Why academics are not accessing research grants, by ASUU boss
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has identified lack of facilities; poor teaching environment and absence of incentives as some of the factors responsible for dearth of research in our institutions.
ASUU president, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi while reacting to claims by the National Universities Commission (NUC) that about N3 billion available under the national research fund at Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) have not been accessed said academics are less attracted to the grant because the facilities for a sound and effective research are not there.
Essentially, Ogunyemi stated that the nation’s tertiary institutions lack facilities for cutting-edge research.He said, “Of course there are very competent and experienced researchers and scholars in our universities, and the issue now would be do we have the facilities for cutting-edge research? People can be discouraged even from applying when they know that there are no state-of-the-art facilities, which is one of the issues we have been raising. That our libraries should be stocked and laboratories properly equipped, we should bring our libraries and laboratories up to the standard that people can do meaningful research. When you don’t have facilities, of course one would be discouraged, so the element of discouragement is there which we cannot deny.
“There are also factors that may not allow academics to actually approach grant giving institutions and agencies especially in our circumstances of need. The motivation again is not there; do we really have enough hands to do the work? Most of our colleagues now teach all round the year and they even have to agitate to go on leave. In a regular and normal system, it is expected that university teachers have 56 days annual leave, 26 out of which should be for research, to conceptualise your research but we have been running seamless sessions in our campuses and people may not really have enough time to conceptualise.
On claims by the NUC that the funds could not be accessed because many academics do not know how to write research proposals that could secure them grants, Ogunyemi said while he could not deny that there were some people who were brought into the system at one point or the other who are not qualified to be in the system, the ASUU boss said they have members who have the capacity to actually win these grants.
“In the universities now, we have different categories of lecturers, in the past, people used to come back to the university based on merit but a time came when the process of employment to universities became bastardised, maybe these set of people lack the capacity, we cannot fully deny that because when you bring people that do not merit the appointment, the deficiency would show sooner or later and we have been engaging government to actually address these dimension of appointments into the university system without following the established procedures. But when you remove those categories of staffs, we have competent academics who have the capacity.
Ogunyemi stressed: “While the best way to measure productivity is research; we need to view it against the environment where they are working. People are less attracted to the grant because the facilities for doing some of these things are not there.’’ To address the trend, the ASUU chief said: “First, we need to sanitise the system and secondly, we need to build the capacity of those who are there and make the environment conducive. Let government address the operational environment issues, university governance and issues about motivation and we would have the productivity we are looking for.’’
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