Intensifying Internally Generated Research Funding, by Rahma 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, fill gaps in knowledge and change 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 the inability of lecturers to access research fund.
As a result, giant strides have not been recorded from the research efforts of Nigerian 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 that corporations pay to fund research known as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).
TETfund was established as an intervention agency through the TETFund Act 2011, which charges 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.
According to section 7 of the Act, the mandate of the fund is to disburse grants to federal and state tertiary educational institutions, for the provision and maintenance of essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning, instructional materials and equipment.
However, instead of consistently waiting for funds from TETfund, tertiary institutions can actually try to generate revenue internally to fund and support their research endeavours.
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, the centre started as an idea to generate revenue for the institution, through entrepreneural activities also geared towards imparting skills in students, regardless of their courses of study. He said the skills involved ranged from computer repairs, animal husbandry, fisheries, poultry to bakery. He said the centre has 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, which was subsequently repaired to perfection. From there, the University was able to have a patent registered for the test bench and thereafter more patents were registered through the same means.
The institution has also come up with a science park, which looks at different research findings, some of which are being packaged for commercialisation. According to Professor Shugaba, the university equally has a consulting services company that generates revenue, and a centre for distant learning that generates between N800 million and N1 billion annually. In addition, the university has a hotel named Kanem Suites, with branches in Abuja, Kano and on the campus in Maiduguri. All these serve as avenues 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, while also being 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 the lack of funds.
Rahma Olamide Oladosu is a Staff Writer with the Economic Confidential