By Nelson Omobuwa
My team was in Osun State University, Osogbo (UNIOSUN) for two days last week to collect information on the rising profile of the University especially how the university sustains payment of salaries on the 25th of every month, expand infrastructure massively, how the management and Council succeeded in stamping out corruption and how the University succeeded in preserving the sanctity of its academic calendar especially in the face of lean resources, staff restiveness and Covid-19 pandemic. This is our job as higher education specialists. During the visit, I gathered so much information, especially on the on-going race for the position of Vice-Chancellor of the University. Based on the recent publications in some newspapers, it is necessary for me to document my thoughts on the issues surrounding the Vice-Chancellor selection process in Osun State University.
First, I wonder when it has become the duty of newspaper columnists or would-be employee to teach an employer how to set the eligibility criteria and qualifications for employment. The UNIOSUN Establishment Law, First Schedule A14, Section 3(5) states inter alia, “When a vacancy occurs in the office of the Vice-Chancellor, the Council shall advertise the vacancy in a reputable journal or widely read newspaper in Nigeria specifying: the qualifications and qualities of the person who may apply for the post”. It is therefore out of tune with normalcy for any individual however highly placed to dictate the qualifications and qualities of a would-be Vice-Chancellor to the Council. The threat of litigation expressed in one of the articles that I read in a newspaper should be a welcome idea because it will help the Nigerian legal system to determine the boundary and limit of an applicant in any job recruitment process.
Secondly, it is unfortunate that some academically deficient Professors are displaying their weaknesses and lack of exposure by criticizing the 10 local and international research grants, and 20 international conferences. This is really inexcusable in the 21st century because globally Professors are known to attend conferences in two major ways. Either the conference organizers identify the Professor for his/her good research and request him/her to attend their conference on full sponsorship, or the Professor is attending a conference to present his research using his travel grant(built into research grant). It is therefore ridiculous that UNIOSUN is being accused of not sponsoring professors to international conferences in the 21st century. On the issue of 10 research grants, thousands of funding agencies in all academic fields are in the global space, Nigeria inclusive, offering billions of dollars in funding to serious scholars. It is therefore unacceptable to defend Professors who don’t know how to write proposals or whose works do not qualify them for international recognition and grants. UNIOSUN is gradually moving into global academic platform that will bring huge funding and materials support to the University. To do this, the University needs a Vice-Chancellor with high international profile and who will not be a stranger in the funding world and global academic politics.
Thirdly, the advertisement duly signed by the Registrar requested applicants to submit their applications to the Vice-Chancellor just as it was done in 2016 when applicants were requested to submit to the office of the then Acting Vice-Chancellor with soft copy to the same email address as now. Again, in this case, the Council has the prerogative to ask the Vice-Chancellor to serve as messenger for the purpose of receiving the application. The applications would be sealed and would be opened only by the Council. I therefore don’t see any reason why anyone should attempt to tutor the Council on this process. It is therefore inconceivable that anyone will refer to this as usurpation of the Office of the Registrar. It is also odd to compare how a Vice-Chancellor will emerge in Yale, Havard, Tuft etc with UNIOSUN. Different Universities have their guidelines. It is interesting to know that Professors’ salary in Yale, Havard, Tuft etc depends on the funds/grants that they attract. Professors don’t earn same salaries because they are ranked and this makes it possible for a Senior Lecturer to earn more than a Professor depending on funds attracted and other indices.
Finally, it is totally wrong to state that the advert was clearly skewed in favour of candidates in Pure/Applied Sciences against those in Law, Education, Arts, Social/Management Sciences and Humanities – with the non-acceptance of book publications, monographs, plays and visual arts from candidates. For standard sake, the Council reserves the right to measure the academic integrity of anyone who aspires to lead the University. This, I guess, is the reason that made the University to consider three globally acceptable academic databases to assess anyone who applies for the post i.e. Web of Science, Research Gate and Google Scholar. The Web of Science is a rich collection of citation indexes representing the citation connections between scholarly research articles found in the most globally significant journals, books, and proceedings in the sciences, social sciences and art and humanities. Datasets in the records include 179 million records (journals, books, and proceedings), 48 million patent families (made up of > 97 million individual patents) and 10 million data sets and structures. Google Scholar is a free-for-all database that harvests any publication whatsoever and measures the global academic fitness of a scholar, and this is same with Research Gate. If a scholar is not represented in any of these datasets, I wonder the quality of academic leadership that he/she will provide in the University. The scores set by UNIOSUN Council for the databases are met by several scholars in Law, Education, Arts, Social/Management Sciences and Humanities at Covenant University, Universities of Lagos, Ibadan, UNIOSUN, Nsukka etc. Again, these traits are measurable using the academic indices that have been set by UNIOSUN Council.
I conclude that the Council of UNIOSUN has demonstrated openness, integrity and fairness by revealing all these criteria to all would-be applicants. If you desire a particular job and unfortunately you fall short of the criteria set by the employer, I guess the best thing to do is to look for another employer who demands for the type of qualities that you have. It is quite unfortunate that even with the recent experience of very sharp changes in the configuration of our world within the last 24 months, people are now comparing academic indices of 2007 or 2016 with 2021.
- Omobuwa BSc, MEd, LLB, an Higher Education Consultant writes from Ibadan. He can be reached via 08034086517 or [email protected]