The world over, academic excellence is typically an offshoot of endogenous and enduring culture that has immunity against compromise, but mutation to classic global best practices. This has always been the benchmark that many universities are struggling to catch up with, while many others have considered this rare feat as a sprint and not a marathon.
The outcome of personal research has shown that, designing an evolving and adaptable academic culture requires critical thinking that is capable of espousing need-oriented courses and robust curricula, 360-degree touchpoint digital automation, technology-driven teaching and learning, versatile and creative administration, qualitative manpower, dynamic policy formulation, collaboration and networking, strict internal and external regulations, adequate and purposive funding, branding and Public Relations for Marketing (PRM) and ultimately the mindset of excellence by all stakeholders.
Now that the transmutation of the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH) to Lagos State University of Science and Technology (LASUSTECH) has been consummated, the next phase of the process should be to take the advantage of starting afresh into laying the foundation of a specialized university that would become the pride of Lagos and Africa at large. It is possible and in our time too.
Considering the peculiarity of the university, starting with the existing programmes of the former polytechnic to keep people’s jobs won’t be a bad idea. Looking at the bigger picture, this university will need to do a Skill Gap Assessment – what are the industry’s first line needs? Skillsets versus current and emerging ‘need sets’. The Knowledge Gap Deficiencies (KGD) must give way to a systemic approach in the Productive Science and Technology (PS&T) model that is not only unique but 100% result-oriented. There must also be an environmental scanning of the immediate community to determine the relevant courses and programmes that are community needed. These two needs assessments would help the university to define and develop its core competencies from the beginning. The fourth industrial revolution (industry 4.0) as the current and developing environment for disruptive technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, virtual reality (VR), and artificial intelligence (AI), among others, must be considered. For the community and Lagos as a whole, the university should consider programmes like Ferry Fabrication and Services Technology (Marine Technology); AgriTech and Post-Harvest Processing Technology; Digital Transformation Technology; Integrated Waste Management and Recycling Technology; Alternative/ Renewable Energy Production Technology; Oil and Gas Supports Technology. This is the era of nanotechnology, we can do it.
Automating the whole system, including the management of the new university is key. From admission to graduation, the process must be seamless. One digital solution should connect payments, registration, result processing, administration, information dissemination, library services, etc. No loopholes must be allowed. In this new university, there should not be missing scripts or results. Result, certificate, and transcripts should be ready in less than 72 hours upon request, yes, it is possible. 24/7 internet facilities and handshake with big tech firms would go a long way to position the institution.
Teaching and learning must have a technology interface. This is not a conventional university of marker and board, 70 percent of the learning process must be demonstrated if we must do anything differently. Up to the Ph.D. level (it is the new direction), attention must be given to hands-on practical demonstrations. Only modern and digital laboratories, studios, workshops, and classrooms can deliver the desired results as seen in a well-educated cultured society.
The drivers of LASUSTECH must be able to think like there is no box anywhere. Creativity and ingenuity should guide the administration of the new university. There must be an enduring line of ideation and curation. The principal officers must be fired for excellent development in all forms. In the same vein, if the government is really genuine in setting a standard for this university, the members of the Governing Council must be a mix of blue-chip captains, boardroom technocrats, industry experts, technophiles, philanthropists, and education enthusiasts. This very council should not be made a retirement plan for tired hands. And the university must not be made a dumping ground for the unqualified job-seeking family, friends, and associates. Relying on school fees to undergo a substantial development is no more in vogue, therefore, the business arm of the university must wake up to its responsibility to drive development, while maintenance culture must be entrenched in the core value of the institution.
Skilling, reskilling, upskilling, research, and development are very essential in defining qualitative manpower for the university. Emotional Intelligence (EI) and the excellent mindset of a goal-getter are equally of great importance. Knowledge of what to teach and the skill to teach right would be more appreciated if the lecturers put students at the centre of teaching. Other staff must have a total reorientation to understand that students are customers and kings in their right. To achieve excellence, there must be a systemic adoption of excellent culture across the board.
In making policy, the drivers of the new university may have to borrow some quality templates from the best universities. Policies like the Graduate on Time (GOT) system that guides against lecturer frustrating a student with extra year(s) or unserious student overstaying the period of graduation would be a welcome development. Students accessing lecturers performance and completing progress reports per semester before they (students) can access results is going to improve standards. Digitally monitored compulsory 75 percent attendance and regular use of customized mail/digital wallet would encourage seriousness and dedication. Policies should be made flexible and people-oriented. The Directorate of Students’ Affairs (DSA) should have a policy document that takes care of the students’ welfare, sporting activities, complaints, and graduation.
This is the era of collaboration, co-creation, and networking. LASUSTECH needs to stretch the hands of fellowship to partner universities (home & abroad) for students and staff exchange programmes. The university must also be ready to have a strong tie with the industry, foreign embassies, politicians, government at all levels to attract research grants, chairs, endowments, bursary, and donations.
Aside the statutory National University Commission (NUC) accreditation exercise, the internal and external assessment should be carried out regularly and diligently. The Annual Performance Evaluation (APER) must be holistic and watertight. As part of the culture that must be established from now, only journal articles on Scopus Journal Metrics or indexed journals should be allowed. Inventions, Innovations, creations, and ideations should also be considered for promotion. The OSAE visit should go beyond inspection; it should include government accreditation with well-crafted Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
There should be the immediate design of a brand strategy that must take care of the rebranding, repositioning, and internal /external communication architecture- brand manual. The ergonomics design of the campus must be fascinating. We are in the woke era, issues should not be allowed to snowball into a crisis. Response time to students’ distress must be swift and effective. Internal communication is as important as external communication, therefore, there must be a structured conflict resolution mechanism, community and government relations.
Lastly, the government must be ready to fund every aspect of the university or give it complete autonomy. It will be easier to partner with firms like Google, Microsoft, among others, to enhance the smooth operation of the university. Apart from the overhead cost, recurrent expenditure, and cost of accreditation, Lagos State Education Trust Fund should aggressively look into infrastructural development, capacity building, research and development, software acquisitions for all Lagos state-owned universities, such as Turnitin, Nvivo, IBM SPSS, ATLAS.ti, RStudio, Orange, Base SAS, OriginPro, TIMI Suite, etc.
As the summary of my piece, I wish to leave stakeholders of the new university with the Times Higher Education for university rankings which, calibrated 13 performance indicators into five areas: Teaching (the learning environment); Research (volume, income, and reputation); Citations (research influence); International outlook (staff, students and research); and Industry income (knowledge transfer).
Steven Anu’ Adesemoye is a researcher in the Department Of Media and Communications, University of Malaysia.