Internationalization of Higher Education At Home – How The University of Port Harcourt Leverage Returning Diaspora Nigerian Academics to Expand The Knowledge Economy
Taking advantage of the renaissance fervor that greeted the advent of a new millennium, the authorities of the University of Port Harcourt, along with the entire university community saw a unique chance to radically alter the university for the better. Accordingly, they commenced a series of actions in 2000 to reorder the priorities of the institution to enable it to emerge as a modern university of the 21st century that is locally relevant and globally competitive. The university was to reach out boldly, become more forward looking and engage its multiple audiences, within and outside its community, more robustly. Staff were to be sufficiently motivated to give of their best to the institution and students cultivated in a manner that they would be resourceful and self-reliant on graduation while contributing to human development as global citizens. Learning, teaching and training on the one hand and research, development and community services on the other, the remits of every university, were to be given utmost attention.
The University Advancement Centre, arguably one of the pioneers in the Nigerian university system, which metamorphosed from an earlier External Linkages Programme Unit of the vice-chancellor’s office, was the epicenter where these thoughts were sieved into ideas and the ideas transformed into processes which did not take long to begin to yield encouraging results. The university became more visible and was often seen in good light, and in the process, attracted many well-meaning personalities and organisations who offered to act in its support. Its rating among peers within and outside the country soared. Infrastructure was remarkably enhanced and several flagship creations emerged – world-class sporting facilities, a celebrated Institute of Petroleum Studies with strong international connection, much-needed Faculties and Departments and many more. Furthermore, faculty interactions with colleagues within and outside the country and with industry improved, raising morale and commitment.
The burden of this book on Internationalization of Higher Education at Home is to give some insight into how the university’s outreach programme was used to contribute to the general direction of heightened scholarship and quicker pace of advancement which the institution had defined for itself at the turn of millennium. Although there were some earlier trickles, it began in earnest with the appointment of Dr. Emmanuel Onu Egbogah, OON (fondly known as Dr. E) as visiting professor of petroleum engineering in 2004. A deeply respected fine gentleman with an undeniably commanding stature and influence in the global energy industry, his affiliation with the university was the lever that cranked the brain gain from brain drain strategy in which the institution flung its doors open to many top-quality academics and professionals, especially Nigerians who had left the country and were excelling in various fields of human endeavours to come and render similar services here on a short term or long-haul basis. Fortuitously, there was a National University Commission’s policy on ground to support Nigerians in diaspora to contribute to development at home for our university to latch on to. Since then, the rest is history as the saying goes.
I must thank the university community and my colleagues, vice chancellors who came after me – Don Baridam, Joseph Ajienka and now, Sunday Lale in the saddle, for, by and large, keeping our collective agreement of 2000 alive and for each time, raising the bar. The emergence of this book is a glowing tribute to everyone’s efforts as it is a major contribution to the body of knowledge needed to manage a burgeoning university system like that in Nigeria. It is for this reason that I strongly recommend the book to everyone, anywhere, who is involved in higher education.
5th Vice-Chancellor (2000-2005)
University of Port Harcourt.