Pan-Commonwealth Forum

9-12 September 2019

Edinburgh, Scotland

Speaker profile: Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu

Setting New Gold Standard in African ODL Administration

Since his appointment in February 2016 as the Vice-Chancellor National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, has driven some ground-breaking changes that have elevated the public awareness of ODL. Through carefully thought-out policies and aggressive pursuit of ideals of quality education for all; Professor Adamu’s leadership of NOUN has inspired unprecedented acceptance of ODL as a mode of learning not only in Nigeria but also in neighboring West African countries. Projecting a philosophy that hinges on equalisation of educational opportunities, Professor Adamu has devised strategies for reaching and providing university education to individuals who ordinarily would have been excluded. His leadership intervention saw to the introduction of free education/scholarship to prison inmates and enhancing their enrolment into the National Open University of Nigeria; escalation of institutional support in IDP camps to students/study centres displaced by insurgency and natural disasters in some parts of Nigeria; provision of free education/scholarships to all levels of university education to indigent students across Nigeria.

Professor Adamu’s commitment to quality and functional higher education anchored on Information and Communication Technology has benefited the university in many ways. First it has led to massive investment in ICT infrastructure and establishment of three new ICT related directorates in the last three years. These directorates and centers have amplified student learning experience, created interactive online portals for students and faculty, provided a learning system that offers interactive course contents in digital formats that are accessible anywhere, anytime and at a pace convenient for the students. The fructification of these efforts is responsible for the increased enrolment of Generation Z set of students into the NOUN programs thereby shooting the total student enrolment figure to slightly above half a million.

In recognition of the university’s competency in ICT, it won the right to host the World Bank-supported African Center of Excellence for Technology Enhanced Learning (ACETEL). The Center is charged with the responsibility of developing human capacity and undertaking research in digital solutions including Artificial Intelligence that would lead to the utilisation of technology for education, and indeed all sectors of the economy in the West African sub-region.

The quest for the mainstreaming of ODL as an alternative mode of study in Nigeria was one of the toughest battlegrounds for Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu. One of his stated objectives on assumption of duty as the Vice-Chancellor was how to maintain a university resembling other universities in Nigeria and yet differing from them on account of its ODL disposition. Most of the reforms undertaken in the university were meant to achieve this. Thus, from changing the taxonomy of academic structures of the university, to democratizing leadership processes in the faculties, to initiating the amendment of the NOU Act of 1983 which the Visitor to the University magnanimously signed into Law in December 2018, and so on, the battle was to have a university that could compete with its peers across the country and beyond.

The global appreciation of these efforts has led to increased visibility and acceptance of the university. It has also led to upsurge in the demands for mentorship and the use of the university’s learning materials by other universities across Africa. The university students have responded massively to these initiatives such that previously weak students have re-embraced the university. The result of this was easily visible during the university’s 8th convocation ceremony in March 2019 where the university awarded its degrees to 20,793 graduates – consisting of 53.3% female and 46.7% male – a figure that quadrupled the number of graduates produced by any university in Nigeria in a single graduation year. Consequently, NOUN provides more opportunities for women to become empowered with higher education than any Nigerian university.

Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu received his D.Phil. in Science Education at Sussex University, United Kingdom in 1988. He was a Fulbright African Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley, United States from 1991 to 1992. He was also Rockefeller Foundation Visiting Fellow, The Bellagio Center, Italy in November 1983. He became Professor of Science Education and Comparative Higher Education in 1997, after which he shifted his research focus to media and communication. By 2012 he had acquired another professorship in Media and Cultural Communication due to the volume and depth of his research on transglobal media, Islam and culture in northern Nigeria, making him the only double professor in Nigerian university system. Before his appointment to NOUN, he was in the Department of Information and Media Studies, having migrated from the Department of Science Education, all at Bayero University Kano, Nigeria.

Professor Adamu served as a Visiting Professor at the University of Cologne (Germany), University of Florida, Rutgers State University New Jersey (United States) and the University of Warsaw (Poland). In addition, he has delivered special lectures at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; Barnard College, Columbia University, New York; University of Basel, Switzerland; Humboldt University, Berlin, the Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw, Poland, as well as Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany. He was the country partner for Volkswagen Foundation research initiative Passages of Culture (2008-2013), which shares knowledge and research findings in popular culture between African (Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria; University of Cameroon, Yaoundé; and University of Wits, South Africa), Germany (University of Freiburg) and Switzerland (University of Basel) universities and scholars.

Professor Adamu is a filmmaker, documentarist and music director.