The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, has told the delegation from the West African Postgraduate College of Medical Laboratory Science, (WAPCMLS) that the commission shall not encourage Fellowship of any professional bodies or organization as a substitute for a PhD.
NUC current bulletin reports that Prof. Rasheed disclosed this when he received the WAPCMLS team led by its President, Prof. Nafiu Amidu, in his office recently.
Rasheed said that while fellowship was the highest professional qualifications for professional in any non-academic organization, PhD was the highest academic degree in the university system anywhere in the world, adding that there was no basis for argument over superiority of PhD over professional fellowship, stressing that such argument is tantamount to a waste of time.
The NUC scribe explained further that Medical Scientists should endeavour to have a PhD being the fellowship is good but if you want to engage in teaching and research in the university highest academic qualification in the university, while PhD is not required for the non-academic staff for their carrier progression, likewise those who practice in the hospitals, laboratories, among others and that they could aid themselves with professional programmes or fellowship.
He said: “having a system, you must not downplay pursuit of a PhD; you cannot even compare your research in doing PhD with your professional or fellowship experiences”.
Prof. Rasheed commended the delegates for availing themselves the opportunity to have a firsthand information from the commission on the contending issues surrounding the superiority of PhD over Fellowship and vice versa, saying the difference had been made clear to them during the meeting.
He said that most of the new knowledge in the medical fields is attributed to medical scientists, noting that a typical example of such is the COVID-19 pandemic, which the leaders worldwide relied significantly on the laboratory scientists for possible cure.
In his presentation, the President of WAPCMLS, Prof. Amidu, who came from the University of Ghana, said that the visit was apt as the world was grappling with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, an infectious disease which had disrupted human and socio-economic systems and wreaked havoc on human life and livelihood, noting that the disease outbreak had exposed the weaknesses and gaps in the health manpower capacity and infrastructure in the African countries.
The WAPCMLS president told the executive secretary that the delegation, in recognition of the dominant role of the commission, as the regulator of the university education in Nigeria, had come to seek its collaboration in changing the narrative of weak laboratory, human capacity and the ravages of diseases in West Africa through the training of high caliber of specialists who could find solutions to the many health challenges faced by the region through relevant research training and activities.
He sought on behalf of the college, the commission’s support to foster collaborations with willing universities in Nigeria for candidates enrolled in the college Fellowship training programme, who desired to pursue their PhD studies concurrently in the universities.
Members of the delegation extended gratitude to the executive secretary for his quality leadership styles which according to them had culminated into the transformation of the Nigerian University System (NUS) within a short period of time. They expressed satisfaction with the wise counsel and advice given to the delegation by Prof. Rasheed especially on the viability of PhD and its excellence in engagement in the university system.
Some members of the delegation also shared their experiences on the relevance of PhD in teaching and research in the university, noting that they had seen in some universities whereby people without PhD were scaled down and edged out from becoming vice-chancellors.
LASU governing council conflicting position on Fellowship
The Education Report investigations revealed that in 2015, the Ninalowo-led 10th governing council of LASU midwifed the process for the appointment of the 8th substantive VC for the university. In the advert placed in some Nigerian dailies, it was indicated then that the applicants seeking to be VC of LASU must be a Professor and possess a PhD.
In the same advert, rather than specify certain number of years of post-professorial experience, the advert simply requested from prospective applicants, considerate number of years of experience as professor to qualify. That year, a particular professor with only a Fellowship qualification was not shortlisted on account of that particular applicant not having a PhD as Fellowship was not accepted in lieu of PhD.
Professors that were eventually shortlisted and interviewed on the basis of the advertised terms and conditions of the advert were only those who possess the PhD degree. Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun emerged through this advert as the 8th substantive VC of LASU.
Again, The Education Report recalled that in 2020, the same Ninalowo-led council, now the 11th governing council, was also charged with the same responsibility. In the advert placed for the appointment of the 9th substantive VC, the advert did not explicitly specify the possession of PhD degree for prospective applicants to qualify, rather, expects such applicants amongst all other conditions precedent, to have supervised and examined PhD candidates.
Since it is common knowledge in the academia that you cannot give what you do not have, without specifying the PhD condition in the advert, it is implied that applicants seeking to become the 9th VC of LASU must equally possess a PhD amongst all other advertised conditions. This advert took a departure from what was advertised in 2015 by stating that prospective applicants must have a minimum of 10 years post-professorial experience before they can qualify to apply.
The advert did not indicate in any way, that the Fellowship is acceptable in lieu of PhD neither did it indicate supervision and examination of Fellowship dissertations in lieu of PhD supervision and examination. Despite all of these, the Ninalowo-led Joint Council-Senate Selection Committee shortlisted candidates who did not meet the 10 years post-professorial experience as well as candidates with Fellowship qualification without a PhD and who by virtue of their qualifications could not have supervised nor examined PhD candidates and recommended some of these candidates for the accent of the Visitor to LASU, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State. Following series of petitions on sundry allegations that drew the attention of the governor to established non-compliance with advertised conditions in the selection process, the process was cancelled and a fresh process was ordered by Mr. Governor.
After the cancellation of the process and in starting a fresh process, the Ninalowo-led council placed another advert in January 2021. In this new advert, the governing council not only a reviewed the qualifications expected of prospective applicants, the number of post-professorial years of experience was reviewed downwards to 5 years!
Despite the available information in the public domain that Fellowship is not equivalent to PhD, the new advert requested for applicants to possess PhD or Fellowship. It also recognized in addition to supervision and examination of PhD theses that of Fellowship dissertations. In analyzing the activities of the Ninalowo-led governing council (10th and 11th) at overseeing the appointment of VC of LASU (8th and 9th) at various times (2015 and 2020) and not showing any consistencies in the way the exercise were conducted at these times, The Education Report asked:
Why did the Ninalowo-led governing council make Fellowship to be equivalent to PhD in the selection process in 2020 but not in 2015? Was it to accommodate an anointed candidate in 2020 and to exclude a targeted candidate in 2015?
Why did the same council make the post-professorial years experience expected from applicants so nebulous in 2015 but in 2020, 10 years of experience was specified? Was it to allow for the latitude to accommodate more candidates in 2015 but to wage a war of attrition against a particular candidate in 2020?
Why did the council refused to stick to the terms and conditions specified in advert placed in 2020 to show consistency when a fresh process was ordered by the Visitor after the recommendations made to him was not accepted? Is it to correct the lapses in the advert that had made the anointed candidate unqualified ab initio?
What really emboldened the Ninalowo-led council not to only come out publicly to place an advert making Fellowship equivalent to PhD against all the evidences to the contrary but also to reduce the years of post-professorial experience to five years? Is it to pave the way for a particular candidate and damn the consequences?