In its efforts to reposition the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) for effective service delivery, management of the board recently inaugurated two committees to encourage research and development, revive and reinforce reading culture as well as promote indigenous authors.
The committees which are; Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and National Research Fund Screening and Monitoring Committee (NRFS&MC), were the 4th iteration of its reconstitution and inauguration.
Recall That the TETFund National Research Fund intervention line was introduced in 2009 as a special intervention programme, aimed at promoting the conduct of applied research and innovation by academics in public tertiary educational institutions and research institutes.
To actualise these objectives, the TETFund Board of Trustees set up the NRF Screening and Monitoring Committee (NRFS&MC) and charged it with the responsibility for implementing and administering the intervention.
The NRFS&M Committee was reconstituted in July 2019, with its membership drawn from Nigerian TEIs (Universities, Polytechnics, Colleges of Education), representatives of the academic staff unions of these institutions, representatives of relevant regulatory agencies (National Universities Commission – NUC, the National Board for Technical Education – NBTE, and the National Commission for Colleges of Education – NCCE), as well as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund.
The Committee immediately carried out a review of the three thematic areas of the NRF research spectrum and incorporated emerging issues of National developmental challenges requiring innovative solutions.
“From 2012 to 2019, a total of 240 Research Grants have been awarded at a total cost of ₦6,708,367,736.25.
Also in 2020, a key development in the NRF grant administration was the introduction of an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) to automate the hitherto manual processes associated with receiving and processing of Concept Notes and Research Proposals.
“This was done with a view to entrench and sustain the culture of efficiency and effectiveness in the process of awarding the NRF Grant and in line with global best practices.
“The 2020 NRF Grant Cycle Exercise was concluded in January 2021 with a total of 217 Research Proposals recommended for Grant Award at a total cost of ₦6,396,159,060.00,” says the executive secretary, TETFund, Prof. Suleiman Bogoro, while inaugurating the committees in Abuja.
Bogoro said, although the NRF intervention is targeted at researchers in public TEIs, private universities can now take advantage of this Fund by teaming up with eligible Beneficiary institutions to compete for research grants.
He said the Fund’s expectations from the NRFS&M committee include to pre-qualify applications for research grants from academics in beneficiary institutions to ensure that they are in compliance with the approved templates for accessing the TETFund NRF Grants.
Others include, “Categorize pre-qualified research proposals into streams and disciplines to aid the appointment of assessors/reviewers; recommend pre-qualified and categorized proposals, serve as members of the NRF proposal defence panel, monitor and report progress of ongoing research work, and carry out any other responsibilities as may be assigned by the Fund.”
The TETFund boss said the selection of members has been done in such a manner as to reflect diverse expertise, experience and standing in the academic community.
“As your appointment letters indicate, your service in the Committee is for an initial term of two years, renewable for a term to be determined by the Fund. You can expect to receive every assistance you require in the course of discharging your duties, but kindly bear in mind that we would not hesitate to delist members found wanting in any way likely to bring the integrity of the committee into question.”
Speaking on the Technical Advisory Group (TAG), Bogoro reiterated that the Fund is not oblivious of the importance of reviving and reinforcing the reading culture that is so vital, not just for the pursuit of academic excellence, but also as a tool for attaining a critical mass of enlightened citizenry that is necessary for human development, nation building and socio-economic advancement.
He said members of the then Education Trust Fund (ETF) Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on the Book Development Intervention Program were first appointed on 9th September 2009, with Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, the then Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano as Chairman.
“The first meeting of TAG took place on 10th September 2009, at which a blueprint titled “Higher Education Book Development Fund and the Mandate of ETF” was presented and ultimately adopted as the working document of TAG that operated as 3 sub-committees: book publication, journal publication and Academic publishing centres.”
He noted that to facilitate the implementation of the Higher Education Book Development Special Intervention, the Board of Trustees (BOT) in August 2019 reconstituted and inaugurated TAG-3 under the Chairmanship of Prof. Charles O. Aworh to deliver its mandate. Currently, the TAG is charged with the following responsibilities:
“Screen proposals on manuscripts for development into academic textbooks and advise TETFund on fundable manuscripts, screen and advise TETFund on submissions from professional associations to support production of Journals, recommend reviewers for screened manuscripts for engagement by TETFund for technical assessment of the manuscripts, advise the Fund on how to enhance and improve the production of quality academic books, journals and other academic learning materials,” amongst others.
It is gathered that TAG has recorded a number of laudable achievements and milestones from 2019 to 2021, including, book publication sub-committee production and presentation of the second edition of the guidelines for higher education book development (March 2020).
Others include, engagement of over seven hundred (700) Nigerian scholars from across the nation’s tertiary education institutions in the six geo-political zones and the FCT, with some from the diaspora and some private sector practitioners as contributing authors, co-ordinating/co-ordinating editors and reviewers to write forty-three (43) basic textbooks (introductory texts) in diverse subject areas that address local needs and reflect familiar realities and experiences for Nigeria’s tertiary education institutions.
As at the time of the Inauguration, twenty-four (24) manuscripts have been reviewed and are ready for publication.
Bogoro further highlighted that at the core of TETFund’s Paradigm Shift mantra is the notion that research should be problem-solving, with outcomes that make a positive impact on the lives of the citizenry.
He said TETFund must henceforth emphasize its funding and intention priorities to fall in line with global standards, best practices and even more importantly, national priorities, while urging universities must refocus to ensure that their research leads to problem-solving outcomes and not just for journal publications, library archiving and promotion to the next rank.
“While TETFund has spent more of its funds erecting physical infrastructure, which understandably were previously either non-existent, or if at all, were in state of decrepitude, being why ASUU had in 1990 described our universities as “glorified Secondary Schools”. Mercifully, we have moved far beyond that.
“Of all the content components, Research stands out as the topmost priority. Others are the Academic Staff Training and Development (ASTD), Conference Attendance, Library Development, Book and Manuscript Development, Journals Publication to levels of global indexing, Academic Publishing Centres.”
He noted that if Nigeria is to be economically competitive, we must institutionalize R & D (Research and Development), sometimes also referred to as R4D, i.e. Research for Development, in other words making research count for National Research in the manner the University of Ibadan Research foundation captures it.
“Our conviction at TETFund is that, if Nigeria is to leapfrog and be in the top 20 economies of the world as we wish, we must stop working in silos,” Bogoro added.