Universities in Nigeria are among the tertiary institutions of learning charged with the responsibility of training individuals to become professionals indifferent field for them to earn their first degree, second degree as well as PhD.
Universities or any tertiary institution of their likes have three categories of staff, which are the principal officers or hither-to referred to as management staff, the academic staff and the non-academic staff.
Peaceful co-existence of these categories of staff is of paramount importance to the achievement of the objectives for which the university was established. That is, the interpersonal relationship between these categories of staff must be positive and cordial.
Research study reveals that, the impact of public relations in the university or any higher institution of learning cannot be over emphasized because it contributes greatly to the achievement of the positive interpersonal relationship between the management and the staff.
Public relations according to the British Institute of Public Relations are “a deliberate planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organization and its publics”.
Osuji Chuks (1999), contends that:
“public relations is the process of creating favourable public opinion for an individual, firm, institution, organization and even for an intangible thing such as name so that any person who has something to do with that tangible or intangible thing, may perceive it in a good way”.
Dany Moss (2002), defines public relations as “reputation management that is enhancing reputation, reinforcing reputation and combating damages done to reputation”.
Public relations is all about building good image and good will for one’s self or for his organization.
From the above definitions of public relations, one can see the place of public relations in terms of maintaining mutual interpersonal understanding between the management and staff of the university.
For the purpose of this study a university is an organization where academic and non-academic staff are grouped together to form the publics or internal publics to be specific.
Public relation is the arbitrator to establish and maintain mutual interpersonal understanding between the organization and its external and internal publics.
The purpose of the study is to prove whether or not the establishment of public relations units or departments as the case may be has meaningfully contributed to the mutual interpersonal relationship existing among the various categories of staff of the University of Ilorin
1.2 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN
The University of Ilorin is located in the ancient city of Ilorin, about 500 kilometres from Abuja, the Federal capital. Ilorin, the Capital of Kwara State, is strategically located at the geographical and cultural confluence of the North and South.
University of Ilorin was one of the seven institutions of higher learning established by a decree of the Federal Military Government in August, 1975. This step, taken to implement one of the educational directives of the country’s Third National Development Plan, was aimed at providing more opportunities for Nigerians aspiring to acquire university education and to generate high level man-power, so vital for the rapidly expanding economy.
The then University College of Ilorin was initially affiliated to the University of Ibadan. Dr. T.N. Tamuno, Professor and Head of History Department at the University of Ibadan, was appointed the first Principal of the College in September, 1975. Shortly after Professor Tamuno’s appointment as Principal of the College, he was appointed the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan. It therefore, became necessary to appoint another Principal in the person of Professor O.O. Akinkugbe, former Dean of the then Faculty of Medicine, University of Ibadan, in December, 1975.
The then new Principal, Professor O.O. Akinkugbe, made several visits to the second Military Governor of Kwara State, the late Colonel Ibrahim Taiwo in connection with the new institution, such that by March 1976, he had established residence at Ilorin. The support given to the fledgling Institution by Governor Taiwo continued even more vigorously under the third Military Governor of the State, Brigadier George A. Innih, who ceded a portion of the temporary site of the Kwara State College of Technology to the University. The site, up till now, serves as the mini campus of the University.
Following an entrance examination, 200 foundation students were admitted into residence on Saturday, October 23rd, 1976, and academic activities commenced on Monday, October 25th , 1976, after the Principal’s maiden address at about 10.00am in the Africa Hall. The University College had three foundation Faculties namely: Arts, Science and Education. The Institution began to develop its programmes in a way that not less than 60% of its effort was directed towards science-oriented programmes.
In October 1977, the Institution attained full autonomous status and has since then developed by leaps and bounds. The student population of 200 in 1976 has increased to 20,084 by the 2005/2006 session, while the total staff strength of the university stood at approximately 3,040 as at March 1, 2007. Up till January 1982, the university carried out its academic programmes, involving the Faculties of Arts, Science, Education, Engineering & Technology, Business and Social Sciences, and the Pre-Clinical aspect of the Health Sciences on the Mini-Campus. The completion of the Faculty blocks for Natural Sciences and Engineering as well as 8 blocks of student hotels by December 1981, made it possible, on the 2nd of January 1982, for the actual movement of over 1,000 science-oriented students to the Main-Campus to pursue their various academic programmes. The law degree programme was initially established in 1983/84 session as a department in the Faculty of Business and Social Sciences. Though cancelled in 1986/87, it was resuscitated in 1993/94 as a full fledged Faculty.
The Main Campus currently houses the Faculties of Science, Engineering & Technology, Agriculture, Education, Law, Arts, Business and Social Sciences, (following the completion of the new seven-storey Senate Complex), the Unilorin Sugar Research Institute, Postgraduate School, the Main University Library, Computer Services and Information Technology (COMSIT), Works Yard, Conference Centre, Unilorin Resources Development and Management Board (URDMB), Student Canteens, the newly completed 2,000 seat multipurpose Auditorium and the Alumni/ Endowment Office. The Mini-Campus presently houses the College of Health Sciences, a mini Library, Canteens and Shopping Complex, the Institute of Education, some of the Revenue-yielding projects which are under the URDMB such as the Unilorin Computer Centre (Training Wing), Unilorin Bookshop, the Bakery, the Printing Press, and the Guest Houses. Each Campus has a Health Centre, a Post Office and Banking facilities.
Aside from two lecture theatres commissioned in 1997, there is an upsurge, from 2002 to date, in the physical development of the Main Campus. Five new Hostels were completed in 2002. Other projects were the Faculty of Education blocks and Lecture theatre; Lecture rooms, Offices and Lecture Theatre for the Faculty of Business and Social Sciences; Faculty of Science Chemistry block; Department of Agricultural Engineering block; offices for the Department of Human Kinetics and Health Education; COMSIT building (PhaseI)among others.
A water Dam and Treatment Plant to provide uninterrupted water supply to the main campus has just been completed. The University will soon construct a rail-line to boost transportation between the University Main Campus and the township.
Apart from the renovation of buildings, a systematic upgrading of teaching and research facilities is being undertaken by the University within its lean resources. This includes provision of computers, laboratory equipment, etc.
Growth of Faculties
From three faculties in 1976, today there are ten faculties: Arts (1976), Science (1976) Education (1976), Engineering & Technology (1978), Business & Social Sciences (1981), Agriculture (1982), Law (1993, after an initial start-up in 1983), Basic Medical Sciences (2004), Clinical Sciences (2004) and Communication and Information Sciences(2008).
Altogether, there are 60 academic departments in the existing ten faculties. Undergraduate degree programmes run for 3,4,5, or 6 years, depending on entry qualifications and discipline. The University started with the traditional British “Three Term System” but later changed into a modified form of the American “Two Semester System” called Harmattan and Rain semesters with effect from 1979/80 session.
Each semester comprises one half of an academic year as determined by Senate. Also instruction in the various Faculties with the exception of the Health Sciences is by the course system. These courses are quantified into credits. The University has teaching support units which include the Computer Centre, Central Workshop and Stores, Biological Garden, Community Based Experience and Services (COBES), Medical Educational Resources Unit, General Studies (Use of English/National Awareness) Division, and Teaching & Research Farm.
There are also the Public Units which are the University School, the University Secondary School, Institute of Education and Educational Technology Centre. Although an academic unit, the Library is actively involved in rendering service to the university and the public. In addition, there is a Sugar Research Institute which is mainly a research unit served by academic mainly from Science and Agriculture Faculties.
Public relations in Nigeria have come a long way. Just as the development of public relations practice was linked with world wars I and II in the USA, its beginning in Nigeria has also been linked with World War II.
As presented by NIPR’s (1988) anniversary publication “25 years of Public Relations in Nigeria”, the colonial government before World War II was concerned with collection of taxes and the running of a police force to maintain law and order in three protectorates amalgamated into Nigeria in 1914. If there was any public relations practice before the Second World War, it was merely maintenance of relationship with the traditional rulers to get in touch with the people. During the Second World War, however, the need arose for the colonial government to set up an information office which was later known as the public relations office of the government.
Sam Black (1990) has described June 1, 1990 as a memorable day for the public relations Profession in Nigeria. This is because on that day, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria signed Decree No. 16 “Nigerian Institute of Public Relations Practitioners 1990”. The then NIPR President also described the event as the “Finest hour of public relations”. He stated that, by this recognition all members of the Institute deserve to be congratulated on being part of the movement that has made Professionalism and excellence the hallmark of the Institute.
1.3 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Public relations have a cardinal objective of establishing and sustaining mutual understanding among the management and its various publics.
The underlying belief and basic concepts of public relations is that every organization, has an environment or a climate in which it is operating. This climate or environment, public relations also believe, should be conducive and peaceful to ensure continued and happy survival of that organization and the consistent achievement of its objectives. This translates to harmony between an organization and its publics.
This is why all definitions of Public Relations which are the notions, ideas and thoughts of what Public Relations are, from the point of view of its pioneers, have always centered on some constituents of the Public spirit, that is, opinion goodwill, acceptability, cooperation, understanding and others. All these are attributes of the public spirit which guarantee a good working and operational environment for any corporate body.
The problem statement is how the public relations function in University of Ilorin intends to actualize its Professionalism to achieve the good interpersonal relationship among the management and the staff. In other words, what are the contents of its armory in the achievement of its basic aims?
Public relations unit of the University will have to articulate management behaviour or mode of relationship between the management and the staff.
Public relations will communicate using all communication media. Public relations have to liaise with and be sensitive to the yarning and aspirations of the staff and act positively to satisfy them.
Having discussed what public relations is out to achieve within an organizational set up like University of Ilorin, I will like to discuss what an organization is.
An organization is a stable system of individuals who work together to achieve, through hierarchy of ranks and division of labour, common goals.
This buttresses the fact that an organization consists of people that interact with one another on regular basis for a productive venture.
For an organization to be vibrant and be in good terms with its employees, there is need for a good communication strategy and these are not always available at all times. This should not be so; therefore, the college has to do more publicity to enable its staff members to enjoy its good will and confidence.
With the existence of public relations experts in the college, the research is poised to critically evaluate its (public relations) activities in connection with the relationship existing between the management and workers in the University.
How has public relations unit tried to mediate between the two bodies as expected? Or does it only disseminate information?
How does information reach the members of staff who required such information?
Do employees have the opportunity to talk back to the management inform feedback?
How can one explain the incessant breakdown of communication within the campus?
This is what the study will like to research into in order to contribute to educational development and bring to light the significance of public relations in non-commercial organizations like a higher institution of learning.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The study is aimed at providing answers to the following questions:
- Do public relations activities adequately enhance employees’ communication in University of Ilorin?
- Would employees of the University be better informed about the institutions policies, goals and programmes if there are no public relations in the University?
- Do public relations efforts enhance employee’s productivity at the University?
- To what extent are the public relations practitioners involved in the prevention of industrial unrest such as strike actions, ensuring harmony and better working conditions?
- How have the services of public relations promoted the image of the institution within and outside the institution?
- Is the positive interpersonal relationship enjoyed in the university presently among the management and staff as a result of public relations unit’s efforts?
1.5 AIMS AND OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
It is erroneously believed in some quarters that public relations are only relevant in commercial organizations because it is aimed at improving the level of profit of the organization in the long run.
But this study’s aim and objective is to prove whether or not public relations is equally relevant in a non-commercial organizations where profit-making means nothing to their survival but rather peaceful governance for governments, achievement of the welfare of the people through the propaganda of an idea for voluntary organizations e.g. UNICEF, planned parenthood and others.
The result of the study is aimed at adding to the body of knowledge in the field of public relations.
It will also serve as a reference source and provide a research base for further researches in this area of public relations practice in higher institutions of learning and other related disciplines.
I also have the aim of making the study an educating and interesting project for reading by all and sundry especially the public relations students and practitioners.
The study is also aimed at meeting part of the requirement for the award of post graduate Diploma of Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The study will cover a section of the university internal publics, which are the employees. These employees consist of the academic and non-academic staff.
The study will also focus a little attention on efforts of the principal officers commonly referred to in academic circle as management staff with regards to assisting the public relations department to achieve its set objectives i.e. improving the interpersonal relationship between the management and staff.
The scope of the study will be between the management and staff of University of Ilorin.
1.7 CLARIFICATION OF TERMS USED
This study has tried as much as possible to use familiar and common terms which people are mostly accustomed to.
However, I shall try to simplify some of the key terms that were mostly mentioned times without number.
Organization: as used in the study referred to the University of Ilorin and as well called corporate body a times.
Internal publics: are used to mean the employees, that is, staff or workers.
Academic staff: are those workers in the college that have their primary functions as teaching the students while non-academic staff referrs to workers in the administrative and technical offices.