By Uncle Phantom
That our school is the first and best is popular knowledge. But what isn’t quite popular are the many travails that University of Ibadan students face to reach self-actualization. And while a judgment by the Nigerian context would make that normal, the school still emphasizes less on core areas than it should. Entrepreneurship is a pillar of economic growth. It does not only create employment, but it also proffers solutions to different global challenges. In Nigeria, the government is not ignorant of the many prospects of its youthful population. It demonstrates this in policies such as the National Youth Investment Fund (NYIF), which seeks to equip business-minded young people with N25 billion in funding on a yearly basis. There is also the smaller-sized Youth Entrepreneurship Support (YES) programme run by the Bank of Industry. However, while these will reflect changes in new businesses, an oft-ignored path is the university ecosystem.
Federal funding is essential for those already in the market, but incubating participants must also be attended to. The university, an ideal place to prepare youth for economic impact, must be exploited in any economy, especially crumbling ones. Where students are kitted early with essential skills, they graduate, either with certainty on the next steps, or, in the best case, a growing business. Without doubt, the University of Ibadan attempts an introduction of students to entrepreneurship through its General Studies Programme. It also emphasizes entrepreneurial learning in faculties that would normally not encounter it, such as law. Yet, it lacks in providing a singularly defined method for developing students.
There are scanty or no hubs for innovation or student-management relationships that officially nurture talent. Thus, while there are innovators who confer the school with competitive pride, there is no known link, asides from social interactions, between wins and their studentship. Added to this is the throng of creative minds that are untapped by the university structure. This article explores how the university can strengthen its premier position by becoming known for economic growth.
UNIVERSITY OF STARTUPS, IBADAN
The starting point for creating a conducive environment is engagement with students. More often than not, assessing environmental dynamics makes the effort a success. Thus, the management must collaborate with students, ensuring that fields to which UItes are most inclined are taken into consideration. It can also facilitate forums where students can freely discuss their ideas. These forums include physical and online interactions between the school’s creatives, interactions between students and the management, and mentorship by experienced players in the real world. These are up and closer ways to better the relationship. Furthermore, dedicated spaces can be established for student training. As seen in foreign university models, workspaces can be provided to allow students to innovate in a friendly atmosphere. The space needs to be furnished with stable electricity and internet facilities to make for proper utilization of its benefits.
Moving on, the management can actively seek to engage students in high-yield opportunities. These include internships and mentorship programmes. A document titled “The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University”, published by the US Department of Commerce in 2013 revealed that tertiary institutions went far to source internships for their students. In certain cases, these internships were backed with payment from the institution. Emulating these standards will engender a surge of entrepreneurial interest among the student population. The university can then prune this with measures to select the best students for its programme.
From here, it can follow up on participants to ensure that learned skills are utilised. With competition and fresh spurts of creativity, it will be a worthy investment. In addition to this, the school can explore the well-worn method of specialties. Creating a degree program for entrepreneurs is a long-term way to drive innovation. The benefit of this is the immersion of students in a thorough entrepreneurship syllabus, as opposed to the one-semester scheme under the General Studies Programme.
The results of these steps are manifold. Student businesses can access seed funding at an early stage. They become exposed to the investment world, acquire skills in improving commercial viability, and scale their technical competencies. An argument that may back the university’s developmental faults is the lack of federal funding. But when examined, this is not a real limit.
Alternative sources of revenue can be explored to fund innovation-friendly facilities within the University. One of these alternative sources is a solicitation from alumni bodies, conglomerates, and charity organizations. As they are places driven to make an impact, the school should have no problem creating something for its student populace. Among the many instances of corporate intervention in the UI ecosystem is the recent donation made under the Abdul Samad Rabiu (ASR) initiative, affirming its feasibility. The school can also start on a small scale, expanding its innovative enterprise over time.
BENEFITS OF INNOVATION-FOCUSED APPROACHES IN THE UI
Encouraging innovation among UItes is a way to increase appeal. The university can further cement its position on the continent by being a building block for startups. Already, Nigeria is a leading startup destination in Africa. UI will merely be bolstering this. Maximizing potential in our large pool of talents is more than anything a question of will. If the university is committed to its fulfillment, any limitation, no matter how plausible, will not stand. There are too many prospects to not be better.