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American University Assists Nigeria

American University Assists Nigeria
In Establishing U.S.-Style UniversityBy Phaedra Brotherton

Next September Nigerian students will be able to get an American-style college education right in their own country. With the help of management and academic advice from American University (AU) in Washington, D.C., the new university will also look to attract students from other African countries and around the world.

“We envision that ABTI-American University (AAUN) will become a model for American-style education in one of the African continent’s most important countries,” says American University President Benjamin Ladner. “This exciting initiative will meet a great need in Nigeria and the region for a high-quality university education, while also providing joint educational opportunities for AU faculty and students.” 

American University will provide Nigeria with management and academic advice to start up the university in Yola, Nigeria. Yola is the home of Nigeria’s vice president, Atiku Abubakar, whose wife is a Ph.D. student in AU’s School of International Service. Abubakar contacted the dean of the School of International Service in 2003 about the possibility of starting up a university in Nigeria. And on Jan. 1, 2004, AU signed a five-year management contract to advise and assist in recruiting a senior management team, building the physical facilities, creating the curriculum and other tasks.

“AU administrators and faculty have been enthusiastic about helping to establish a university that could play such a positive role in Nigeria and Africa,” says Dr. Robert Pastor, who along with Dr. Patrick Ukata, director of the AAUN’s Washington office at AU, is leading AU’s advisory team.

Ukata says that AAUN will offer a four-year undergraduate education, with two years of general education followed by two years in a concentrated major. This is in contrast to the existing Nigerian institutions, which are based on the British model, in which students concentrate and take courses solely in their major.

To date, AU has designated Dr. David Huwiler, the former president of the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) as the first president of AAUN. AUCA is the first American-style university in Central Asia, however, it is not associated with American University in Washington. Dr. V. James Garofalo, the former dean of the School of Education at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich., and a former Peace Corps volunteer in Nigeria in the 1960s, has been designated the first vice president of academic affairs.

Ukata says that the initial faculty will mostly be American to ensure that the American style of pedagogy is taught and to train the Nigerian faculty who will be employed by the university. “We foresee in time a lot of the key positions will be held by Nigerians but they will maintain the American-style tradition,” Ukata says.

Initially, AAUN will open three schools: Arts and Sciences, Entrepreneurial Studies and Business Management, and Information Technology and Communication. According to AU, those areas were selected by AAUN because of their relevance to Nigeria’s development. Next on the agenda will be to establish a law school and an engineering school.

Dr. Allan Goodman, president and CEO of the Institute of International Education, says he wishes “more institutions would do this” and applauds AU’s effort.

“What [American University] is doing is exemplary. Education is in really short supply everywhere except in America,” Goodman notes. “We have 4,000 accredited colleges and universities in America. That’s about 40 percent of all universities in the whole world. Building more universities and American universities really helps distribute education abroad.”

AAUN plans to enroll 200 students in the fall of 2005, and eventually expand the number of students to 7,000 over the next 10 years. All students admitted to the school will have a senior secondary school certificate and an acceptable score in the Joint Admission and Matriculation Exam. Ukata says AAUN is targeting students who would normally choose to attend an American or British institution.

“We hope, if successful, to have a program in place of the same level and quality that one finds in the U.S. or U.K.,” Ukata says.

Ukata acknowledges that while the approximately $6,000 tuition is generally less expensive than the price tag of an American or British college education, it is still expensive for most Nigerians. Ukata says that officials at American University have been meeting to discuss ways to provide financial assistance to those highly qualified Nigerian students who can’t afford to attend.

Establishing AAUN benefits American University by enabling it to fulfill its mission of international education by expanding its global presence and establishing relationships around the world for exchange programs, says Ukata. The goal is to eventually make it possible for AU students to attend the university in Nigeria as exchange students.

AAUN is American University’s second international start-up effort. In 1997, AU established a similar relationship to create American University-Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, which now enrolls 3,500 students. “This year AU is able to send students to Sharjah and have students from Sharjah come here,” says Ukata. “AU will have many relationships globally to do exchange programs and have students from the rest of the world to come to America.”

Groundbreaking for the AAUN took place on Oct. 25. Classes are scheduled to begin in September 2005.

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