A Carnegie Corporation of New York Announces $4 Million in Grants to Two West African Universities


After three years of work aimed at strengthening African Universities, the board of trustees of Carnegie Corporation of New York has decided to begin investments in higher education in Nigeria with grants to two of the country’s leading universities: The University of Jos and Obafemi Awolowo University. Each institution will receive a three-year grant of $2 million to implement institutional reform and gender equity projects. The Corporation expects to work with a few other universities to underscore the importance of higher education in the civic future of Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa.

"Higher education is a fundamental building block in today’s global society,” says Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York. “Strong higher education systems are central to the task of rejuvenating African countries from within. We believe an investment in the University of Jos and Obafemi Awolowo University will contribute to creating a vibrant intellectual environment in Nigeria and will nourish social, political, and economic transformation in the region.”

“It is our belief that Nigeria, because of its size and history, can play a disproportionate role on the continent and its universities can be engines for change and advancement beyond its borders,” says Narciso Matos, chair of the Corporation’s International Development Program.

"There is strong and dedicated leadership at both the University of Jos and Obafemi Awolowo University, and we believe that with investments like ours, university leaders can move the institutions to the next stage—academically and technologically," says Andrea Johnson, program officer in the International Development Program at the Corporation. “The will is there to make changes at both universities, and with our grant we anticipate the institutions will be able to strengthen selected aspects of their teaching, learning and research environments as well as address issues of governance, financial stability and gender equity.”

Obafemi University, established in 1962, has traditionally been the center for the study of Nigerian and other African cultures. With a student population of almost 23,000, taught by an academic staff of about 1,100, the university is one of the largest in West Africa. Having identified institutional priorities through a strategic planning process, the university will use the Corporation’s support to carry out eight projects to improve the capacity for teaching, research and service, one of which includes the provision of scholarships to female undergraduates. The university will expand its information and communications technology infrastructure and build capacity in technology-assisted teaching. The university’s Center for Gender and Social Policy will lead the institution’s gender equity initiative and manage the scholarship program for female students. The library will create an online catalogue of its resources and digitize rare holdings. The Faculty of Technology will set up a computer engineering laboratory to expand professional training opportunities. Science research capacity will be increased through improvements to the central science laboratory. A therapeutic drug monitoring service and a community oral health project will provide much needed services to the local community and to the country. And the university’s linkages office will strengthen its ability to mobilize resources and reach out to universities worldwide.

The University of Jos, established in 1975, having been a campus of the University of Ibadan, is a “second generation” university in Nigeria, meaning those that were established during the oil boom in the mid-1970s. It is therefore a smaller university, with a student population of about 11,000 and an academic and senior staff of about 700. The University of Jos is a pioneer in some areas, particularly information and communications technology. It was also the first federal university to embrace strategic planning, developing its first plan in 1998. As part of its strategic development plan, the university identified six priorities for the institution, which will be expanded with support from the Corporation. These include a wide-ranging information and communications technology effort to strengthen infrastructure, administration, research and teaching; institutional analysis and policy development and coordination of a scholarship program for female undergraduates to increase opportunities for women; partnerships with students to improve student access to water and to computers and a human resources initiative to build both academic and administrative staff skills; the establishment of a development office as part of an effort to diversify the university’s sources of income; and a phytomedicine research project to highlight the benefits of interdisciplinary research.

Nigeria is one of the five countries identified by the Corporation as partners in its African university-strengthening initiative. As with other partner countries, the basic strategy has been to identify innovative universities with effective leadership and invite them to submit proposals for institutional capacity-building programs that target priority areas identified by them.

The Partnership to Strengthen African Universities is a four-foundation collaboration aimed at raising awareness about the importance of higher education to African development. The partner foundations, the Ford, Rockefeller and MacArthur foundations and Carnegie Corporation are working collaboratively on research and communication, while keeping distinct the individual foundation grantmaking priorities. The partnership has announced an investment of $100 million in African Universities during the first five years of its work. Since the Partnership to Strengthen African Universities was launched in New York in April 2000, the four foundations have already contributed an aggregate $62.3 million toward higher education development in six sub-Saharan countries.

The MacArthur, Rockefeller and Ford foundations have also invested in universities in Nigeria. MacArthur has a particular interest in helping improve universities in Nigeria, where the foundation has an office and has engaged in grantmaking since 1994. National stability is a key criteria in the Partnership’s decisions about which countries to invest in. The Corporation expects to do further work with other Nigerian institutions contingent on continued growth in civil society there.

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding." As a grantmaking foundation, the Corporation seeks to carry out Carnegie's vision of philanthropy, which he said should aim "to do real and permanent good in the world." The Corporation's capital fund, originally donated at a value of about $135 million, had a market value of $1.6 billion on September 30, 2002. The Corporation awards grants totaling approximately $80 million a year in the areas of education, international peace and security, international development and strengthening U.S. democracy.