Honoris United Universities, the first and largest pan- African private higher education network, recently welcomed Nile University on its platform. How did the university get there and what are the benefits of being a member of this prestigious network?
The fact that Nile is a vanguard institution providing high-quality private education in Nigeria is important in understanding the mutual decision to join forces. That the university is based in Abuja, the capital of the biggest African economy and most populous country in the continent, was an additional draw. Furthermore, the university has an established medical school, a core area of strength and opportunity for the Honoris network and a complement to our Medical Simulation Centre in Tunis, which trains more than 3,500 health science students annually. From a more strategic perspective, the very high standards and breadth of courses on offer at the university matched our goal of widening access to high quality higher education in Africa. Moreover, the university bolsters Honoris’ student communities by adding its expertise and pedagogical capabilities to the network, enabling and accelerating momentum to our digital, skilling and employability agendas.
In short, the relationship represents an extremely good fit that is mutually beneficial to Nile University, its students, faculty, and those studying within other Honoris institutions. Articulating this fit further, as part of the Honoris network, Nile will benefit from a weight of academic and administrative capabilities that the organization has gathered from its pan-African success. This encompasses practical, intellectual, structural and financial wherewithal to further enable the university’s potential. Lastly, Nile University students will now have access to a best- in-class, multicultural academic experience and student-centric learning environments using state-of-the-art professional technologies.
Honoris houses a diversity of educational scenarios such as the Medical Simulation Centre in Tunis (the latest technology in health sciences), the SMARTILAB / LPRI Engineering Lab in Morocco (world-class research and innovation) and centres of excellence in business and education in South Africa (the iLeadLab makerspace and the School of Education). Honoris’ international network of partners (60 institutions) represents a further source of differentiation for Nile students and faculty.
Given the current environment with COVID-19, more universities are now embracing online learning. What are your plans at the moment?
Honoris is a significant provider of distance and online learning – the provision of which helps us to achieve our goal of widening access across the continent. For example, MANCOSA, an Honoris member institution, is the leader for private distance learning education in Southern Africa and the largest provider of MBA programs in Africa. Our established digital learning infrastructure enabled Honoris to act very quickly during the COVID outbreak and to transition all 45,000+ students within the network, including Nile University, to digital and tech-enabled learning.
We will continue to leverage this infrastructure to accelerate our accessibility, teaching/learning and employability mandates.
COVID-19 is a serious issue of concern in the academic community globally. How equipped are you in terms of facilities to cope with the pandemic when schools eventually resume?
In light of the global developments regarding the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Nile University of Nigeria is monitoring the coronavirus outbreak very closely and continues to follow the guidance from the Federal Ministry of Health and other National directives. We have reviewed the situation and possible impact on our staff and students and have undertaken
a number of steps to create awareness and to ensure that adequate hygiene practices are in place to protect the welfare of our students and staff. A number of COVID-19 initiatives have been introduced at the University, including ‘Do the Five’ to Help Stop COVID-19: Hands (Wash them often), Elbow (Cough into it), Face Mask (Use a surgical face mask), SPACE (keep a safe distance) and Home (stay at home).
The Nile website homepage is completely dedicated to information to keep students and staff safe, including a live COVID-19 dashboard courtesy of the John Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Our facilities and our staff will be prepared for a return to campus, with the appropriate training, tools, and spaces for the situations that may arise. In tandem, Nile will be following Honoris’ ongoing Care and Continuity mandates as these involve people and academic readiness,
including use of digital.
Do you think the way the university dealt with the pandemic had been a success so far?
We were able to put practical systems in place to ensure that safety is paramount – and that studies have been able to continue. All Nile University students are on course to finish their semester on schedule thanks to their agility, commitment and use of Nile’s solutions, from licensed Learning Management Systems (LMS) to its Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
In addition to supporting online lectures and other academic activities, Nile University’s digital capability has enabled the institution to conduct its nonclassroom educational activities uninterrupted. This was further enhanced by Nile University leveraging the unique collaborative intelligence model of Honoris United Universities through the sharing of skills, best practice and resources across member institutions within the network. Specifically, items such as the template for asynchronous and synchronous learning, including teacher training, the submission of work, assessments, and feedback sessions were exchanged in the form of best practices among the network institutions.
Nile University of Nigeria Scholarship and Discount offers have attracted attention of numerous students. How do you hope to sustain this?
At Honoris, we believe in Education for Impact. This implies that merit-based scholarships and financial aid will be available for students with outstanding qualifications so that they may contribute and thrive in Nile’s enriching environment. This ethos is presently embodied at Nile University, which remains committed to creating access to high quality outcomes where students are empowered with the relevant formal education and 21st century skills, enabling them to succeed in the new world of work.
What inspired the decision to establish Nile University?
Nile University was established in 2009 to be a pioneering Nigerian academic institution and to serve the country’s fast- growing number of school leavers with a first rate higher education. Since inception, Nile has become well-known for its strong academic credentials and best-in- class faculties, offering 26 undergraduate programs and 36 postgraduate programs to over 3,500 students.
Its 113-hectare campus in Abuja offers state-of-the art learning spaces, outstanding sports facilities (including basketball, tennis, football, volleyball and table tennis) as well as quality, secure hostels, all in a peaceful and safe environment. Today, Nile University has 1,700 alumni and graduates, representing a group of sought-after professionals in public and private organizations, and a testament to the university’s high quality, academic excellence and discipline.
What are your visions and to what extent have you achieved them so far?
At the heart of our vision is the over-arching role of education in personal, social, economic and civic development. As Nigeria’s population grows and its prosperity increases, high quality education in public and private institutions is crucial – for innovation, for job creation, for competitive leadership. Joining the Honoris United Universities network enables Nile University to deepen access to high-demand professions and skills, such as in STEM (from engineering to ICT) and in Allied Health, as two examples. This access, fashioned in a pan-African experience and a multicultural immersion, is coupled with a singular focus on student success. In this sense, Honoris’ core activities at Nile will contribute to the development efforts of Nigerian communities throughout the country.
Many graduates are finding the labour market tougher than the classroom. How have you been able to tackle unemployment in your institution in terms of skills acquisition away from paper qualification?
Nile University of Nigeria has successfully balanced its formal academic programmes with soft skills and competencies to enable its graduates to be future-ready. As a result, Nile’s alumni are well represented in the public and private spheres, including the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Deloitte, Stanbic IBTC and others. From inception, Nile has had a strong student- centric approach, focused on enhancing the employability of its graduates, and this strongly aligns to Honoris’ single focus: student success.
The quality and competitiveness of graduates is an important selection criterion for us, particularly due to our key mission: Education for Impact. In other words, when our alumni succeed, their families, communities and countries prosper and develop. With this in mind, I’d also stress our focus on 21st century skills as critical to that student success – and increasingly so as the digital economy transforms our world. As such, in addressing employability and skilling, being part of the Honoris network will be a tremendous differentiator for Nile.
The institution stands to benefit from Honoris’ broad employability agenda, designed to equip students with soft skills and digital capabilities – as well as real-world competencies – that are in increasing demand in the labour market.
Our strategic initiatives include 21st century learning environments both physical and digital; a mandatory 21st Century Skills Certificate focused on the soft and digital skills that employers have identified as critical to their hiring decisions; increased use of simulation labs and internships for real world exposure, and a partnership with the internationally acclaimed and world #1 coding bootcamp, Le Wagon, to provide a free online web development course as the network integrates coding (the new second language) as a skill into its employability ecosystem.
The university recently held a conference on Food Security in Nigeria. How best do you think Nigeria can avert severe food insecurity amid the pandemic?
As a nation, Nigeria has an ongoing challenge in achieving food security and this will be exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis because of its widespread effect on economic activity – particularly in manufacturing and in imports: both central to food security. For
Nile University, matters such as food security – and wider social and economic concerns – have always been important. Over the years, Nile has implemented a few initiatives including the Charity Club and TouchLives Club in order to make a positive impact and contribution to local communities.
Since 2014 and 2017 respectively, both clubs have organized a range of activities for the community including fundraisers, donations of food items, clothing, books and other essentials, the creation of an educational center in a local village for young children, amongst others. Through these activities and a host of others, Nile University is contributing its quota in the fight against food insecurity as well as to the country’s human capital development. In our program offer or the platforms we organize, there are policy recommendations or guidance.
The education sector working with government and select NGOs / private parties can support and coordinate initiatives among producers, distribution, storage, and families/ individuals so that the basic food basket is assured and beyond that, a selection of appropriate nutrients are available, particularly for the young and developing ages at home or in school.
What are your future plans for the university and what do we expect from Nile University in areas such as academic rating in no distant future?
As previously related Honoris focuses on enabling an enriching student experience that leads to strong outcomes for Africa’s future leaders.
As part of this focus, some immediate plans for the university include improving our hostel and student services in parallel to providing more residential accommodations at the main campus and at the Asokoro Hospital for the medical students – as well as a new student center and additional academic infrastructure. In the mid-term, Honoris will refresh the Nile Campus Master Plan to create new program verticals such as Creative Arts, Allied Health Sciences, new programs in Engineering and IT. The launch of Technical and Vocational Training (TVET) is also part of our plans.
These developments will be supported by the relevant Centres of Excellence in our network. As well, in coordination with Honoris’ Academic Council, Nile will continue to meet and seek accreditations for its programs and for itself, locally and abroad, as independent certifications of its quality and performance.
Is Nigeria a fertile ground for private universities like Nile to thrive and grow successfully?
Nigeria has the largest population of any African nation, with more than half of the population in an urban setting and with a median age of just 18 years. This reflects an extremely young and fast-growing demographic and illustrates that Nigeria needs much greater access to educational institutions of all types and at all levels: from junior school to university, both public and private. The gap between demand and supply of university places in Nigeria continues to widen with under a third of students who sit for the requisite exams (Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, or UTME) managing to find a place at university.
Private universities like Nile University can help to fill this gap by providing high quality and affordable education and by ensuring that young people are prepared with the skills required to thrive in today’s complex, globalised and evermore digitized world of work.