Vice ‐ Chancellor of the University of Lagos Dean, faculty of Engineering, University of Lagos Faculty Staff and Students of the University of Lagos Fellow Alumni Members of ULEC 69/72 Distinguished Guests Ladies and Gentlemen
Permit me to begin this lecture by thanking God Almighty, the maker of the Heavens and Earth who has made it possible for most of us here present to pass through this great institution called the University of Lagos. We are what we are today by the Grace of God and by the identity of the University of Lagos in general and the reputation of the Faculty of Engineering in particular. I first set my feet on the grounds of UNILAG in 1968. I was then a final year Advance Level Student of the Federal School of Science, Onikan Lagos. I was studying Pure Maths, Applied maths and Physics, to prepare me for a degree in Engineering. A few years earlier, I had made up my mind to study mechanical engineering in order to become a member of the group of men and women who were performing miracles and wonders. “ While in college, I had admired many things I saw around me. How people had made beautiful cars out of ordinary metal, rubber and plastics. While holidaying in Lagos, I had visited the airport and could not help gazing at the metal birds called aeroplane. How they leapt up from the runways, flew thousands of kilometres, located the appropriate destination and landed in safety. God made man and all the materials in the universe, I bow before Him. But man made the cars, aeroplanes, ships, clothes of wonderful colours and designs, trains and all sorts of engines and buildings ” At another time I would sit at Marina, Lagos or the Bar Beach watching ships loaded with containers, vehicles and other heavy objects. They were floating and did not sink. I would pick a stone and threw it into the sea, the small stone would sink. In my young mind, these were like miracles. I did not know about the law of floatation until much later. My admission to study Mechanical Engineering in 1969 was a dream fulfilled. Many of my colleagues are present here today and we style ourselves ULEC 69/72. UP ULEC. We came in as students in 1969 and became Alumni of the faculty in 1972. ULEC 69/72 remains a platform for sustaining our friendship and we have remained close friends since our departure from Unilag. I will like to specially recognise members of ULEC 69/72 here present, by a show of hands. Thank you and God bless you. We have identified with the faculty of Engineering and offered some supports in our own little way and hope that after today’s inauguration, the enlarged Alumni Association will do much more to support development programs of the faculty. I recall my days in the university as a Federal Government Scholar. I, therefore, did not suffer any distraction with respect to the payment of school fees. The faculty of Engineering building was and is still a mass of concrete from foundation to roof level. It is unique and there is no one like it in any other university I have visited. The lecturers were very thorough and helpful. We called some of them Dr. Rigour. I do not want to mention specific names but suffice it to say that we enjoyed our days in Unilag and are happy to keep our relationship with the institution and to give back to the faculty some of what the faculty has given to us.
The American Heritage Dictionary of English Language (2000) defines ‘ALUMNI’ as all graduates or former students of a school, college or university. The Free Encyclopaedia (2011) says the word ALUMNI is a plural of Alumnus, which basically refers to a male graduate of an institution. The female graduate, is called Alumna and its plural is Alumnae. However the term ALUMNI is used to refer to a group of graduates that contain both genders. The word Alumnus or Alumna is derived from the Latin word ‘Alere’ which means “to nourish”. Thus, when these former students or graduates come together for the purpose of establishing strong relationships with their former universities and to nourish its development, they become known as ‘ALUMNI ASSOCIATION‘ of those universities (Singer and Hughey, 2002; Christensen, 2010) Since decades ago, societies of former students have been existing in order to assist their universities with a number of service delivery activities. In developed countries, the history of Alumni Association dates back as far as the establishment of the respective educational institutions (Chadamoyo and Dumbu, 2012). The Relationship of an Alumnus or Alumna with his or her university is like that of a child with his or her parents. Just as our parents played significant roles in our upbringing, so also are the institutions that we attended played major roles to what we have become today. As good children, we have an obligation to take care of our parents and to show our appreciation for the seeds they sewed in our lives. In the same way, we have a duty as Alumni to support this great institution, the University of Lagos and its Faculty of Engineering in particular.
ROLES OF ALUMNI ASSOCIATION/BENEFITS TO THE UNIVERSITYThe main aims of an alumni Association are to:
- Create a desire among ex-students to identify themselves with their university.
- Generate and sustain interest and participation in the affairs of their alma mater.
- Contribute to the development of the Institution such as building new facilities, funding research, improving teaching methods and adding new innovative technology.
- Promote the university‘s name and reputation
- Constitute alternative source of income for the development of the university
- Foster a spirit of loyalty and promote the general welfare of the institution
- Support the parent institution‘s goals and strengthen the ties between the community and the university.
- Lobby political institutions to the benefit of their university and to play the role of institutional advocacy where necessary.
- Play the role of ambassadors of the university
- Use their connections in business and government to reinforce the economic benefits of university research and sponsorship.
- They constitute the loud external voice of the university.
- Serve their institutions by helping to shape public opinion in their favour.
- Support the Alumni Association through payment of alumni dues as at when due.
- Support the university through an annual gift commensurate with their personal circumstances.
- Mentor current students
- Assist fresh graduates with career development
- Provide scholarship to brilliant students from poor families.
- Provide secular feedback to the university Alumni are the real measure of the institution‘s brand. The reputation and prominence of the institutions rest on the manifestation of its graduates/alumni.
- They are lifelong learners and ”external students“ of their universities.
- They can increase the credibility of their Alma Mater
- They like to plough back what was given to them as a student.
- Alumni participation affects university ranking, student enrolment and tuition revenue.
- Strategic level representation on the council where policies are formulated
- Participation in Faculty Board where decisions are made
- Recognition through invitation to important events such as graduation or matriculation ceremonies
- Access to the university library
- Access to Research findings
- Opportunities for career development, such as post graduate studies and short courses. Alumni expect to be given first preference in the choice of post-graduate program.
- Access to business networks & consultation
- Access to a global alumni community where membership provides unique benefits and services.
- Alumni like to be recognised as university ambassadors at functions outside the university.
- They like to be given preference for employment opportunities arising in the university.
- Alumni Awards should be given to those of them that have made outstanding contributions to the institution and public service.
- They should be able to have Connections to business ventures with other alumni
- The faculty should publish a quarterly magazine which informs Alumni members about the activities of the faculty/university.
- It should organise workshops, seminars, public lectures on subjects of importance to Alumni business ventures.
- The faculty should organise ceremonies to initiate new graduates into the Alumni Association.
- It should adopt recruitment strategies to increase alumni membership
- Tracing of old friends and fellow alumni should be undertaken by the faculty.
- It should create opportunities for networking.
- The more popular and prestigious the institution, the higher the value and quality of the alumni‘s degree.
- Industrial attachment of students for one to four weeks in the companies of Alumni Association members.
- Act as career advisors and educational counsellors for students
- Offer professional training sessions for free
- Ensure relevance of curriculum and research to the needs of the society. This will enhance employment opportunities for graduates
- Meet university authorities regularly to discuss issues of concern to students.
- Today‘s students are tomorrow‘s Alumni Association members. The way they are treated will influence their degree of commitment to the Association after graduation.
- The university should sponsor annual Alumni event which will bring Alumni and students together. It could be tagged ‘Alumni Home coming Day’. It could include novelty football contest, games and seminars. Such events will provide opportunities for Alumni, students and faculty members to interact socially.
- Some Engineering faculties organise ”National Engineering week“ on an annual basis to increase public awareness and understanding of engineering and technology and to encourage today‘s students to consider engineering as a career.
- The new products of our tertiary institutions who will become the alumni of tomorrow must be ‘manufactured’ to produce innovative and creative ideas which will make them become agents and catalysts for positive change and transformation.
- They must be able to integrate with our own society and to solve the peculiar problems that face us as Nigerians.
- Alumni members should be able to contribute to curriculum development at the universities which will strengthen academic competitiveness, raise international image and create more opportunities for graduate employment.
- The Alumni (I will dwell more on this source of funding later)
- Private sector
- Business partnerships e.g. Shopping mall, hotel on university land
- Consultancy services
- Increase tuition fees (usually violently resisted)
- Donor support with tax incentive for such donors
- Student loan scheme. Care must be taken to ensure that substantial donors must not on the basis of their donations influence the direction and vision of the institution for selfish purposes. Source: Council for Aid of Education Survey By: Ann Kaplan- Survey Director The Dean, Sir, Ladies & Gentlemen Another way of dealing with shortfall in funding is to reduce cost by outsourcing non-core academic activities such as:
- Medical service
- ICT etc.
- Library management
- Bus services & Transport department.
EXPECTATIONS OF THE ALUMNI FROM THEIR ALMA MATER /BENEFITS TO THE ALUMNIInstitutions look up to their alumni Associations for making donations and pledges towards the financing of their institutions. If, however, the Association is remembered only during fund raising activities, the relationship between it and the institution will not be as robust and cordial as it should be. The institution also has obligations towards members of the Association. Such obligations include:
BENEFITS TO STUDENTS
FUNDING & ACCOUNTABILITYFunding university education is a major challenge even among the developed and wealthy nations of the world. With increasing enrolment and decreasing government funding, the institutions have to be creative in sourcing funds. Some of the sources of funding that universities have resorted to globally are:
THE ALUMNI AS DRIVERS OF INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
It is a well-known fact that without education and research, we risk being irrelevant in determining the course of human history and development in the 21st century. According to UNESCO Report (2007) Asia increased its share of world researchers to 41.4% in 2007 while sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) had a share increase of 0.6%. Are we surprised that the Asian Tigers are way ahead of us in terms of development? Knowledge will continue to surpass physical capital as a source of wealth. According to “World Development Report of 1998-99“, I quote “Knowledge is like light. It is weightless and intangible, it can easily travel the world enlightening the lives of people everywhere. Yet billions of people still live in the darkness of poverty” “Education at all levels is the switch to turn on the light. Our institutions must do more research, develop the capacity to acquire, absorb and internalise knowledge from the rest of the world” These activities require an increased level of funding. Sadly enough, the desire to increase enrolment and Research activities in our universities is not backed by a corresponding increase in budgetary allocation. In fact, the allocation to universities per student is on the downward slope. This leads to a decline in the quality of education, research and staff motivation and increases tension in our campuses. When the old universities in developed countries got to this critical point in their history, they turned to their Alumni for rescue. The institutions were not disappointed. The Alumni rose to the occasion and bailed out their alma mater. The trend remains the same up till today.Now that our own alma mater has reached the same turning point, a call is being made to our ALUMNI to rise to the occasion and show solidarity with our great university and the faculty of engineering in particular. We can do this in various ways.
FUND RAISING ACTIVITIES
Fund raised from Alumni of an institution can form a major contribution to the institution’s annual budget. Fund raising however, is hard work. Harrell (2010) confirms that reaching out to graduates is a momentous task. The university database must be updated with current address and telephone numbers etc. of members.
- Fund Raising can take the form of an annual dinner where alumni, friends of the institution, corporations and wealthy individuals of proven integrity in the society are invited for a social evening in a venue with good ambience, music, food and drinks. Donations, pledges, grants which are taken at such event are credited to the designated account of the institution‘s Association. Funds can also be raised in this way to support the development of a specific project in the university such as faculty building, library, procurement of workshop equipment etc. About 41.9% of all alumni in the USA are donors to their undergraduate institutions. Sung and Yang (2009) claims that about 25% of university graduates worldwide give back to the institutions that moulded them.
- The second method of raising funds for the institution is from membership dues. The larger the membership of the Alumni Association, the more the dues that can accrue from this source. However, many members prefer free membership option. In a research carried out by Kelsey Fraser and Joe Le Master, as much as 38% and 21% of funds raised accrued from membership dues and corporate sponsorship respectively. The university will have to consider the pros and cons of fee paying and free membership options.
- The third option is from our Alumni in diaspora. The fact that a large number of our Alumni is working overseas is a confirmation that they are well trained by our local institutions. In addition to the dues or donations to their alma mater, their employers should contribute to the cost of training them so that we can train more professionals for them. In this way we turn brain drain to brain gain. Alumni in diaspora should encourage and promote faculty and student exchange programs with the overseas institutions where they are working.