor, AE-FUNAI has also sustained its reputation as one of the most serious public universities in Nigeria that offers quality education geared towards equipping 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 graduates and the research outputs of its academics.

 

  Ultra-modern Faculty of Law Moot Court

Effective leadership, therefore, is not underscored by the importance of a position one occupies but by the positive impact a leader makes in the life of his organization and the people he leads. Consequently, as Prof. Elom marked his 3rd anniversary as the Vice-Chancellor of Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike., Ebonyi State on 11th February, 2024, we will beam the searchlight on some of his landmark achievements in the period under reference. Some of these accomplishments include:

 

Accreditation/Reaccreditation of Academic Programmes

The core values of the university are excellence, integrity and entrepreneurship. These values are brought to bear in the robust academic calendar, cutting-edge and bespoke academic programmes and curricula of the institution, which are delivered by seasoned academics and other consummate professionals and astute administrators meant to turn-out thorough-bred graduates in various disciplines. Nevertheless, it is worthy to note that without accreditation of programmes by relevant government and professional bodies, achieving the objectives of         setting-up a university would remain far-fetched. Thus, in 2023, 35 academic programmes of the university were presented to the National Universities Commission (NUC) for either accreditation or reaccreditation. While the result of the exercise is still being awaited, it is instructive to note that all the academic programmes of the university have the approval and accreditation of the relevant agencies of government like NUC and professional bodies such as the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) etc. This is the catalyst that ensures that students are graduated on schedule and subsequently, mobilized for the National Youth Service Corps Scheme every year. For instance, in 2023, a total of 1, 697 graduating students were mobilized for service.

Global Visibility/Ranking

One of the fundamental achievements of the Vice-Chancellor in his 3rd year in office was the massive recognitions the university garnered from international ranking and rating institutions. Prior to his assumption of office, AE-FUNAI was not ranked by global bodies like Times Higher Education and such other high profile bodies. Instances of the rankings in 2023 will suffice.

  1. 2023 Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Ranking of World Universities: 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.

 

  1. Maiden edition of the Times Higher Education Sub-Saharan Universities Ranking, 2023: 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. The Times Higher Education       Sub-Saharan Universities Ranking methodology is based on 5 pillars: resources and finance (20%), access and fairness (20%), teaching skills (20%), students’ engagement (20%) and Africa impact (20%).

 

2023-2024 Best Value Universities Ranking: In the 2023-2024 Best Value Universities Ranking released by Study Abroad Aide, AE-FUNAI was recognized as one of the top 100 best-value universities in Nigeria. Study Aide Abroad is the most comprehensive database of universities in the world, and the organization is based in South Korea. The university was also placed among top 60% best-value universities in the world in the last two years, out of 8,060 private and public higher educational institutions in 69 countries that were assessed. The ranking is based on indicators like quality of academic activities, reputation of the university as well as affordability by candidates.

 

 

  1. AD Scientific Index 2024 Universities Ranking: 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

 

Academic Expansion

In 2023, the National Universities Commission (NUC) approved the establishment of 7 new academic programmes for the university with effect from the 2023/2024 academic session. The approval was given after the Commission visited the University for Resource Verification. With this approval, the university expanded the number of its academic programmes from 58 to 65, giving opportunities to more candidates to enroll into the university and qualified Nigerians to be employed.

The new programmes are: Medical Laboratory Science; Nursing Science; Human Nutrition and Dietetics; Public Administration; Computer Science Education; Economics Education and Technical Education with options in Mechanical Education, Building Technology Education, Woodwork Technology Education, Computer Science Education and Automobile Technology Education.

 

Culture of Seriousness

AE-FUNAI is regarded as one of the most serious public universities in Nigeria. That is why most parents and candidates prefer the University as their 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. Instances of the institution’s seriousness is underscored by the following:

  1. Maintenance of a stable academic calendar: This leads to the graduation and mobilization of graduating students for NYSC programme on schedule and on a yearly basis. In fact, AE-FUNAI has no backlog of potential candidates for the NYSC.
  2. Committee on students’ grades verification: As part of its quality assurance mechanism, after every semester, a committee set up by the university reviews the scripts of students. This is predicated on the need to protect the integrity of students’ grades, and by extension the authenticity and sanctity of the academic certificates of the university.
  3. Policy on Blended Teaching and Learning: Facilitators, staff and students were trained on modules formulation and implementation, with the expectation to kick-start blended learning in the university in 2024
  4. Inauguration of a Committee on Proper Dressing: The Committee is charged with the responsibility of sensitizing staff and students on the importance of proper and appropriate dressing, especially while on campus. The policy on proper dressing has been adopted by so many universities in Nigeria.

 

  1. Time Management: The University under Prof. Elom emphasizes and adheres strictly to time in all its events and activities. ‘African Time’ is not condoned as the Vice-Chancellor leads by example.
  2. Adoption of e-voting for SUG election: For the first time in the history of the university, the Vice-Chancellor approved the adoption and use of e-voting for the SUG election held on 24th August, 2023. This decision increased the sanctity of students’ ballots and reduced the tension often associated with SUG elections in the university. The software for the e-voting was developed by two academic staff of the university from the Department of Computer Science. This is coming at a time the Nigerian state is struggling with its elections. May be, the adoption of e-voting might be the answer to the complaints and challenges facing the Nigerian electoral system.

 

 

Research and Development

The University has a strong and robust research policy coordinated by the Directorate of Research and Development. This encouraged individuals and departments to embark on meaningful and life-changing research works that have been acknowledged worldwide. Some examples include:

  1. The Faculty of Agriculture of the university is partnering with the Cooperation for Holistic Agriculture and Innovation Nests in Sub-Saharan Africa (CHAIN), a project funded by the European Union through  Erasmus + scheme, geared towards modenizing agricultural education in Nigeria, Togo and Kenya by fostering a more holistic and human-centred approach to agricultural education, training and innovation.
  2. Anadebe Valentine Chikaodili of the Department of Chemical Engineering was ranked among the top 500 researchers in Nigeria by SciVal. He was rated 385 in the publication.
  3. A Professor of Drama and Critical Theory. Department of Theatre Art, Ameh Dennis Akoh was appointed the Chairman, Panel of Judges for the Nigeria Prize for Literature, 2023.
  4. Chukwumerije Okereke of the Directorate of Climate Change and Development was installed a Fellow of the World Academy of Science for the Advancement of Science in Developing Countries
  5. Okechukwu Pius Aghamelu of the Department of Geology emerged the first Nigerian Engineering geologist of the year. The award was conferred on him by the Nigerian Association for Engineering Geology and the Environment ((NAEGE) in September 2023, in recognition of his extraordinary performance and achievements over the years in the field of Engineering Geology in Nigeria.
  6. Peter Chukwunonso Okoli of the Department of Chemistry was elected the 7th President of the Nigerian Young Academy. He was elected at the 13th General Assembly (GA) and Annual Conference of the organization held at Edo State University from 15th to 18th August, 2023. The Nigerian Young Academy is a unified platform for interaction among brilliant young researchers in Nigeria (not above the age of 40 years at the point of entry) who are from various research disciplines and regions of the country

 

Functional Partnerships

AE-FUNAI under Prof. Elom is breaking new frontiers in the area of international collaborations even as efforts are being made to sustain and expand on existing ones. The university benefited from some of the partnerships in 2023 in the following areas:

  1. Partnership with the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) on Blended Learning: AE-FUNAI is one of the six universities in Nigeria and Ghana that are participating in the programme. Through it, some staff and students of the institution were trained and certified on the use of blended learning techniques for teaching and learning.
  2. Bi-Institutional Collaboration with Tub University, Germany: This led to the travelling of 3 staff of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology (Engr. Prof. O. O. Ugwu, Engr. Dr. P. Onochie and Engr. Chukwuemeka Ozor to Germany for 2 months (10th May to 10th July, 2023) sponsored by the European union Erasmus + programme.

  1. Partnership with the University of Gavle, Sweden: 6 students of the university were in Sweden for a 6-month exchange programme. They are: Nwankwo Glory Ezinne, Department English and literary Studies Education; Nwaogwugwu Rejoice,  Guidance and Counseling; Kalu Amarachi, Buisness Education; Otti Euphemia, Physical Health & Education; Alozie Chiememeka Steven , Physical & Health Education,and Njuabe Jude Njong, Department of Economics and Development Studies. Also, three staff of the university benefitted from the programme. They are; Prof Augusta Chinyere Nwajiuba, Educational Foundations; Dr. M.O Binuomote, Vocational & Technical Education, and Dr. Ijeoma Kalu Awa, Educational Foundations were also in Sweden as part of the programme
  2. Chrisantus Biamba of the Faculty of Education, University of Gavle, Sweden was in AE-FUNAI for 2 weeks on staff exchange programme in October 2023

 

Training and Capacity Development

Successful organizations are the ones that develop high-quality, skilled and motivated workforce and make good use of them.  So, in order to enhance the capacities and skills of staff and students, some strategic training programmes were organized in 2023. Some of them include:

  1. Blended Learning Online Training for Academic Staff: As plans near advanced stage for the implementation of blended learning in the university, a one-week intensive online training for academic staff on the “Use of Learning Management System” was organized from 18 to 25 September, 2023. Prior to this, there were also other training programmes for facilitators on blended learning.

 

  1. International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Abuja, a non-governmental media organization with the goal of promoting media illiteracy through the building of capacities of news reporters, trained 20 Mass Communication students of the university on Fact-Checking.
  2. Training on “Work Ethics and Efficient Service Delivery in the University”: A one-day training programme for staff of the Registry department was organized in November 2023 to improve their work ethics and service delivery in the discharge of their official responsibilities.
  3. A 2-day Procurement training for principal officers and procurement officers themed “Achieving sustainable development through effective public procurement process” held from 13th to 14th July, 2023.
  4. Entrepreneurship and Employability (CEE) held a Career Development Summit for Final Year Students of the university with the theme: “Venture Creation for National Development: An Entrepreneurial Approach.”

 

 

 

Conferences

In 2023, the University hosted 5 international conferences, 3 lectures and one symposium respectively. These events provided participants – scholars, researchers, policy makers, and interested members of the public the opportunities to discuss and share ideas as well as compare notes and proffer solutions on different topics and burning national issues affecting the country and beyond. Some of the conferences include:

  1. Department of Economics and Development Studies in collaboration with International Institute for Policy Review and Development Strategies, Calabar, Cross River state, organized a 2-day National Conference themed: “Advancing Sustainable Economic Development” held from 27 – 28 April, 2023.
  2. Faculty of Biological Sciences hosted its maiden 2-day National Conference themed “Bioscience Research: A Frontier for Nigerian Economic Diversification and Sustainable Development” held from 7t – 9 June, 2023.
  3. Faculty of Education had its 3rd International Conference, themed ” Emerging Technologies in the 21st Century Teaching and Learning” was held from 13 – 16 June, 2023.

 

  1. Faculty of Management Sciences organized a 2-day International Conference themed “Change Management, Innovation and Digital Transformation: Panacea for Achieving Sustainable Economic Development in Africa” from 4 – 5 October, 2023.
  2. Faculty of Humanities hosted a 2-day International Conference themed “Neo-slavery and the 21st Century African Experience” from 23 – 25 November, 2023
  3. Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), AE-FUNAI chapter held its maiden lecture titled: Reinventing Nigerian Universities for Research and Development: The ASUU Perspective” on 7th June, 2023.
  4. IRUKA Centre – The Centre for the study of the future of Igbos organized its 3rd ‘Taa Bu Gboo’ lecture series titled, “Ihazighari Uwa Ndi Igbo N’ Ogbo Teknoloji” (Igbo Renaissance in the Digital Age: The role of the Academia).
  5. IRUKA Centre – The Centre for the Study of the Future of Igbos held its 4th lecture series titled “How to Contribute to and Use Wikipedia/ Wikimedia Projects towards Preserving and promoting Igbo Language and Culture Digitally’”
  6. AE-FUNAI Scientists under the Aegis of Environmental Process and Forensic Research Group (ENPROFORGA) organized a one-day symposium and stakeholders meeting themed “Role of Environmental Forensics in the Efficient Management of Environmental Impacts of Mining in Nigeria”

 

Staff/Students’ Welfare

The Vice-Chancellor had on assumption of office vowed to make staff welfare one of his top priorities. He has been irrevocably committed to it in a number of ways.

  1. Yearly Promotion of Staff: The Governing Council of the University at its 40th Regular Meeting held on Thursday, 22nd June, 2023 approved the promotion of 8 academic staff of the institution to Professors, and 12 others to Readers. Process is ongoing to elevate many others to the professorial cadre. In total, the Council approved the promotion of 609 staff of the university to the next rank. The breakdown shows that 104 teaching and 505 (308 senior and 196 Junior) non-teaching staff were promoted in 2023.
  2. Provision of Affordable Means of Transportation for Staff: In the face of the harsh economic challenges of 2023, the Vice-chancellor directed the implementation of some measures to cushion the effect of the hardship on staff: Reduction of transport fare of staff buses from N500 to N200 and rehabilitation of the dilapidated coaster bus to increase the fleet of staff buses.
  3. Inauguration of TISHIP Committee: The Vice-Chancellor inaugurated a Committee to oversee the operations and activities of the Tertiary Institution Social Health Insurance Programme (TISHIP) in the institution with the goal of providing quality, accessible and sustainable healthcare service delivery to students.

 

Campus-Green Initiative

The main goal of the Campus-Green Initiative is to build a campus-in-a-garden that will enthrone one of the most beautiful and eco-friendly campuses in Nigeria. Some specific steps taken in 2023 to push the goal forward were:

  1. Inauguration of the AE-FUNAI Green Village on 6th July, 2023 to preserve and promote the cultural and environmental heritage of the University.


 

  1. Continuous tree planting campaign, leading to the planting of over 20, 000 fruits and ornamental trees in 2023.
  2. Planting of over 30, 000 fast-growing timber trees at a reserved area, meant to generate IGR for the university in the next 20 years, and to combat climate change in the interim.

 

National/International Students’ Competitions

Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi State continued its dominant performances in national and international universities’ competitions in 2023. The AE-FUNAI Debating Team is currently ranked as the best in Nigeria in public speaking and sits amongst the top 5 in Africa.

 

  1. Pan African Debating Championship: AE-FUNAI came 4th in Public Speaking at the 2023 Pan African Debating Championship held at the Université de̒ Lome, Togo from 2nd to 11th December, 2023. The competition which drew students from over 100 universities in about 20 African counties like South Africa, Rwanda, Ghana, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Cameroun, Kenya, Zimbabwe and others saw the AE-FUNAI Debating Team led by Igwebuike Chiagoziem Johnmark, a 400 level student of Biotechnology, Nwele Stanley Chiemerie, a 300 level student of Law and Oko Charity Joan, a 400 level student of Foreign Languages, making the university and Nigeria proud.

 

  1. All Nigerian Universities Debating Championship: Oko Charity Joan of the Department of Foreign Languages, emerged the overall best in Public Speaking at the 10th edition of the All Nigerian Universities Debating Championship held at Veritas University, Abuja from 27th August to 3rd September, 2023. Oko emerged the overall best public speaker in Nigeria after defeating  students from 9 other universities that  included Afe Babalola University (ABUAD), Veritas University, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture (MOUAU), Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Rivers State University (RSU), Usman Danfodio University Sokoto (UDUS), University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), University of Ibadan (UI) and  Abia State University (ABSU).
  2. National Client Interviewing & Counselling Skills Competition: AE-FUNAI Faculty of Law Students claimed the 2nd position at the 18th edition of the National Client Interviewing & Counselling Skills Competition held in January 2024 organized in January 2024 by the Network of University Legal Aid Institutions (NULAI), for students of Faculties of Law in Nigeria. The University was represented by two students – Okechuku Sharon Amarachi (500 level) and Chukus-Amacha Glory (400 level).

 

Physical Infrastructure

Apart from the concrete achievements made in the core mandates of teaching, research and community service, the Vice-Chancellor was still able to expand the physical infrastructural base of the university. While teaching, research and community service activities are crucial and silent agents of development, physical infrastructure is the active agent that drives other agents of development. Some of the notable physical infrastructure accomplished in 2023 include:

  • Constructed the Faculty of Social Sciences Building
  • Constructed the Faculty of Engineering & Technology lecture building
  • Construction of 2 hostels (male and female) for the clinical students at           AE-FUTHA 1
  • Constructed, furnished and inaugurated the Faculty of Law Moot Court and Library
  • Established and equipped the e-learning Centre at Faculty of Education by NITDA
  • Procurement and installation of Film production and training equipment for Centre for Entrepreneurship and Employability
  • Equipped the University e-library (with new desktop computers and relevant academic software)
  • Construction and installation of workshop benches and furniture for faculties of Chemistry and Physics laboratories
  • Furnishing of Biochemistry, Physiology, Gross Anatomy and Histology Laboratories and preparatory rooms
  • Procurement and installation of equipment for Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences
  • Supply and installation of furniture for clinical medical students’ hostel
  • Rehabilitated electricity distribution network on campus through the provision of one 500KVA transformer, 2 concrete poles, stringing of 2KM route length by REA
  • Provision of broadband infrastructure and end-to-end fiber optics- powered internet access by NCC
  • And many ongoing projects nearing completion at various parts of the university campus.

Conclusion  

In concluding, it is pertinent to note that every organization rises and falls on the quality of its leadership, as no organization can rise above the vision, competence and commitment of its leader(s). Quality leadership in itself is a function of preparedness. That’s why Benjamin Disraeli once said, ‘The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his time when it comes’

 

Prof. Elom is not an accidental Vice-Chancellor, He is a man that was adequately prepared for the position he presently occupies with about 18 years of post-professorial and uninterrupted academic administrative experience in the Nigerian University System. Therefore, the successes he has recorded in his administration so far are borne out of his visionary, goal-driven and committed leadership.

 

The Vice-Chancellor also acknowledges the fact that the idea of a self-made man is a myth. He strongly believes that no single individual can achieve sustainable success, without help and support along the way. He therefore, owes the numerous accomplishments of his administration in 2023 to the strong work ethics of his team ( staff and students alike) and the support of the then University Governing Council and other stakeholders in the university system and beyond.

 

More importantly, he remains irrevocably committed to the actualization of all the goals and objectives he had enunciated on assumption of office. He maintains that the remaining two years of his tenure would be dedicated to the deliberate expansion of academic, administrative and infrastructural frontiers of the institution and the completion of all ongoing projects and programmes in order to leave the university on a stronger footing, and better than he met it in 2021.

Elom Iyke Ubochi is the Public Relations Officer of Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi State