By Ephraims Sheyin
As Nigerian universities intensify the search for funds to meet their growing needs, Dr James Auta, an America-based university don, has advised them to build vast networks across the globe.
Auta, who teaches at the Psychiatric Institute, University of Illinois, Chicago, U.S.A, also advised managements of universities to create special offices for alumni relations that would be responsible for the development and maintenance of alumni data base.
“The alumni relations office will update the employment addresses and periodic correspondence with alumni members, and also initiate and sustain correspondence with private donors and foundations,’’ he said.
Auta’s counsel was contained in a paper titled: “Global Resource Mobilisation For Sustainable Education’’, delivered at the Bingham University, Karu in Nasarawa State.
The university don, who advised Nigerian universities to clearly define what they wanted before venturing out to source for funds, urged them to build networks of partners such as the Association of African Universities and the International Association of Universities.
According to him, the two networks have 650 members that include 10 Nigerian universities.
He advised them to establish partnerships with local businesses and the corporate world, and institute more efforts toward sourcing research grants, foundations and Trusts support.
Auta also advised the universities to identify areas they could do well on, and seek out foundations, organisations and private donors that support such ventures and share their vision.
“Most funding agencies have priorities, guidelines and requirements. Universities with clear ideas of what they want are more likely to find partners willing to fund their activities.
“The university must also state how its vision relates with the interests of the donor agency, and strive to show evidence of past accomplishments, credibility and commitment to set goals,’’ he said.
Auta also advised university managements to keep permanent relationships with donors even after receiving the support, so as to prepare higher grounds for mutually beneficial relationships in future.
“The donors will also expect the receiving institution to have a clear financial system that will safeguard and render proper accounting and adequate financial controls to demonstrate good management.
“That is very necessary to build trust with the funding entity. It will also help the donor to document and demonstrate outcomes and benefits for all accomplishments,’’ he said.
Auta regretted that weak institutional capacity, poor management, misuse of financial and human resources, and limited accountability had damaged some universities’ relationship with international donors, resulting in distrust.
“There must be a formidable relationship and partner interaction; the more confidence you establish, the more opportunities the universities get through donor intelligence gathering by the resource mobilisation team,’’ he added.
He advised universities to adequately reward officers who identify potential donors, new projects and designs, saying that poor appreciation of such efforts could discourage such officers.
The don, who said that education was “indispensable’’ for the economic development and growth of any nation, called for more support to the sector, because “it is the educated citizens that are the `heart’ for achieving the global agenda’’.
“The national development, growth, and poverty reduction strategies for a nation depend on the knowledge, skills, values and behaviours acquired by citizens through a reliant and sustainable education.
“Education also empowers citizens to change the way they think and work towards improving people’s lives and building a sustainable future,’’ he stated.
While noting the need for universities to strive to mobilise resources to fund their dreams, he advised Bingham University to establish an office that would boost alumni relations and actively engage in fund raising.
He also advised the institution to establish a resource mobilisation committee to address the resource needs of the university, determine what could be sourced locally, and what would be required externally.
Auta also advised the school, owned by ECWA Church, to consider membership with international organisations that had been reliable funding sources for various universities over the years.
“Bingham University must also begin to pursue strategies for building global networking with peers overseas, and facilitating research collaborators, as well as cross border staff and students exchange programmes ,’’ he said. (NAN)