The Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) has announced new policy directions that will fundamentally affect the operation and funding of its overseas scholarship scheme and other training programmes under its management.
According to a statement from its head of public communication, Kalu Otisi, on Thursday in Abuja, the new policy include a partial or outright domestication of the scholarship scheme in Nigeria in line with the local content policy of the Nigerian government, and the denomination of the scholarship in hard currency as against the naira due to the volatility of foreign exchange rates.
It explained that to give effect to the policy shifts, it has opened up discussions with officials of foreign universities where Nigerian scholars are regularly sent for their Masters and doctoral studies under the sponsorship of PTDF, on the possibility of either setting up branches of their institutions in Nigeria or collaborate with local universities in Nigeria, particularly those whose oil and gas related departments have been fully upgraded by it to become ‘centres of excellence’ in teaching and research.
PTDF: partnerships between local and oversea universitiesThe statement noted that the Executive Secretary of PTDF, Mr. Femi Ajayi, held interactive sessions with officials of the Imperial College London and the University College London as well as Nigerian scholars, and stated that such a partnership will hence forth form the basis for the Fund’s future relationship and co-operation with universities providing training and research to its scholars abroad.
“This is because we have institutions in Nigeria which PTDF has over the years been upgrading. So, we want a situation where there will be more co-operation between universities out here and our universities back home, and we have some faculties that we have developed or upgraded as an agency where some of these short term and long term courses can be run.
“So, we are discussing the various modes of partnership and collaboration towards moving along this line,” Ajayi was quoted to have said in the statement.
The statement explained that PTDF has as part of its mandate of enhancing the institutional capacity of universities offering oil and gas related courses, upgraded not less than 24 departments in universities as well as developed oil and gas polytechnics from scratch.
Ajayi in this regard, said some of these upgraded facilities have become centres of academic excellence for oil and gas related courses in Nigeria.
He said: “So, it is along this line that we will want our partners to work out some kind of partnership with them with a view to doing something locally, because the challenge of industry relevance of research is also pointing us to that direction.
“If you partner with a local institution that is very close to what the challenges and problems are in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, you probably will be able to structure your research along that line and that will ensure that the education we are giving to these people are need based and research oriented.”
He said that in the immediate, PTDF plans to use the National Institute of Petroleum Policy and Strategy, Kaduna, developed by it as the co-ordinating centre for alternative energy sources and renewable energy resources and called on foreign universities to come on board with it in realising the project.
Addressing concerns and challengesThe statement further noted that students, mostly doctoral scholars had at the interactive session raised serious concerns on the domestication and commercialisation of their research results which they alleged are currently appropriated by their universities of study.
The scholars it said are worried that their research efforts are rather benefiting UK companies and industrial concerns.
Ajayi however agreed that patenting and commercialisation of research results is the way forward, but regrets that getting more spin off or multiplier effect from research by PTDF scholars has been a problem.
He noted as a way out, PTDF would hence forth be more inclined to provide project based sponsorship.
On the issue of payments and remittances for the scholarship programme, Ajayi said that current realities with regards to the foreign exchange regime necessitated a shift in policy of denominating the scholarship payments from naira to hard currency.
He said: “We will now denominate the scholarship in pound sterling because this foreign exchange volatility has posed a serious challenge.
What will happen now is that while we denominate it in hard currency, we will continue to pay in naira and this will give us the opportunity to pay according to the prevailing exchange rate, so by that way we are solving the problem of procuring foreign exchange without causing unnecessary difficulties to the scholars.”
Punch, ThisDay Live
Related: PTDF Scholarships for Undergraduate and Graduate (Masters, PhD) Nigerians