University Advancement And Financial Management

In a broad sense, universities are established to seek better understanding of the world so as to contribute to improvement in the quality of life of all people. The pathways by which they seek to achieve this – innovation, knowledge generation and propagation; analytical and critical enquires that lead to discoveries; as well as sundry services to mankind – are complex and intricate, often requiring substantial financial expenditure. To meet this challenge, universities exploit a vast array of sources – statutory and otherwise – to secure funds.

This paper seeks to ventilate some of these avenues, including university endowment. In particular, the paper strives to highlight the crucial roles of Vice-Chancellors as chief executives and accounting officers of their respective institutions and Governing Councils as apical bodies in which the finances of universities are ultimately vested, not just in the acquisition of funds, but, equally importantly, in their judicious deployment for the furtherance of the good course of their institutions.


As at September 2014, there were 40 federal, 39 state and 50 private universities in Nigeria1. Methods of fund acquisition by federal and state universities are similar and easy to ascertain. In essence, they consist of subventions from their proprietors, special grants and other revenues accruing from diverse activities, fees and surcharges.

In order to obtain subventions from their proprietors, Federal and State universities prepare annual budget proposals in which they indicate their requirements for Capital, Recurrent and Overhead expenses. These proposals are then defended before legislative organs at the federal and state levels to arrive at approved budgets for each vote head, for each institution.

Often, not all the approved budget is released; on occasions, an amount is just delivered to the universities, described as “envelope”, to make do with, that may bear no relationship whatsoever, with the content of the budget that had been approved.

In addition to approved budgets, Nigerian universities also receive special grants from the governments, their parastatals as well as ministries. Such grants may not be regular and are often tied to specific projects. The various forms of grants – intervention, special and Board of Trustees (BOT) – that are released by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) to universities are probably the best known examples of these grants. Furthermore, universities carry out special assignments and anchor programmes for ministries and other government agents for which they get paid negotiated fees. Flood and erosion, marine safety, desert encroachment and special education programmes like the Almajari and migrant fishermen schemes are a few of such examples.

Outside these inflows from government, universities obtain funds from various student fees, other than tuition, rents, and surcharges and from a number of legitimate activities which they initiate by themselves, often, in the area of entrepreneurship. These funds are collectively known as Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of which probably the best known examples are the many part-time and on-line courses, including sandwich and executive degree programmes, which many universities run.


Federal and State Governments insist that expenditure should not be made across vote heads once subventions have been released to universities. Such virements, for which Vice-Chancellors are expected to offer cogent reasons, are only authorized by the Ministries of Education or Governing Councils of universities.

The heaviest expenditure in universities is usually made under the Recurrent Vote Head from which staff salaries and emoluments are paid.

Furthermore, for most universities, spending under the Vote Head for Over Head expenditure is usually far in excess of budget provision. The bulk of that expenditure is spent in purchasing diesel fuel for running standby generators which provide occasional electricity to the institutions.

IGRs are expended as approved by Council, most commonly on overheads and capital projects.

Case Study 1

In order to better understand the income and expenditure patterns of Nigerian universities, as a means of enriching this paper, I carried out a study on how universities receive and spend funds on five Nigerian federal and state government-owned universities for a period of five years (2009-2013) – See Table. None of the privately owned universities that was contacted expressed willingness to release such information and in order to maintain confidentiality, I decided not to indicate the identities of the government owned institutions that obliged; rather, I referred to them as Universities A to E.

In the Table, Income refers to the cumulative subvention, special grants and all other funds that were received from the proprietor or its agent(s) for the five year period. This includes Capital, Recurrent, Overheads, and all special grants and payments received from government agents, ministries and parastatals under any guise or arrangement. This aggregation was so made because Governments, in defence of their education policies, always argue that their support to their respective universities transcend the funds given as direct subventions. They include the special grants and other inflows from their agents and parastatals.

Similarly, Expenditure consists of what the university paid out during the five year period for staff salaries and emoluments, capital works, various forms of development, research and all other outflow, used in running the affairs of the institution. Thus, Shortfall indicates the additional fund, over and above the total inflow, that was spent as operational expenses in the university, including salaries and emoluments, expressed as a percentage of the total expenditure. That sum and any surplus that accrued, were usually made up from Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), or raised as credit facilities from financial institutions.

The Table indicates that the inflow of funds which universities were able to attract from their proprietors and their agents in diverse forms, differed remarkably. The bulk of the funds received were spent on the payment of staff salaries and emoluments – over 90% in some cases. In almost all cases, there was a deficit, as overall institutional expenditure was in excess of total funding from proprietor.

University Advancement

It has been indicated that universities commonly meet the deficits occasioned by shortfalls, through the umbrella of IGR which cover all that the authorities do to have additional inflow of funds other than those directly coming from their proprietors. They include student fees, educational service charges, entrepreneurial activities, rents, surcharges and much more. These avenues would not be pursued further in this lecture as they are best dealt with separately. Rather, attention will now shift to University Advancement which constitutes another very important way by which universities derive capital and attract investments, especially on the long run, to finance their operational activities. Seen from that viewpoint, University Advancement constitutes the major purpose of today’s lecture.

To enable a quick understanding of the subject, I will explain the meaning of the term, and review advancement in the Nigerian university system as well as elsewhere before discussing some of the requirements for a successful university advancement programme.

What is university advancement?

Basically, university advancement is a process by which universities exploit, for their own benefits, the goodwill they generate in their multifaceted interactions with members of their own constituencies and cross sections of the general public2.

In carrying out their complex functions of innovations, inventions, discoveries, knowledge propagation and miscellaneous services, all of which profit society, universities engage in several activities and interact with a wide spectrum of diverse entities within and outside their own communities. Such activities by the institutions are expected to be of relevance to the needs and welfare of society. And so, done properly, they portray universities in good light and foster widespread credibility, respect and admiration – a situation which the institutions can in turn exploit for the furtherance of their own good courses. Thus, a symbiotic relationship evolves in which universities, as important components of communities, work to improve the welfare of society and society, in return, supports universities in varied ways to satisfactorily carry out their multiple functions. This is the kernel of university advancement where this partnership between universities and their audiences is properly structured, incorporated and managed to increase understanding and support among the university’s key constituents3.

Universities that have built reputation for scholarship, integrity, respectability and accountability, are in high demand by students globally and harbour faculties of great repute, have used advancement to abundant advantage, relying on their sterling credentials. In so doing, such universities have raked in huge benefits in cash and kind from philanthropists, alumni, corporate organisations and other well-wishers as well as tremendous goodwill for the progression of the vision and mission of their respective institutions.

University advancement in Nigeria

The early universities in Nigeria benefited immensely from the kind of support, goodwill, and encouragement that is integral in university advancement, especially from corporate bodies, charities and older institutions abroad.

In the 1960s, during the formative years of the University of Nigeria (UNN), the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom and that of Michigan State in the United States of America, collaborated and nurtured UNN, giving it the good head start that it had in academic structure, faculty and educational infrastructure4. Also, Dr. Chris Tamuno, a former Registrar of the University of Port Harcourt, reported in her doctoral dissertation how the University of Ibadan benefited from the Rockefeller Foundation and Carnegie Corporation between 1962 and 1978. These charitable organisations helped with improvement in the quality of staff and indigenized key positions with trained Nigerians. They also assisted in setting up various structures which were critical for the smooth operations of the university5. In the same vein, a thriving exchange programme existed between the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos and the Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in the United States in the 1960s which resulted in staff and student exchanges that fostered academic standards of international level6.

The point must be made that these early universities were able to attract such international support on account of a number of reasons. They were properly set up and without altruistic motives. Their academic standards were high and compared favourably with those of good universities outside the country. Student population was cosmopolitan and admission was strictly on merit. The quality of their graduates was high and the learning and working environment was conducive. The early universities in Nigeria therefore merited the respect and admiration of many, within and outside the country, including their counterparts abroad, which is a necessary prerequisite for assistance and collaboration.

Sadly, things changed in the country and subsequent universities were largely unable to meet the standards of the earlier ones. A combination of crippling neglect by protracted military administrations and an ill-fated structural adjustment programme that drastically devalued the Nigerian currency took a heavy toll on the universities which were thus unable to raise sufficient capital to maintain academic standards, engage in meaningful research and involve themselves in community oriented programmes. Their reputation plummeted and many were no longer able to meet the rigours required to attract local and international respect and the support needed for advancement programmes.

Happily things appear to be reverting once again and a number of universities in the country, with the help of some international charities, like the MacArthur Foundation and Carnegie Corporation, have picked up sufficiently and have established advancement programmes that are working well. The Universities of Ibadan, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Ilorin, as well as Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello and Bayero universities, are among those with virile advancement programmes from which their institutions are benefiting.

University Advancement elsewhere

The point was made earlier that universities that possess the right appeal have used advancement to great advantage. A few examples on the global scene, especially with some well-known universities which are renowned for their high academic standards and significant histories – pedigree of graduates, standing in global ranking of universities, research output and innovation – in Europe and North America will suffice. In 2011, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were reported to have endowments of £3.9 billion (N 1.1trillion) and £4.3 billion (N1.2 trillion) respectively; Harvard and Yale in 2012, $30.435 (N5.1trillion) and $19.3 billion (N3.2 trillion) respectively7. In January this year, Columbia University announced it had raised $ 6.1 billion (N 1 trillion) from a Capital Campaign it commenced in 2006. That was the largest sum ever raised by an Ivy League Campaign and the second largest ever raised by any university. Among the areas for which the institution requested support were student financial aid, faculty projects and endowed professorial chairs. Donations came from supporters in 141 countries and there were 128,000 new donors, who all expressed pleasure at the historic transformation they had noticed in the university8. Putting things in perspective, the budget for Nigeria this year from the federal government, the 36 State Governments and the Federal Capital territory is N11.473 trillion. This would have been more complete were it to include the budget of the 774 Local Governments in the country. But information on local government budgets was impossible to obtain. Columbia University received more than the budgets of State Governments in Nigeria.


In this part of the lecture, I will identify some of the factors that make a university to be deserving of support and some other features that are required for a successful advancement programme.

  • Alumni Association.

The alumni of a university constitute some of its greatest assets and the backbone of any successful advancement programme. The stronger and more widespread – within and outside the country – the Alumni Associations are, the more will the universities benefit from them. Properly harnessed, alumni lead in all aspects of university advancement, be it in the various forms of fund raising activities – small gifts that are given yearly (annual funds), class reunions, major gifts, capital campaigns, planned giving, research funds; or development efforts; or advocacy or even in protecting the brand of the institution. Most of the first generation universities in Nigeria that have strong alumni associations, have benefited immensely from the generosity of their alumni6. It is therefore in the interest of universities to maintain an accurate database of their alumni and keep regular contacts with them – keeping a tab on their progress, recognising their birthdays, marriage anniversaries and generally keeping them well-informed about events in their alma mater.

Sadly, the reality in Nigeria is that Alumni Associations in many universities are weak. For one thing, a number of alumni do not in any way wish to be reminded of their days in the universities they attended due to the hard times and bad experiences they had there – violence, sexual harassment, poor utilities, sale of handouts and grades, poor hostel and learning facilities, strike actions by staff unions and much more. This is why universities measure students’ satisfaction index to know how satisfied students are and what issues are important to them. There is also the problem of high graduate unemployment which makes it difficult for jobless graduates to have the means to support their alma mater.

Universities should strive to create the atmosphere for students to consider the institutions as deserving of their support in later years, right from their first year by promoting a conducive environment for learning.

  • Research and Innovation

Nothing distinguishes a university like the volume and quality of research that emanate from it2. So, every university should endeavour to make meaningful research a strong point of the institution. Universities should go into partnership among themselves and with corporate bodies to establish a culture of innovation and discovery. Emphasis should be placed on the development and acquisition of relevant technology to enable analytical enquiries and discoveries that would set aside institutions in various areas of expertise. And the more successful a university becomes in this regard, the more distinguished a status it assumes in the global comity of universities. This leads to a spiral of acceptance and desirability by many well-meaning persons and organisations to assist it and to be associated with the institution. Comity

  • Strategic Plan

Those who support universities are usually unwilling to do so in an open-ended manner and to make donations for unspecified projects. They often prefer to react to requests of support for well-articulated, time- bound tasks. A Strategic Plan, which is a scheme for the orderly and incremental development of an organisation, such as a university, is designed to offer information on growth activities that are expected to be carried out in the institution over specified periods. The document usually explains the need for such activities, offers predicted time-lines for their completion and provides cost implications – all clearly spelt out in a manner that donors can easily comprehend. A strategic plan document thus becomes an important portfolio of all advancement programmes and should be included in every request for support and assistance that a university makes to a fellow institution or an outside organisation. Universities planning to commence advancement programmes should, ipso facto, start with the production of a Strategic Plan for a short or long term development of the institution. However, this is a specialised function which typically requires the input of experts.

  • Create a brand

A brand, as used here, is a name, hallmark or label an institution is associated or by which it is identified. It often connotes quality and may serve as a rallying slogan that fires the best intentions of faithfulness, love, loyalty among all those who identify with the brand. Additionally a brand serves to market the university to prospective users, especially students together with their parents and guardians.

It is no longer common to regard universities as ivory towers where staff and students are separated from the problems and routine aspects of normal life. These days, universities, as academic institutions, also serve as avenues for commercial and economic growth for their communities and in some cases, their proprietors. In order to play these roles successfully, universities have to compete for the best among students, staff and investment funding that targets growth and expansion, to meet the high level of academic rigour and reputation expected of them. Thus, universities are expected to develop branding strategies which give them distinct identities which can be marketed in various forms to enhance public relations.

Many Nigerian universities now have well-established brands by which they are known such as UI (University of Ibadan), Unilag (University of Lagos), Unique Uniport (University of Port Harcourt), Great Ife (Obafemi Awolowo University) and Better by Far (University of Ilorin). These brands are printed on various items to advertise the institution.

Once again, the role of alumni in making advancement programmes succeed is underscored here as committed alumni are the best brand ambassadors for a university. The well-known encounter between the Alumni Association of the University of Lagos and the Federal Government of Nigeria when the later tried, unilaterally, on 29 May, 2012, to change the name of the university to Moshood Abiola University, shows how far alumni can go in protecting a brand name. It all confirms that a robust effort at courting every single alumnus of every university should be the preoccupation of the administration of that institution.

  • Train Staff

University advancement has become formal professional work for which organised training is required. Many institutions commence by establishing an Alumni Relations Office as part of the Registry and for this, one or two competent staff, without formal training would probably do. Their work will be to compile a reliable database of alumni of the university and open up some communication with them. But moving from this level to soliciting for donors requires training which has to be acquired. Persons so trained make a carrier out of university advancement and the university should be prepared to commit to their training.

  • Cultivate Donors

University Advancement is a slow process and those who eventually give to institutions are persons who have been cultivated over a period of time. From making regular contacts with alumni – remembering their birthdays, marriage anniversaries, keeping them abreast with happenings on campus, especially the positive ones up to lunch invitations to prominent philanthropists and captains of industries with whom the university is desirous of establishing long term relationship. The donors have to be convinced that they are making a good choice by giving to the institution.

Case Study 2

I had earlier indicated that a number of Nigerian universities, have established advancement programmes in recent times that are doing well. Of these institutions, I have the strongest affiliation with the University of Port Harcourt (Uniport) and so I decided to take the opportunity to study the genesis, mode of operation and results so far obtained from the advancement programme of the institution. The purpose is to share the experience with newly appointed Vice-Chancellors and Chairmen of Governing Councils who may wish to establish such programmes in their universities.

Briefly, my study showed that after its establishment, first as a College of the University of Lagos in 1975 and then as a full-fledged university in 1977, Uniport, on the whole, fared well, despite occasional difficult moments. Furthermore, I found that even in those formative years, the university raised funds and received support from a number of organizations but this was not done under any formal advancement programme. Unfortunately, the university had some major crisis at the turn of the millennium which necessitated the appointment of an acting Vice-Chancellor in January, 2000.

Consumed with a passion to rapidly change things for the better in the institution, the new man at the helm of affairs found that there were some serious constrains. The country, Nigeria, had been largely isolated from the international community and was regarded as a pariah state due to its long romance with successive military administrations. So, there was very little academic interaction between Uniport and universities abroad. The Acting Vice-Chancellor tackled this challenge first and with the approval of Senate and Council, set up an Exchange and Linkage Programme Unit (ELPU) which was mandated to:

  • establish international linkages;

  • promote the exchange of staff and students;

  • initiate shared research projects and

explore the possibility of joint degree award programmes through shared curricula.

The idea was to expose staff and students to a wider academic community which the programme did successfully as it linked Uniport to several universities in South Africa, Canada and the United States where, not only student and staff exchanges, but also staff development, occurred.

At about the same time, the university was fortunate to have been selected, along with three others, by MacArthur Foundation, an international charitable organisation with its base in Chicago, United States of America, for long term institutional support, “due to strong institutional leadership the Foundation identified in the university”. With this backing, Uniport produced a 10 – Year Strategic Plan and assembled a strong team of donors and supporters under the umbrella of “Friends of the University of Port Harcourt”. Furthermore, the university converted the External Linkages Programme into University Advancement Programme, created such an office and staffed it appropriately. Progress was rapid as Uniport was able, through this means, to build several infrastructure, upgrade existing and establish new educational institutes, create new academic programmes and undertake much needed staff development. The growth and development of the institution did not take place only under one Vice-Chancellor as subsequent ones, along with their respective Governing Councils shared the passion of the institution to use university advancement to promote the progress of the institution.

Currently, the university has established a University of Port Harcourt Foundation to house its advancement activities and other developmental issues. It has also commenced a collaboration with an American organisation to oversee fund raising activities on its behalf in the United States and is planning to do same with another establishment in the United Kingdom.

Several factors could be identified as being responsible for the success Uniport has achieved so far in using advancement to fast track the development of the institution. They include

  • Shared, strong institutional passion and leadership by successive Vice- Chancellors and Governing Councils.

  • Starting small and growing incrementally.

  • Clarity of intent and focus on human and infrastructural development.

  • Creating and adhering to the content of a Strategic Plan.

  • Assistance from charitable organisations.

Although these factors may differ from the case of one university to another, taken along with the content of the earlier sections of this paper, they constitute the key ingredients which newly appointed leaders of universities should seek to have in order to launch successful advancement programmes.

Role of Vice-Chancellor and Governing Council.

Taking the roles of the Vice-Chancellor and those of the Governing Council together, not only emphasizes the complementarity between the functions but also the fact that a university thrives best when harmony exists between these two, in pursuit of a common drive to give the university the good governance that constitutes a prerequisite to progress in all ramifications.

The Vice-Chancellor, as the chief executive, with responsibility for the day-to-day management of the institution, should be visionary and with a strong passion for transparency and accountability. He should possess good public relation skills and should have an amiable mien. He should be inclusive in his management style and should share his ideas with others. The Senate of the university which he chairs, should be rigorous in instituting high academic standards and should place research and innovation as priorities. Working together, the Council, Senate and the Vice-Chancellor should ensure that the university is on a trajectory that will lead it to progress, with good academic standards, conducive working and learning environment for staff and students and quality research output. In particular, the Governing Council should be seen to be above board in all its deliberations and actions, especially on financial matters. Members should avoid conflict of interest particularly when they are dealing with contract issues. Furthermore, using the good public standing which its members ought to be having, Council should take the lead in advocating and sourcing for funds for the university which it should superintend in a responsible manner, carefully prioritising expenditure in such a manner that the institution meets its obligations.


In many instances, Nigerian universities do not obtain sufficient subvention from their proprietors to enable them execute their intricate functions and at the same time, improve on, grow and expand their physical infrastructure, academic programmes, research capabilities and render assistance to deserving students. To be able to do this, institutions have to rely on funds that they can raise from sources other than those of their statutory benefactors – mainly from IGR.

Furthermore, universities, in their interactions with their audiences, establish synergetic relationships that can be developed into advancement programmes, which essentially, are integrated and strategic affiliations that increase understanding and support – material and otherwise – for the institutions. Thus, universities obtain funds from their proprietors, IGR and advancement programmes.

However, it is universities that are perceived to be effectively and efficiently managed, those whose academic standards are high, and graduates generally acclaimed to be of good quality that more readily attract voluntary support and assistance from such outside sources. Conversely, universities that are unable to establish some track record of quality and consistency, and from which students exit with poor experience of university life, fare badly in this process.

The task before the leaders and apical organs of Nigerian universities – Vice Chancellors, Governing Councils, Senate, is therefore clear as the burden of steering the institutions in the right direction rests on them. Additionally, the Vice-Chancellors and the Governing Councils, should understand the importance of proper financial management to an institution. Financial probity, prudence and care should always be their watchword while expending university funds.


  1. Personal Communication. 2014. Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, Abuja, Nigeria.

  2. Briggs, Nimi. 2013. University Advancement in a Globalised World. Paper presented at the 28th. Annual Conference of the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities. Federal University of Technology, Akure. Nigeria.


  4. En. of Nigeria – Nsukka

  5. .Tamuno, Christiana. 1986. The Roles of the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation and Carnegie Corporation in the Development of the University of Ibadan, 1962-1978. Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the School of Education, University of Pittsburgh, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

  6. Briggs, Nimi. 2014. From University Advancement to University of Port Harcourt Foundation. A Paper presented at the 2 days retreat of the Governing Council of the University of Port Harcourt. Uyo.

  7. Culled from address by Professor Bamitale Omole, Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife on the inauguration of Advancement Board, march 2013.

  8. http//


I wish to thank the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU) for inviting me to deliver this lecture which shares some similarity with an earlier one I had delivered, also at the behest of the association at the 28th. Annual Conference of the Association which took place at the Federal University of Technology, Akure on Monday, 7 October, 2013. The title of that lecture was University Advancement in a Globalised World and to assist Vice-Chancellors and Chairmen of Governing Councils who are interested in the subject of University Advancement to understand the subject better, I am enclosing copies of that lecture with this one to the Secretariat of AVCNU for distribution to interested persons.

Let me also thank the Vice-Chancellors of the five universities who obliged me with the confidential information that formed the basis of Case Study 1 as well as the authorities of the University of Port Harcourt for allowing me access to the information that basis of Case Study 2.


Income and Expenditure Pattern of Five Nigerian Universities

































n/s Not stated.

Source: Bursary Departments of five Federal and State Government – owned universities in Nigeria

University Advancement And Financial Management, by Professor Nimi Briggs was delivered at the Executive Education Programme for Vice Chancellors at Le Meridien Ibom Hotel, Uyo on Wednesday 19th November, 2014