The Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof. Abel Olayinka, says postgraduate programmes in the country’s universities must be continuously strengthened for the system to remain relevant to national development.
Olayinka stated this while delivering a keynote address at the 57th Meeting of the Committee of Deans of Postgraduate Schools (CDPGS) in Nigerian universities on Thursday at the University of Lagos.
The theme of the meeting is: “Repositioning the Narratives of Postgraduate Education for National Development’’.
According to him, the postgraduate programmes in the country’s ivory towers are veritable ways of increasing the creation of new knowledge for the benefit of mankind and society at large.
He explained that many universities would be unable to sustain any meaningful research effort without postgraduate students.
Olayinka said that this arose primarily from the difficulty in finding staff whose sole responsibility is to conduct research rather than to teach or supervise research students.
According to him, because of their typical turnover rate (three to five years), postgraduate students tend to provide highly- motivated, unencumbered, fresh inputs to research programmes.
“Postgraduate education is an integral part of the essence of a university, hence, there is a need for synergy between the leadership of the Postgraduate schools/colleges and the central university administration.
“We will not be able to sustain any meaningful research effort without the contributions of the students.
“Universities require that supervisory committees should also formally monitor the progress of students on Doctoral programmes through annual reports to the postgraduate schools.
“Where appropriate, reports on progress should be made to sponsors and copied to the postgraduate schools. The mechanism for this will be as determined by the board of the postgraduate schools from time to time,’’ he said.
Olayinka explained that the postgraduate schools required that the progress of the students should be formally reviewed annually by the sane departmental postgraduate committee that approved the research project and the supervisory arrangements.
According to him, such reviews must be accompanied by at least one written progress report, a presentation of results and oral examination by a panel or an open presentation with critical feedback from their peers and staff in the subject areas.
The vice-chancellor noted that for the postgraduate schools to be continually strengthened, such schools must ensure that research training programmes offered students the opportunity to develop a relevant range of knowledge and skills.
Olayinka said that it must also include skills for employment.
“The universities, on the other hand, require that research students complete the research training programmes and any prescribed taught courses as well as successfully complete an assessment and or examination.
“The postgraduate schools should also maintain an up-to-date register of staff members that are qualified to engage in research supervision.
“Also, in order to ensure that individual supervisors are not overloaded, postgraduate schools must set appropriate limits on the number of research students who may be supervised by the main supervisor, subject to a normal maximum of six,’’ Olayinka said.
The vice-chancellor further stated that there was also the need for universities to ensure that postgraduate schools provide students with appropriate induction programmes within three months of registration.
He said that this would enable them to acquire an understanding of the academic and social environment within which they would be working.
Olayinka, however, identified an increase in general legislation/ regulation, government policies on university funding, research assessment and technological change, as key issues impeding research efforts in the country.
He also noted the need for global competition, saying that Nigerian researchers had all it takes to compete favourably with their counterparts in other climes if given the necessary support and exposed to the right environment.
According to him, most universities in Nigeria, for instance, are unable to offer post-doctoral positions, due to a surfeit of reasons which included lack of funds as well as inadequate and obsolete research facilities.
In his welcome address, Prof. Solomon Akinboye, the outgoing Dean, School of Postgraduate Studies, University of Lagos and host of the meeting, said that the essence of the meeting was for provosts and deans of postgraduate schools in the country to rub minds and share ideas on best practices to be adopted in the administration of postgraduate studies.
Akinboye noted that this would ensure that international best practices were complied with in the postgraduate programmes.
“The ultimate objective is to ensure that our graduates can compete favourably with graduates from other parts of the world.
“It is our hope that the outcome of the deliberations at this meeting will further strengthen our hands in the effort to improve postgraduate studies in the universities,’’ he said.
He said that the University of Lagos had channelled its focus toward improving research and in internationalising the institution.
“We duly appreciate the vision of the Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, toward this and we had keyed into it.
“On research, we have strengthened the conduct of the thesis by ensuring that research works are published from them.
“We took this decision because we saw the need to strengthen the quality of postgraduate scholarship and we are glad that this is already yielding fruitful results,’’ Akinboye said.
The don stated that on the internationalisation of the university, the institution had continued to attract international students many of whom had testified to the quality of work in the university.
“We also realise as a university that most universities in the country, especially the newly established ones need quality manpower.
“It is our duty to provide them with that, in order to enhance universal theoretical and cutting edge research-oriented knowledge in Nigeria,’’ Akinboye said.
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In his brief remarks, Ogundipe noted that the institution’s school of postgraduate studies was driven by the penchant for a sustained track record of commitment to move from excellence to distinction in all activities.
The vice-chancellor said that this was achieved by the alignment of the institution’s academic activities to modern pedagogical approach to learning, continuous review of programmes and introduction of new, relevant and practical ones that are capable of addressing the current challenges and realities of the society.
Ogundipe noted that the theme of the meeting was apt, timely and instructive as it would provide the template for consolidating the achievements so far, by various postgraduate schools in the country.
He said the meeting would redirect efforts toward complementing policy directives of government for national development.