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1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The success of any organization, especially the institutions of higher learning, depends on how information is handled in that organization. The efficiency and effectiveness with which information is managed determines to a large extent whether the institution will consistently be crisis ridden or not. This is why no institution of higher learning can survive without the activities of the public relations department. Yet, many institutions in Nigeria including universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education among others have failed to appreciate public relations and it potency for the sustenance and growth of their establishment.
In the words of Enwonode (2004:47) “researches have shown all over the years that university administrations in Nigeria have not fully appreciated public relations potentials in tackling numerous crisis that have bedeviled academic excellence in our ivory tower”. That some institutions of higher learning in Nigeria have crisis from time to time simply reveals truth that they have either neglected this all important unit are relegated to the background by not giving it a free hand to operate. Many do not even operate apublic relation unit or department..
Some institutions of higher learning may be boasting of having a public relations department while all they have is an information office attached to the vice chancellors office or the office of the registrar, dishing out information handed down to them by the school authority. Such institutions do not give their public relations department a free hand to work. They do not even allow their public relations department to get involved in the processes leading to major decisions with serious public interest and implication. In some cases, public relations departments are only remembered when there is crisis in the school. This does not give public relations practitioner the opportunity to manage issues and crisis the way they would yield positive result but instead give room to ‘fire brigade” kind of public relations (resulting in acting when there is problem-relations problem to solve).
Public relations department should be part of school management board so that the principle public relations officers can take major decisions that may affect the publics of the institutions. In relation to this, Salau (2005: 58) said that it is the responsibility of the public relations personnel to handle misconceptions and misinformation arising from such delicate and sensitive decisions like sudden closure of school, Rustication/expulsion of students or even retrenchment or retirement of some staff. If the public relations executives of institutions of higher learning do not attend management meetings, how would they carry out the above functions mentioned by Salau?
Public relations executives are not accorded their rightful positions in institutions of higher learning due to ignorance of the duties they are meant to perform. Public relations is a management function because it works with and through people to achieve organization’s goals/objectives. So unless public relations executives are placed where they should be in the school organizational chart, a lot of things will continue to go wrong in our institutions of higher learning.
Since the image of many institutions of higher learning in Nigeria have been seriously damaged by incessant strike of the academic and non academic staff and cult activities of the various cult groups, it is imperative for all institutions of higher learning to maintain a viable public relations outfit that would generate and foster goodwill, support and cooperation of the employees, other internal publics and relevant others (external publics).
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
On several occasions, institutions of higher learning have been ridden with crises either caused by the protest of internal and external publics. Lecturers have often grumbled at one time or the other over bad condition of learning environment or condition of service. The facts remains that the public relations department exists in institutions of higher learning to create harmonious environment for the good of all involved.
Issues and crises such as demonstrations, students unrest, strike, cult activities etc have reduced, our higher institutions to mere shadow of itself and battered the highly respected image of the “Ivory Tower” this apart, they have made other countries not to value our university education. They look down on our certificates, and tag our graduates, “graduate of crisis”.
So all these problems have given impetus to the call for re-organization of the public relations departments of institutions of higher learning in order to restore their lost glory, Many institutions, both academic and business institutions, are now relying heavily on the public relations departments to bring about the much needed harmony and cordiality that should exist between the institutions and its publics.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
Given the statement of the problem above, this study aims to achieve the following objectives.
1. To determine the impact of public relations strategies in the performance of institutions of higher learning.
2. To examine the role of public relation units of institutions of higher learning in decision making of the schools.
3. To investigate the application of public relation strategies in arresting strikes and cult activities in institutions of higher learning.
4. To establish how they use public relations strategies to manage the image of their schools.
5. To find how the institutions of higher learning under study compare in their performances in the application of public relations strategies.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. What impact do public relations strategies have in the performance of institutions of higher learning?
2. Is there any role played by public relations units in decision making in the institutions of higher learning .
3. Does the application of public relations strategies help in arresting strikes and cult activities in the institutions of higher learning ?
4. How are public relations strategies used to manage the image of schools to the general public
5. How do the two institutions of higher learning under study compare in their performances in the application of public relations strategies
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
The following null hypotheses will be tested in their null forms.
1. Public relations strategies do not have significant impact on the performance of institutions of higher learning.
2. Public relations units of institutions of higher learning do not play any role in decision making.
3. The applications of public relations strategies do not help in arresting strikes and cult activities in institutions of higher learning.
4. Public relations strategies have not been used in managing the public image of the schools.
5. University of Nigeria will not perform better than institute of management and technology in its use of public relations strategies
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
1. This research will be significant to institutions of higher learning in Nigeria, which findings will help to restructure their public relations department for more oriented result.
2. The study will reveal the importance of public relations activities to institutions of higher learning, Pertaining on how to manage issues and crises as they come.
3. This study will explain the need to make the public relation executives part of institutions top management board and to be more effective in the discharge of their managerial role.
4. The study is significant in the sense that its findings will serve as a base and framework for future studies on the topic understudy.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
A study of this nature ought to be carried out in all institutions of higher learning in Nigeria. However, given the limitation experienced by researchers all over Nigeria as part of research experiences, which comes in form of inadequate fund to execute the study across all institutions of higher learning, the scope of the study is limited to two institutions of higher learning all in Enugu, University of Nigeria Nsukka and Institute of Management and Technology.
1.8 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
As part of the research experience by researchers all over the globe, certain limitations hindered the effective and smooth collection of data for the work. These in specific terms include, inadequate working funds; lack of time and scarcity of materials.
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