Heart Of Arts

UNILAG VC, Prof. Ogundipe to Give Keynote Address at the UTAustin-Carnegie Conference in Babcock

Professor Toyin Ogundipe to give the Keynote at the conference on the impact of private universities

An initiative by the University of Texas at Austin and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the conference holds at Babcock University Guest House on January 6 and 7, 2022. The brain behind the conference is Professor Toyin Falola of the University of Texas at Austin.

Professor Toyin Ogundipe, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, will deliver the Keynote Address. The best way to measure whether or not a person is truly committed to a cause or an endeavor they claim to be committed to is to gauge how they hold the fort in the days of adversity. It is almost impossible to tell that one would not break under extreme conditions — except one were to go through those extreme conditions and then come out refined and wiser. It is called putting the gold through the fire.

Professor Oluwatoyin Temitayo Ogundipe is an example of a gold-piece that was tried, time and time again. Run through the fire countless times, the professor proved he is made of the finest components. The professor of botany had enjoyed a successful and productive academic life even before he assumed the highest administrative role at one of Nigeria’s best universities; the University of the Center of Excellence — the University of Lagos.

Prof. Ogundipe was trained at Ife, and he’s one proof that the adjective “Great” which often appears before the appellation “Ife”, when referring to the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, is not in any way a delusional claim. He had his first three degrees from  Ife — in botany. Then, he proceeded to Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, to bag a Master’s of Business Administration at the University of Lagos. Equipped with both academic and administrative experience, he applied to the position of the Vice-Chancellor at the University of Lagos, a position he was appointed to in November 2017, following his spectacular performance at the recruitment process.

Since assuming office, the renowned professor has committed to keeping University of Lagos as the University of First Choice and the Nation’s Pride — what with over 60, 000 students. Ogundipe’s administrative competence in the handling of a university during the Covid-19 pandemic can never be forgotten. When the pandemic ravaged and restricted us all to our rooms, academic activities were put on a hold for a very long period of time. However, universities all the world over soon began to resume virtually. Soon enough, private universities in Nigeria began to join the bandwagon. The University of Lagos set the pace among the respected universities of the country by adopting a fully virtual mode of learning during the period. Of course, it could never have been easy to convert a fully physical mode of learning of over 60, 000 students to a fully virtual mode of learning — but the University of Lagos did it, under Ogundipe’s administration.

We soon saw the creation of a Learning Management System, facilitation of online courses, provision of data for students to ease the learning process, structured tests and CAs, and systems put in place to avoid examination malpractice during the tests. While some other universities dragged their feet, UNILAG rose up to the occasion and helped place Nigeria among the adaptive countries of the world — thus proving its role of being the Nation’s Pride. And at the helm was none other but the swift and intelligent Prof. Toyin Ogundipe.

It is easy to laud Prof. Ogundipe for his success in running a university during the pandemic, and for being one of the first few universities to step up to the task. However, greatness and competence are not qualities that happen on one suddenly. They’re qualities and goodness that are borne out of years of consistent and focused toiling, as in the case of Prof. Ogundipe. The professor of botany’s assumption of and success in office could be traced to two things: his academic and administrative success, even before he assumed the position of the Vice-Chancellor. He is a widely-published and well-read researcher and scholar whose researches have innovatively contributed to the study and development of plant life in Nigeria. It is not so often that a professor of botany wins several grants and awards, but such is the case with Prof. Toyin Ogundipe. A scholar per excellence, Prof. Ogundipe has enjoyed a successful academic career, winning the Faculty Best Researcher Award three times at the University of Lagos, coupled with this, he also won grants from the likes of Google, the British Council, and TETFund. Prof. Ogundipe’s research works have been widely cited, which is yet another proof of his relevance to botanical research and how he brings fame and glory to the university of Lagos through this.

In the administrative field, Prof. Ogundipe did a spectacular job as the Head of the Department of Botany and Microbiology, the Dean of the UNILAG School of Postgraduate Studies, the Director of the Academic Planning unit, amidst other administrative positions he has held in the university.

It is humanly impossible to please everyone; there will always be people who will deem your work as not good enough. However, a university administrator can be adjudged as excellent if they have done enough to garner the praises of students and staff members — two of the key stakeholders in the university system. Since his assumption of office in 2017, Prof. Toyin Ogundipe has done his best to make the University of Lagos an institution that both students and staff members would be proud to associate themselves with. In terms of research grants and collaborations, Prof. Ogundipe’s work in making the University of Lagos a center of attraction has to be lauded. He is also an administrator that understands the importance of accountability and reporting. I have been to the University of Lagos, not once, not five thrice, and time and time again, what one hears among both students and staff members about the Vice-Chancellor is something to write home about. He is someone who prioritizes the welfare of both his staff members and the students of the university.

University administration goes beyond the want to hold an administrative position in a higher institution of learning that is a microscopic representation of the larger society out there. It takes true commitment to development and real love for and believe in one’s university to successfully run the any university. That is what Prof. Ogundipe has demonstrated since 2017, and although he has demonstrated this for everyone to see, his moment of trial still came. Sometime in 2020, he was ousted from his position as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos by the Governing Council. During this period, staff unions and students alike were resolute in their claims that Prof. Ogundipe is the Vice-Chancellor they know and choose. This is not a common phenomenon at public universities in Nigeria. It is rare for staff unions and students to love and show support for the person at the helm. The more prevalent case is that of incessant strike actions, internal ruckus, hatred, student protests, but to mention a few. That is not the case with Prof. Ogundipe’s University of Lagos. In the face of all his tribulations — although he went through the fire — he emerged more refined.

Ever since Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe emerged as the University of Lagos Vice-Chancellor, the institution has been consistent with its appearance on the rankings of the World’s Best Universities. UNILAG is ranked as Nigeria’s second best university and between the 501st and 600th best universities in the world on the Times Higher Education ranking. That is a leap for a University that was not ranked at all in 2014, 2015 and 2016, or any of the years before Prof. Ogundipe’s emergence as the Vice-Chancellor.

It is uncommon for university administrators to combine their administrative work with academic work. Many desks and shelves at the faculties, as administrative matters are attended to. In fact, it is common practice to have erstwhile Vice-Chancellors eye and aim for political appointments. Prof. Ogundipe has proved that his decision to serve as the highest-ranked administrator at the University of Lagos was borne out of his love and passion for and willingness to see the University of Lagos succeed and grow. His academic inputs have continued, even while serving as the Vice-Chancellor. In 2021, he and a co-researcher received the Global Biodiversity Information Facility grants.   While the professor won the grant for the national level, his student and mentor won that of the institution level.

In August 2021, Afrikanwatch, an online media house, honored Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe with its Man of the Year award. This is just one of the many awards that the professor of botany has received.

On January 6, 2022, on the first day of the Conference, Prof. oluwatoyin Ogundipe will deliver the conference’s keynote address. The theme of the conference is Rethinking University Education in Africa, and the goal is to seek innovative and progressive ways of advancing and developing university education on the African continent. Thus, the choice of Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe as the keynote speaker at the conference will not come as a surprise to everyone who has read this piece. A progressive, collaborative, intuitive leader and administrator who understands the need for unity and collaboration of all stakeholders and units for the advancement of a cause and the achievement of set goals is worthy of being the keynote speaker at this auspicious conference.

Meet Professor Ogundipe on January 6, 2022, as the conference on the impact of private universities sets off — marking the foundation of something great and avalanche-esque in overhauling non-functional systems.

Press release by the conference organizers.




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