Universities are built, around the world, on definitive philosophies; on specific, realistic visions which set the tone and suggest both the pace and space to soar towards reaching the spelt end for which they exist essentially. These distinct goals, which define the drive of individual academy, find observable and measurable expressions in the clothe of culture that each university picks, and reflect too on her distance, deeds and deliveries. And where such vision is noble – as many are – , and finds able, stable and loyal vehicles in quality minds over time, such vision becomes well nurtured and ingrained so that envisaged mileage as imagined by her progenitors is met and measured.
As each university evolves and process her own character of culture, not a few of them, whose letterings of vision wore exceptional promise, initially, have either slid into mirage or won a self – indulging trip to rigmarole. The propensities are always present to help unsuspecting academies to derail, where it looses the right fixations or picks untoward attitude to ideals. Even lessons have shown how it is naturally convenient institutions to go off course in its earnest flight to altitude. Others are lucky to have their visions safe birthed and well tendered through the often onerous and turbulent formative period end well, making them centres of attraction for colleagues and societies.
It tells the fact that towering institutions are serious institutions. Academic institutions who sit atop peers around the world are those whose minds and members make deliberate efforts towards realising corporate conceit and the pursuit of distinctions. They leave nothing to chance. Their parts place communal pursuit of goals in conscious perspective, knowing full well that the heights such universities reach, define, to a large extent, their mileage as members. It tells too that a high volume of discipline and deliberate diligence punctuate the space between the seeding and consequential harvest of such goals. It tells, strikingly too, that no institution, nation or individual achieves consequential feats by wishful thinking, but by working their ways to worth.
Working one’s way to heights is what Adekunle Ajasin University, property of Ondo State Government, South West, Nigeria, is doing. It has not, from inception, by its contents and colour of academic culture, left anyone in doubt of the altitude it is aiming for. Relatively young (18 years), it has achieved milestones which makes it the envy of many. Its vision, to be a foremost institution that moves manpower development in the direction of self-reliance, apprenticeship, to be a first class university in research, knowledge, character and service to humanity, has been well expressed even as it seeks to extend farther frontiers.
Ajasin varsity, which exists to provide knowledge and skills for self – reliance, has put in so much in a bid to meet her mandate, and the listless applause and prizes these efforts have attracted are proven credence to successes. The University has always placed its passionate pursuit of excellence far above other competing considerations. Excellence, for her, is a culture it consciously cultivates and upon which it places a high premium.
The university recognizes that achieving excellence is a process which is largely determined by the measure of value an institution puts into its conducts, and so, it does not only profess excellence, it does it.
It holds, firmly, on to merit as a policy that guides her deeds as it sets out to achieve measurable excellence on the various fronts, the same attitude it has evidently been committed to through the years, and which culminated in its ranking as the best state owned university in Nigeria (2014) by the Transparency International Standards (USTIS) based in the United States. It had previously taken first position in the annual youth debate for tertiary institutions, organised by the Federal Ministry of Education, Nigeria. Adjudged best state university in terms of quality academic staff by the Nigerian Universities Commission (2005)
In this brief years, AAUA has achieved great feats, emplacing beautiful and modern physical structures, and employing brilliant minds and tools to achieve its purposes. It has beautiful, secured and serene campus. Her programmes and products which exude distinctions smacks of the quality of leadership it has known over the years, and the capacities of her members.
Like other public universities in Nigeria, AAUA has her hitches. Academic institutions in this part face hard times. It continues to hurt the soul of Nigeria, how it treats her educational sector with virtual scorn, allocating meagre resources to a critical second upon which the nation depends for scientific and socio-economic turn around. Few years back, it allocated only 8% of her budgetary allocation on education, which is far lower than the 26% of budgetary allocation benchmark recommended by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO. Compared with her African neighbors, Nigeria donates low resources to her education. In 2013,for instance, it gave the lowest percentage of her budgetary allocation invested on education (8%), compared with fellow African nations with smaller Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per person, which are as follows: Ghana (31%); Kenya (23%); Côte d’Ivoire (20%); Tunisia (17%); Uganda (27%); Burkina Faso (16.8%); and Morocco (17.7%). (Source: Tell 22/8/13, Guardian 24/3/13).
In the face of these harsh realities which have been made worse by national economic downturn, creative institutions, as Ajasin University, gain heights. Her creative culture and fervour for excellence has been the saving grace. I agree with Joseph Simplicio in this regard, who opined that, “Each university has a unique and cherished culture. This culture is born from the institution’s history and is steeped in tradition. This tradition in turn reinforces that history and works to incorporate newcomers into the culture by instilling defined cultural values. A university’s culture, tradition, and values are not only important, they are vital to the wellbeing of the institution because they provide stability and continuity.”
Simplicio submitted thus, “In order to remain viable, the campus culture must also evolve and adapt to meet change. A university is like a living organism. At times it grows adding new programs, constructing new buildings, and hiring needed personnel. At other times it is forced to modify its focus by shedding obsolete policies, eliminating outdated curricula, and adjusting short term goals. Over time a university matures, and so does its culture. It is important though that the school maintain the core traditional values that define it as an institution.” Yes, there will always be challenges; however, Simplicio’s counsel on culture must guide Ajasin varsity as it reaches for new heights.
*Ikuesewo-Akinbami is a member of AAUA’s Public Relations’ Unit.