February 25, 2024

Unilagsun

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Integration, professionalism key to future-ready bursary—Bursar

By Victor Chijioke, Patricia Odedele, Azeezat Olufowobi and Gbemileke Tijani

Mrs Oluwafunmilola Yetunde Adekunle, Bursar of the University of Lagos, with UnilagSun reporters.

Plans are afoot to integrate the information technology [IT] processes of the University’s Bursary Department to enhance effective science delivery. 

The new Bursar, Mrs Oluwafunmilola Yetunde Adekunle, who also plans to prioritize staff training to enhance productivity, told UNILAG SUN in an interview that while the processes run on the same IT platform, they need to be integrated to improve timely service delivery. 

“We have different ports of information technology processes. Student accounts have something for students, and we have something for payment, we have something for posting our ledgers. We have those processes on the same platforms but in different offices. So, one of the things I am looking forward to doing is to integrate all these processes into one, so everything comes at the click of a button in my office. I can see how many students have paid who owe the university; I can see what has been paid in the cash office and know how they are interrelated until it comes to the final account… ” Mrs Adekunle noted.

According to her, the linking of IT processes across bursary sub-units is underway and near completion. “We’re working with the service provider to be able to integrate all these processes. If I’m going to look at it on a scale of 1-10, we’ve achieved eight out of ten. Very soon, we hope to get everything integrated.”

She envisions a bursary unit that transitions from going through the motions to consistently putting out measurable performance. For her, achieving measurable performance has many benefits—from the ability to answer students’ complaints and requests through the newly-introduced bursary helpdesk to having enough information to inform the management decision to increase obligatory fees.

“We must be able to give good reports that will help in management decisions. When we were about coming up with the fees, they relied greatly on the bursary for information, for data. We didn’t just wake up and say, Everybody, pay 200,000. No, we knew what we wanted to do based on the analysis we had done. We knew how much was coming in. We knew how much we needed each student to pay before we can actually get where we are going. And we are working towards it to ensure that we not only have a bursary, a financial kind of unit, but a bursary that efficiently can deliver service so that they can attend to students’ requests, complaints, and calls without the aggravation that comes with it,” she added.

As the hallmark of professionalism is efficient service delivery, the bursar notes that bursary staff have to be trained continuously. “We want to be more professional in our dealings. And this has to also do with training. You have to train people. If you don’t train them, you don’t blame them. We are looking more in terms of in-house training.”

The bursar also spoke to UNILAGSun reporters on the issues necessitating the adjustment in student obligatory fees between July and October 2023. She explained that with the Federal Government’s inadequate funding, the need to sustain the school’s current operations and steer the university gradually in the right direction led to the increase. Her words, “When we looked at the cost of doing business, we discovered that what we have currently cannot sustain us. Before we even decided to go for the increase, the university had been in huge debt. We had contractors coming to work for us and we could not pay them and if we continue like that, we’d end up with so many court cases and the only thing we are depending on is student fees because you know we can’t charge tuition. So these obligatory fees are what we depend on. The government gives us overhead, but the overhead is very inadequate.”

She explained that the rate at which student fees are adjusted may become more frequent if economic realities worsen, saying, “We can’t keep the fees at the same position for a long time, especially when we consider that things are skyrocketing.”

The bursar pointed out that people who think of public university education as a through-and-through form of social welfare will have to change their view if the government continues to shirk its responsibilities. Commenting on the proposed student loan scheme, she also remarked that the Federal Government has to thoroughly consider specifics, like its ability to recover the loans it gives, before disbursement.

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