First Polish university to be opened in Nigeria

The Academy of Humanities and Economics in Lodz will open a branch campus next year in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.

Poland’s largest private university has already bought land for the Nigerian facility, which will be named Zuma Rock University. Construction will start soon. The campus will open in October 2008 with 300 students, university spokeswoman Karolina Wojcik said.

For the first few years most of the teachers will be Poles, the daily newspaper Dziennik reported.”We are impressed by your school’s decision,” said Christopher Maijaki, an aide to Julius Okojie, head of the National Universities Commission, a government agency. “We hope that it will be a good signal for other countries. Nigeria is a developing land and we care about education. We want to teach our students in our country so they don’t have to go abroad.”

The idea of the Nigerian campus arose five years ago when Makary Stasiak, chancellor of the Academy of Humanities and Economics, met Gombe University Vice Chancellor Abdullah Mahdi at an academic conference. Mahdi told Stasiak he should start a university in his country. Noticing young Nigerians’ thirst for learning, Stasiak thought a campus there would be a great investment.

Every year a million Nigerian students fight for a very limited number of places in the country’s universities. Each year more private universities open to meet the demand. The Academy of Humanities and Economics will be one of the first foreign institutions. The campus, which will have classrooms, sports facilities, restaurants, shops and dormitories, will be built in Diko, near Abuja. Initially the university will offer two majors: computer science and managing and marketing. Later it will offer degrees in economics, engineering and medicine.

“We are making plans for close cooperation between our universities,” Wojcik said. The Academy of Humanities and Economics will offer fellowships so “the cleverest Nigerian students can continue their studies” in master’s and Ph.D. programs in Lodz, she said. The academy also plans to make arrangements for Polish students to study in Diko. To start with, almost all the Diko professors will be Polish. After the Nigerian students complete their advanced degrees at Lodz, they will have the credentials to be hired at Diko.

Professor Tadeusz Markowski of the University of Lodz wonders how many Polish students will want to study in Nigeria. “Life in this third-world country is very difficult,” he said, and the time when a foreigner could make great money in Nigeria – such as in the oil industry – has passed, he said.

In addition, he said, “I don’t think a highly regarded professor will decide” to head to what would be a very uncertain situation. “I would say ‘absolutely no’ if someone asked me.”

Poland’s higher educational institutions are likely to keep a close eye on the Diko experiment, Dziennik said. If it succeeds, other Polish universities are likely to consider branch campuses there, the newspaper said.

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