Enhancing Academic Staff’s Capacities for Research Grant Writing

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Achievers University, Owo, Ondo State recently held a grant writing workshop aimed at attracting resources and disseminating staff’s research findings for global relevance. Its stakeholders explained to Funmi Ogundare why academic staff’s capabilities and capacities have to be sharpened through such engagement

For three days, members of the academia at Achievers University, Owo, Ondo State converged on the Trinity Hall for the 2019 grant writing workshop, designed to boost their capacities and that of the institution, as well as proffer solutions to problems confronting the society.

The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman Governing Council, Dr. Bode Ayorinde, who declared the workshop open, emphasised the importance of tapping into research funds, adding that through that one, can break the jinx of poverty.

He added that the establishment of the university was a product of implementing research findings.

“When I was doing my PhD programme, during research, I discovered that there was nothing in the topic that was approved for me and I decided to veer into areas where there were serious challenges which led to the publication of a book I wrote on ‘Banking Reform in Nigeria’. Research is about identifying challenges and problems and trying to find out their causes and proffering solutions to human crisis.”

He told THISDAY that a university should not just be about chalk and duster, but about instruction, research and community service, adding: “In this university, we are doing excellently well in teaching and community service, but we need to buckle up in the area of research.”

Asked why it took the university so long since its establishment 11 years ago to organise the workshop, Ayorinde said: “Eleven years is not awkward in the lifespan of a university. Oxford University is about 900 years old. Rome was not built in a day. When you start a university, there are certain challenges that come with it. You will have to convince the regulatory agency that you are stabilised in undergraduate studies before going into postgraduate which is a research level. So we are now breaking into international research grants and proffering solutions which is the whole purpose of starting a university, it is better to start well than rushing it.”

On its biggest achievement so far, he said: “Establishing the university itself is an achievement against all odds. In spite of all the challenges we have faced, we are fast getting established and staff paid regularly. The enrolment has also increased tremendously. We decided two years ago that we are not going to expand the number of programmes in a hurry. The 20 programmes that we have, we want to get them properly financed and established.

“The National Universities Commission (NUC) approved 40 programmes for us, but we are running 20 now satisfactorily. When we celebrate our 15th anniversary, we will add another five to it. We have awarded scholarship to discerning students and our graduates who are high flyers are also retained with incentives. We have about four of them in our academic.”

The Chairman, Linkage Committee, Professor Ibiyinka Solarin said since private universities now have the opportunity to access TETFund, the workshop was coming at the right time when its academic staff can build their capacity and competence to produce globally relevant students that are prepared to serve humanity.

He said this can only be achieved if the lecturers are equipped with skills in grant writing to attract money to themselves and the university; build their careers; link with their colleagues globally and proffer solutions to the society, adding that the three-day workshop will give them the confidence to access grants and look for resources globally.

Speaking on the academic collaboration with Alabama University, US for research, undergraduate, postgraduate studies and staff development, Solarin said the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed by the vice- chancellors of both institutions which will impact development and enhance the quality of education.

“Within the ambit of this collaboration, students who graduate from Achievers University have been offered a home status at Alabama A and M University, Normal, Alabama, USA. From the level of master’s degree, graduands of Achievers University will pay instate tuition fees, a savings of over 60 per cent over fees paid by other international students. They will also be supported with other provision grants, accommodation, research and general well-being during the course of study at the institution.”

For the institutions, the chairman said the collaboration will present an opportunity for joint research in areas of interest to both parties such as faculty exchanges, accessing grants and writing joint proposals.

“There are vast amount of money out there looking for opportunities to meet ideas. That is the whole essence of Achievers University stepping up after 11 years for funds.”

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tunji Ibiyemi, who spoke on the backdrop on why research findings usually end up on the shelf, stated that the philosophy of a university is for its professors to solve their immediate problems rather than abandoning it to solve other people’s problems.

According to him, “you can establish your own company rather than waiting for people to implement your research findings and be producing. It is even a plus that government is not responding to your research findings. A successful researcher can’t be a poor man because we are in a knowledge-based economy; he would be the first beneficiary of his research. It is the outcome of his research that will transform his life. For instance, what made Professor Wole Soyinka outstanding is quality research outcome.”

He expressed confidence about the academic staff being equipped at the workshop saying since some of them already had the experience in writing research proposal, they could impact their knowledge on others.

“I am a researcher. Presently, I have TETFund research proposal to design and build a remote sensing micro satellite. We need to brush up people who are just coming in, it’s a continuous exercise to train and retrain others till they perfect how to write a proposal. I am so confident that the three days is enough to prepare us. When I leave the university system, I am starting my own business based on the outcome of my research,” the VC said.

Emphasising on the collaboration, he said his university plans to extend the same to other universities in Nigeria, adding that the process of solving problems is universal.

“Alabama University has been exposed to solving problems for many years; we picked them because they have been doing well in some key areas that they want to focus on here. But it is better to start with those who have made it so that they can pull us up.”

Asked how his institution has been bridging the gap between the industry and academia, he said the focus of establishing a university is to maintain the teaching and production phase for the industry, adding that it has been developing human capital.

He expressed concern that once its products are sent to the industries, there is no feedback from the industry to serve as corrective measure for better result, adding that in developed countries, the industry and academia draw up curriculum that will be used by institutions of learning.

“When our products go out, they serve as inputs to the industry and you assume that what you have taught them is what the industry needs. That is open loop control which is not that efficient. Unfortunately there is no feedback from the industry, but when you have that loop coming back, you can use it as corrective measure to train them towards getting the right result in the industry.

“In Britain for instance, the academia and industry draw up the curriculum. With that you can be sure that you are doing well and there is continuous feedback from the industry. It is a dynamic system. That is our problem here; there is a gulf between the academia and the industry. We are not producing graduates for our consumption, but for the economy so that they will function well. Until we maintain a close loop control system, there will be a challenge,” Ibiyemi stressed.

A Professor of Counselling Psychology, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Olubukola Ojo, who was a resource person at the workshop, said there are many international grants that are unaccessed and that there is need for ideas coming from institutions to conform with the objectives of the grantees or donor agencies so as to attract funding for research.

“Once an institution is able to secure funds for research, then you will be able to secure your laboratory and innovations that will make life better for the society. The students will also be exposed to up-to-date ways of doing researches and innovations; and even have the opportunity to disseminate their findings globally to enhance development.”