Prof. Akan Williams, Acting Vice-Chancellor of Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State.

Tackling graduate unemployment in Nigeria will require urgent re-engineering of the roles of universities, the Acting Vice-Chancellor of Covenant University, Ota, Ogun, Prof. Akan Williams, has said.

Williams, who was recently appointed by the institution’s Board of Regents, in Lagos said that universities must empower students and drive societal development.

According to him, some universities in Nigeria have yet to tailor their activities toward adequate empowerment of their students.

“What is happening to our universities of technology? Are we really empowering students there?

”We have universities of agriculture. What are they producing? We now have accounting students, mechanical engineering students and a host of others in such universities, which should really not be.

”These universities are supposed to be specialised institutions of higher learning, where the focus should be technology or agriculture and things around them,” he said.

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The acting vice-chancellor said that empowering students with various skills would require the establishment of more specialised universities that would focus on specific programmes.

“Lack of focus is largely part of the reasons things are not going the way they should in this country.

“Doing everything at the same time cannot work that way,” he said.

The vice-chancellor said that Covenant University had a different philosophy.

“Our own is a departure philosophy. It is not about the normal teaching, no hands-on, no experience, no practicality, no application, not even application to life’s situation.

”As a departure, we want to see how we will continue to empower our students, especially with our Entrepreneurial Development Studies programme that cuts across all levels of study. It is compulsory.

”In this university, we are going to be identifying skills for particular programmes, such as accounting and economics, and find out the skill sets expected of graduates of these programmes.

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”The purpose is for students to be able to get these skill sets so that by the time they get out of here, they are empowered with various skills. It is not about just having certificates.

“It is for us to drive the system,” he told NAN.

According to him, Covenant university is currently emphasising soft skills.

“Recently, we entered into a partnership with COURSERA; that is COURSERA COVENANT. We are now inspiring other people in Africa.

COURSERA Inc. is an online education provider that offers students access to massive open online courses (MOOCs), specialisation and even degrees.

It was founded in 2012 by Stanford Computer Science Professors.

It assists students to build new skills with courses from top universities around the world such as Yale and Michigan in the U.S. and earns certificate on completion.

“During the COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing, our students, faculties and staff were engaged in a post-COVID-19 programme led by COURSERA, which ended recently.

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“Beyond the COVID-19, they were doing this to get students engaged, but beyond that too, we now have a partnership with them, ” Williams, a Professor of Analytical/Environmental Chemistry, said.

He expressed dissatisfaction that some students went to universities just to acquire degrees and not skills, saying it was not supposed to be so.

According to the acting vice-chancellor, focus will lead to the maximum development of potential.

He said that Nigeria had the human and material resources to compete favourably with the rest of the world.