By Gabriel Dike
Executive secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETfund), Prof. Suleiman Bogoro, has challenged the nation’s universities to partner with industries on their research outputs.
Prof. Bogoro made the call at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) when the monitoring team for the TETfund scholarship for academic staff development programme visited the institution to interact with beneficiaries and intending Ph.D scholars.
He acknowledged that, since the introduction of TETfund research grants about eight years ago, the number of Nigerian lecturers with Ph.Ds has increased compared to 48 per cent with Ph.Ds before the intervention.
However, the TETfund boss said Nigerian lecturers will remain irrelevant if the universities fail to partner with the industries that are end users of research outcomes. He explained that the universities and their lecturers must align with what the industries need.
According to him, research from the universities must focus on how to solve societal problems such as security challenges, economy, health and other social issues. He declared that TETfund would take away grants from universities that are not producing results.
Bogoro proposed the establishment of the National Research Development Foundation of Nigeria (NRDF), stressing, “I am lobbying for the law on NRDF. If approved, we will have the largest research funds in Africa.’’
He said, out of the approved 128 research grants in 2019, UNILAG came first with about 10 per cent and, for 2020, the university got 16 grants. He acknowledged that the institution was ahead in research.
Said he: “We are here to interact and hear from TETfund scholars. Anywhere we go, university staffs appreciate TETfund. We visited a state polytechnic some years back and they had two Ph.Ds. With TETfund intervention, the polytechnic now has 72 Ph.Ds.
“UNILAG has one of the best records in research. It has professors and researchers who have made breakthroughs in several areas. If you see me visit an institution, it means they are doing well. My relationship with UNILAG from 2014 to 2016 was remarkable.”
Earlier, the vice-chancellor of UNILAG, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, said funds from TETfund have enhanced several areas of the university system and the areas include the academic staff training and development, physical infrastructure/ programme upgrade, library development, conference attendance. Others are institution-based research, TETfund project maintenance, ICT support, entrepreneurship centre, academic research journal, academic manuscript development.
“All of these funding have made university activities to continue to run smoothly. One then wonders what if all these interventions were not there, what would have become of the university system. The efforts of the ES to increase the quantum of these funds since his return from ‘sabbatical leave’ are worthy of praise and we are very grateful.
“The physical infrastructure is the most visible of all the TETfund funding and we at UNILAG, like Oliver Twist, are asking for more. The University of Lagos has a peculiar situation as it falls under an ecologically challenged land mass and very difficult terrain unsuitable for building purposes due to the swamps,” he said.
The VC, who was represented by the Deputy VC (academic and research), Prof. Oluwole Familoni, requested for special allocation to UNILAG to protect the university’s shoreline and reclaim marshy land to enable the institution expand its infrastructure and the quality as well as capacity of academic programmes.
Ogundipe described the New National Research Fund (NRF) as unprecedented in Nigeria and that it has continued to assist in cutting edge research which the results and its positive effects will be seen in the country in a short while and that the ES will be remembered positively for this remarkable feat.
He said UNILAG is aware that Bogoro is pulling string to increase funding to unprecedented value in 2021 and prayed it will succeed, adding ‘’University of Lagos has been a great beneficiary of this fund having won N419 million in 2019 for 14 applications and another N419 million in 2020 for 16 applications. We are not going to relent in our efforts to be one of the best in Nigeria.’’
The VC commended Bogoro for his support to the university during the recent crisis that did not project the good image of UNILAG, stating, “We know and appreciate the active role you played to protect the Nigerian university system, which was under trial at the time. This strong support has yielded good fruits evidenced by the current peace that we are enjoying at the moment.’’
The director of Academic Planning, Prof. Lucian Chukwu, said TETfund has sponsored 74 lecturers for Ph.Ds since inception and another 25 for training, which cost over half a billion.
Beneficiaries of TETfund grants shared their experience, including taking loan to continue with their research. They appreciated the fund and called for review of certain aspects of the law guiding research grants.