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Oluwatoyin Ogundipe: Collaboration between UNILAG and German Varsities will Aid Our Students to Compete Globally

todayJune 26, 2022

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In its effort to enrich its global education in innovation, collaboration, research, culture and academic exchange programmes, the management of University of Lagos led by its Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, recently held a submit tagged ‘Partnership for Change’ with German  Universities in Frankfurt, Germany. The jointly organised summit facilitated by the Consulate General of Nigeria in Frankfurt was held at Goethe-University, Frankfurt. On the sideline of the submit, Prof. Ogundipe spoke with Funke Olaode on how the partnership will position UNILAG to be among the top universities in the world while strengthening  academic relationships between Nigerian universities and its European counterparts


our university held a summit in Frankfurt recently tagged ‘Partnership for Change.’ Why are you so passionate about this innovation that will bring changes into the Nigerian system in less than five months to your exit?

Well, I think it’s about loyalty. It is about the system that I have worked in for 32 years. So I am very optimistic, believing that whoever comes in as a new Vice Chancellor will meet the structure on ground. It will be an auto piloting system.  And even when I am not there the Deputy Vice-Chancellor can perform and perform excellently well.

What is your takeaway from this summit?

My takeaway is that we need to have a new system of running the universities in Nigeria. We always complain that we don’t have enough resources from the government, which I quite agree with, but we need to look inward.  And one of the ways through which we can run our system is to have collaboration with other universities outside the country. And if you look at this arrangement, it is not only about the university, it is also about the community. And you find out that in the community, they have all that is needed to assist in moving the university forward. My take on it is that, that brand, the University of Lagos, we need to continue to talk about the brand outside the country, so that they will know that we have a brand. If you look at it, they (the German universities) are happy to associate with the University of Lagos. They are even looking forward to coming to the University of Lagos.

How many universities did you engage with during the summit?  

We had discussions with about four universities and one company that is ready to partner us particularly in Germany: University of Applied Sciences, Fachhochschule Mainz, Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Mainz, ProEnergie GmbH & Co. KG, Laatzen, Schmalkalden University of Applied Sciences, Schmalkalden, University of Münster, Münster and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe.

And beyond Nigerian students coming to Germany, how do you think this summit will be beneficial to Nigeria and Nigerian students?

One, we are talking about student mobility – at least student exchange in the area of engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, law, even economics. In another university, we are talking about technology, looking at the strength of that university. In another university, we are talking about social sciences. So, what we are bringing in is to look at the strength of those universities and link ourselves with the strength of those universities. Two, we are looking at the possibility of linking those lecturers to our own lecturers in University of Lagos so that they will be able to work together. That is for the staff. Apart from research, we are also talking about staff mobility; staff coming to use their facility for one month, two months. One of our lecturers in the English Department, Dr. Oloko is already in Germany  for a one month programme.  The advantage is that it is not only going to be student mobility. It is also going to be staff mobility. That is our own staff will come to the university here. Their own staff too will come to our university. It’s not a one directional agreement. Like I said, we don’t want to be parasitic, we want to have a symbiotic relationship so that they also present their own staff. In October or thereabout one or two of them are coming to our university so that we can enhance and expand the relationship.

UNILAG has had relationships with other foreign universities in the past. What makes this one different?

What makes this one different is that, like I said, apart from the issue of research, we are looking at renewable energy. They are bringing their facility to us in which our own students will benefit from it in Nigeria. Then we will be able to generate our own energy in the University of Lagos.  It has been an eventful outing in Germany because different universities are coming with its peculiarity.  One talked about the waste-to-wealth. They talked about generating gas. I think they talked about solar, in the area of wind we cannot do that of wind, or using wind to generate power because the speed that we have in UNILAG  is not enough to generate enough power.  You know Lagos State tried it during former Governor Babatunde Fashola and they did not succeed. People don’t know the reason. The reason is that the wind speed we have cannot move that blade consistently to generate enough power. So we are looking at waste to power and we are also looking at solar. And I also want you to know that there is a team in UNILAG now that is producing solar panels. It is not that we are just folding our arms and expecting them to just come and give us all that we want, no. We are working on a possibility of what we need to do to generate power locally. Also, in the area of startup, you know we are talking about innovation. A lot of programmes are in the pipeline that will benefit their own students so that they will be able to compete with their counterparts in Germany.

Within the last five years, you have attracted as much as about 18 billion in terms of grants to the university. What is the status of those particular grants?

We have a grant from I think from Tetfund, we have gotten a total grant of over three or four hundred million naira. I don’t know the specific thing now. We have from the World Bank. From the World Bank, we have two centres that are running now and the two will be around $9 million. We have from the European Union too. So we have in medicine, we have in biological sciences, we have in law, Facebook. We have another one which BCMs is involved in. I think that one is the European community or European Union, which we just got with some universities. We just got another one last week, which is $250,000 in the area of artificial intelligence.  Dr. Yinka Banjo of  Computer Science and Dr.  Mary Akinyemi of Statistics are involved in that too.  And the interesting thing about this is that it cuts across all faculties. That is why I am excited. Unlike in the past, it’s only science, medicine that normally gets research grants.  But now all the faculties in the University of Lagos you could get one or two people who have attracted research grants.  Look at the non-teaching staff, two of them, Bolarinwa and one other person got research grants. So University of Lagos has continued to blaze the trail.

We learnt that the process was facilitated by the Nigerian Consulate General in Frankfurt. Can you shed more light on this?

Yes, I want to specifically appreciate the Consulate General of Nigeria in Frankfurt, Ambassador Wahab Akande. He is a fantastic man. Because the way he handled everything makes me proud of being a  Nigerian. I wrote in what I put there that I am proud to be in Nigeria because of the way he was able to coordinate everything for us. He made  the programme run seamlessly. The Consulate office assured the collaborators that  the University of Lagos  is one of the best universities in Nigeria. So I want to really say that I acknowledge what he did for us with his team, they are fantastic people.

Before coming to Germany you were in the UK, is there any difference between what happened in the UK and Germany?

The mission in the United Kingdom was fantastic too. I want us to know that by the time they are going to do the ranking of the University of Lagos next year, it will be among the top universities in the world.  When we got to Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, they themselves were happy to receive us. In fact, in Edinburgh, they said that they need to learn from us too in the area of entrepreneurship and FinTech. That FinTech in Nigeria is good. Like I said earlier, it is not going to be parasitic, we want to have a symbiotic relationship and it is already yielding results. By next year, Architecture students with one or two of their lecturers from Dundee University are coming to University of Lagos. And our students in the Department of Architecture will be going to Dundee to learn about architectural design and other things in Dundee. We are going beyond that, like I said, student mobility, presently some of our students, I think one or two of our students are in Turkey. And they told me that one of our students is here in Germany, on student mobility. So we are going to improve student mobility to expose our students to that international space. We are not stopping at that. We are going to even encourage our students, expose them to the universities that are ready to admit them for their masters or postgraduate programmes. One of the universities has promised to absorb our students for their master’s programme and it is going to be tuition free. So these are the things that we are talking about to make our students exposed. If you look at what I said in my statement on UNILAG, I said for our students to be relevant locally and to compete globally. Somebody told me of one university that they have arrangements to admit people with 2.1 from Nigeria. By the time they told them about UNILAG they were admitting students with 2.2 from University of Lagos.

Now that you are leaving, beyond all these within the next couple of years, what would you like to hear about the University of Lagos?

I am proud to lead the team.  Like you mentioned earlier, some people are asking me, that you have four months to go, why are you doing this? It is not about me, it is about the university. Somebody said what do you want to be remembered for? And I said, I want to be remembered as somebody who emptied himself to move the university forward. That is me. I have never worked anywhere in my life, apart from University of Lagos. And I never applied for vice-chancellorship, appointment, anywhere before. So I am proud of this partnership and collaboration because I want UNILAG to be well-recognised at the national and international level. I want to hear of universities who are coming up with solutions concerning the problems that we have with the country. But I want you to know that nobody can help us. No country will come help us. It is only the universities and research institutes in Nigeria that will help the country to move forward. I want to see a university where there is peace. I want to see a university where the students are well known all over the world. Like I said UNILAG is a brand, I am happy to be part of that progressive brand.

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