Tertiary Institutions and Internally Generated Research Revenue, by Rahma Olamide Oladosu
Research plays an important role in discovering new medical treatments, and making sure that we use existing treatments in the best possible ways. It can find answers to things that are unknown, filling gaps in knowledge and changing the way that healthcare professionals work.
In Nigeria, research development seems a mirage. Could lack of funding be responsible?
Nigeria’s tertiary institutions have three statutory functions — teaching, research and community service. While more attention is given to teaching, little effort is committed to research. Nigerian universities, which should exist as centres for research, knowledge dissemination and creativity, haven’t delivered on their full responsibilities.
Regrettably, research in Nigerian institutions is not given the priority it deserves because of poor funding of the education sector. Funding of universities generally and research, in particular, is inadequate. This condition partly accounts for lecturers’ inability to access research fund.
As a result, giant strides have not been recorded from the research efforts of the universities. Besides, the bulk of university research in Nigeria is driven by demand for publication towards career advancement.
Every year, scores of Nigerian academics fail to secure funding for their research and a few do rarely get what they need as it is beginning to look like universities now want to solely depend on the government agency tasked with utilising education taxes corporations pay to fund research known as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).
TETfund was established as an intervention agency under the TETFund Act, 2011 and charged with the responsibility of managing, monitoring and disbursing the education tax to public tertiary institutions. To enable TETfund achieve its objectives, the Act imposes a two per cent Education Tax on the assessable profit of all registered companies in Nigeria.
However, according to section 7 of the act, the mandate of the fund is to disburse the funds to federal and state tertiary educational institutions, for the provision and maintenance of essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning, instructional materials and equipment.
In addition, the agency also ensures that education tax is utilised to improve quality of learning through the provision of educational facilities and infrastructural development, promoting creative and innovative approaches to educational learning ,supporting and enhancing improvement of research activities in tertiary institutions.
Instead of consistently waiting for funds from TETfund, Tertiary institutions can actually try to generate revenue internally to fund and support their research department.
Recently, during a courtesy visit to the Image Merchant Promotions (IMPR) Abuja office by the Vice Chancellor of University of Maiduguri, Professor Aliyu Shugaba, and his management team, I asked the VC what the university is doing internally to generate revenue to fund the research department of the institution.
Professor Shugaba explained that the University of Maiduguri, being an institution with the largest student population of 75,000, has a centre for entrepreneurship and enterprise development.
According to him, he centre started as an idea to generate revenue for the institution with all the entrepreneural activities geared towards imparting the skills on the students regardless of their course of study. He said the skills ranged from computer repairs, animal husbandry, fisheries, poultry to bakery. He said the centre had trained over 40,000 students since its inception.
He further said that the university had collaborated with the Nigerian Airforce at some point during the peak of the insecurity in Maiduguri and through the centre, a diagnostic bench was invented to diagnose a faulty jet and it was repaired to perfection. From there, the university was able to have a patent registered for the test bench and subsequently more patents were registered through the same means.
The institution has also come up with a science pack, which looks at all of the research findings and some are being packaged for commercialization. The university also has a consult services that also generates revenue, the centre for distant learning wasn’t left out as well as it generates between N800 million to N1 billion. In addition, the university also has a hotel named Kanem Suites with branches in Abuja, Kano and in the school campus in Maiduguri. All these serve as avenue for generating revenue for research in the institution.
While a lot of experts have stressed the need to improve the quantity and quality of research outputs from higher institutions, they have also added that the focus of research should be in line with national priorities as well as knowledge-and demand-driven to aid national development.
Personally, I’m really impressed with University of Maiduguri’s numerous efforts to generate revenue for research and I want to urge all tertiary institutions to enumerate these steps and start up profitable avenues to internally generate funds for research so that at least the government through the TETFUND can meet them half way through, instead of just letting the young and active minds that can do perfectly well in research and development stay idle due to lack of funds.
Rahma Olamide Oladosu is a Staff Writer with the Economic Confidential