By Inyali Peter

Every university is established on the background of sustainable development and steady growth not only in infrastructure but also in the quality of staff, teaching, programs etc. run by the institution.

Steady curricula expansion ordinarily ought to have been a consistent practice in Nigerian universities but because of impunity, corruption and lack of focus by major actors in the academics, this has only appeared on black and white overtime.

Besides, the world is evolving and universities across the world are beginning to expand its learning scope to remain relevant and competitive.

To remain relevant in the demanding environment of digitalization where people can stay in the comfort of their homes and earn degrees from any part of the world, Universities and colleges must restructure its programs by engaging in a robust curricula expansion.

Under the leadership of Prof. Zana Akpagu as Vice Chancellor (VC) of the University of Calabar, Calabar (UNICAL), the institution seems to be taking the lead in the South South geopolitical region of the country in expanding its programs to meet up with contemporary challenges.The two years of Zana have been nothing other than around development in UNICAL.

While a lot (Not enough) have been said about Zana's development strides in terms of infrastructure since he assumed office, little or nothing has been said about how visionary he has been in setting UNICAL in the path of sustainable academic growth by expanding the university's curricula to include programs that meet up the contemporaries demands in Nigeria and world labour market.

In a bid to make UNICAL offerings more relevant to Nigeria and the immediate community, Zana has established faculties, departments and programs. Some of which include Faculty of Engineering and Technology with six (6) departments namely : Civil, Agric, Chemical, Computer, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering.

How funny and ridiculous this may sound, until this time, UNICAL was the only 2nd generation University in Nigeria without a faculty of Engineering.

Past Vice Chancellors tried unsuccessfully to establish this program. In fact, at some point UNICAL was subjected to a public ridicule for constantly failing to get National Universities Commission (NUC) approval to kick start the engineering program.

But when Zana assumed office, it took him just one year to change the narrative. Today, the university have done its first matriculation for students in all the six departments in the faculty and it's running smoothly.

Also, Pharmacy which used to be an attachment in other faculties have become a full flesh faculty. The importance of this to the university which includes more funding for Pharmaceutical programs, research and development cannot be over emphasized.

Similarly, the Zana's administration has also established the faculty of Oceanography with three departments namely, Mariculture and Marine Fisheries Resources, Physical Oceanography and Biological Oceanography. This is one of the highly sort after programs in the world today. Products of this program are now hotcakes globally.

In additional this, he has also expanded the University Curricula by establishing five new critical departments. These are: departments of Music, Fine and Applied Arts, Physiotherapy, Food Science and Technology as well as Social Works.

This programs don't only have the capacity of producing graduates who will meet up the high demand by employers but also people who can become job creators within a short period of time.

All these faculties and departments took off in the 2016/2017 academic session and matriculated their first set of students on the 3rd of February 2017.

This uncommon achievements have however not been given the attention it truly deserves. While every stakeholder is more interested in the aesthetics of the environment, Zana has recognized the golden principle that while beautiful and serene environment promotes the image and reputation of a university, what really put the institution at the pedestal is the quality of programs run and how it meets emerging demands.

A university is not defined only by the beauty of its environment but the effects and importance of its programs. For instance, the physical looks of the famous university of Abuja cannot be compared to some first class Private secondary schools in the country yet the quality of programs run in the university has placed it as one of the best in the country.

It is worthy to note that Zana achieved all these at the time the country is growing through recession and the university gasping over epileptic allocation and lowest Internationally Generated Revenue.

Setting up all these programs was capital intensive hence required adequate funding. How the VC managed to source funds to establish them hand-in-hand with the robust infrastructural development going on in the institution has left many pondering.

For him, it has been nothing other than all round development; academic, infrastructure, workers welfare, discipline etc. Simply say, he is out not just to drastically transform UNICAL to a 21st century university but committed to repositioning the institution for sustainable and robust academic development.

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