Ogunniyi Abiodun ‘Uthman

Over and over, the responsibilities of an institution of higher learning continue to be highlighted and as a matter of fact, we continue to see also that teaching is just one out of the many of them. To say that an institution of higher learning is saddled only with the responsibility to teach is equivalent to asserting that the only function of a computer is to type. You would agree that that only translates to a gross underutilization of resources. The quality of the education offered by any institution of higher learning is not to be determined solely by the quality of its graduates, but also by the quality of its efforts in advancing the frontiers of cutting edge researches which translate to some meaningful societal development.

Indeed, it's very reasonable to think that a university that is not impacting and ultimately changing the faces of the immediate society in which it operates, is simply failing.

Take for instance, Google. Can you imagine your life without it? In fact, Google has proved to be so handy and widely used a tool that it has to process over 40,000 search queries every second, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per annum worldwide. But how did Google begin? Who gave the world Google? Well, what was to become the future Google was actually just an innovation born out of the research of two students of Stanford University, California, in the United States, Sergey Brin and Larry Page which they conducted during their Ph.D. years. The research proved so successful that the duo had to suspend their educations to further it. The rest, as we know, is history. Google today has become a wonderful tool for everyone, individuals miles beyond the environment of operation of the university where it was engendered.

Television, also. The roots of the development of the television are inextricably tied with university research. In 1884, Paul Nipkow, a German university student invented the first electromechanical television system, thereby paving the way for subsequent research on the subject. Many decades later, the modern television was born and got readied for the commercial market, after other researchers and engineers had contributed their works.

Beyond Stanford, California, where the research the result of which would change the world of information technology forever was initiated, and crossing the sea and the Sahara, lies the University of Ibadan, another institution of higher learning, an institution that prides itself as the first and the best in the country. The first in its country indeed it is. But being the best can never be a self-designated title. It has to be deserved, and for an institution to be truly the best of its kind, it has to first prove its mettle not only, as aforementioned, in terms of the quality of its graduates alone but also in terms of its contributions to the well-being and the progress of its society of operation. To pursue this goal and also to explore alternative sources of revenue, this university, the first and the best, went ahead to establish its ventures with interests in bread making, water and honey production.

Despite how lofty the innovative establishment seemed, it has been surprising that it has continued to fall under a huge deluge of criticisms and complaints nevertheless. It is not the idea itself that has been being severely lampooned by both the members of the university community and outside consumers alike, but the quality of the products of the idea.

'UI Bread is crappy. The water is crappier. Many have even stopped taking them. This has certainly resulted in a loss of customers, and a subsequent reduction in projected revenue generation, and rightly so, today, consumers are more informed than ever before. They have also gotten more options than ever before in the history of humanity. Likewise, they have the prerogative to get corresponding quality for their money. Hence, it is not the consumers' fault for stopping to take UI bread and water; it is simply UI's for utterly failing in its responsibility. Now it is its responsibility again to simply up its game if it is to reverse the trend.

The UI Ventures' products would experience increase in demand and popularity if the university's authorities realise that they are not in those businesses just like everyone else. They are not in just for the sake of profit making. They are not in just to shove some shitty products into the market and to comfortably sit on their sofas, expecting some magical returns. Rather, they are in to add value, and to discharge one of their foremost responsibilities: contribution to societal well-being and progress. If they make this realization on time, they would be moved to place more emphasis not only on quality assurance for their products but also on the ego of the school, an ago that has been encapsulated in the slogan 'if it is from UI, it must be of the highest quality.'

To achieve their foremost responsibilities must be their ultimate goal. Even though they might not have been able to provide an enabling environment of learning and research that can give to its society of operation the gift of another Google, or an improvement of the modern television, they can give to her the little things that still paradoxically matter most in life: quality bread and clean water. Their products have to be positively different (they are made by UI! I mean, the great and mighty UI!) and must get their potential consumers muttering: if it is from UI, it must be of the highest quality indeed.

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