It appears the management of the Lagos State University (LASU) has failed to learn from the controversy that led to the recent cancellation of the appointment of a new vice-chancellor for the institution.

The school has again shortlisted two candidates without PhDs (Doctor of Philosophy) for its vacant vice chancellor position despite the position of the National Universities Commission (NUC), the agency that regulates university education in Nigeria, that fellowships of any professional bodies or organisation cannot be substituted for a PhD.

Background

Following the expiration of Olanrewaju Fagbohun’s tenure as VC, applications were called for candidates to show interest in the position. Three candidates, Olumuyiwa Odusanya, Senapon Bakre and Kabir Akinyemi were shortlisted.

The local chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), however, raised concern over what they tagged a flagrant violation of the advertisement for the vice-chancellor’s position.

According to the advertisement, “applicants for the position should be professors of at least 10 years standing, with a good track record of academic excellence of local and international repute including supervision and mentoring of postgraduate students, demonstration of continuous capacity for academic leadership, a track record of experience in university administration at high levels, and evidence of unassailable grounding in the finest academic traditions”.

But ASUU said one of the shortlisted candidates, Mr Odusanya, a professor at the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), Ikeja was unqualified.

They argued that the candidate’s qualification was the Fellowship of the Nigerian Postgraduate Medical College (hereafter referred to as the Fellowship) and not a PhD, which they said makes him unqualified for the job.

Cancellation of selection process

This controversy amongst other pressures from interested parties including traditional rulers and political bigwigs across the state led to the suspension of the VC selection process in January.

“Governor Sanwo-Olu was inundated with petitions arising from the selection process of the Vice-Chancellor by the Governing Council. After a thorough evaluation and investigation of the various complaints, Mr Governor, in his capacity as the Visitor to the University ordered the cancellation of the process,” Gboyega Akosile, the chief press secretary to the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said then in a statement.

The governor then ordered a fresh process within 45 days.

The former deputy vice-chancellor (administration) of the school, Oyedamola Oke, was later elected as the acting vice-chancellor in a University Senate election that took place on January 11.

He got 61 votes to beat his contender, Wahab Ellias, the deputy vice-chancellor (academics) who scored 51 votes.

Fresh start

Following the restart of the selection process, the Governing Council of LASU shortlisted nine professors for the vacant VC position.

Sources told PREMIUM TIMES that although 13 professors applied, nine were selected for the interview scheduled to hold on March 11. Two of the candidates selected are not staff of the university.

The internal candidates shortlisted were: Akinyemi Kabir (Faculty of Science), Elias Wahab (current deputy vice-chancellor) Sena Bakre (Faculty of Science), Ibiyemi-Bello Olatunji, (LASUCOM), Olumuyiwa Odusanya, (LASUCOM), Abiodun Adewuya (acting Provost of LASUCOM) and Ayodeji Badejo, (former Dean, Faculty of Education)

Two among the seven internal candidates, Mr Odusanya (whose nomination was the main reason for the annulment of the first selection process) and Mr Adewuya did not have PhDs, a development that is fast generating ripples on campus.

PhD, postgraduate fellowship debate

LASU’s internal and external advertisement for the post of VC says candidates with a PhD “or who possess the fellowship certificate of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria”, are qualified to apply.

It, however, states clearly that such a candidate must be a scholar “with significant impact in areas of international supervision and examination of PhD, and must also have supervised students (especially PhD)”.

Some academics in the university, however, said one cannot supervise a PhD student if they do not possess a PhD degree themselves. They, therefore, said placing a fellowship as an ‘equivalent’ of a PhD is an aberration.

They argued that if a candidate with only a postgraduate fellowship is selected, it may lead to a crisis of legitimacy as a vice-chancellor without a PhD cannot confer PhD degrees on students.

Fellowship not substitute for PhD – NUC

Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of NUC, Abubakar Rasheed, recently told a delegation from the West African Postgraduate College of Medical Laboratory Science, (WAPCMLS) that NUC will not accept fellowship of any professional bodies or organisation as a substitute for a PhD.

He made the position clear while receiving the WAPCMLS led by its President, Nafiu Amidu, in his office last Wednesday, saying “while fellowship is the highest professional qualification for professional in any non-academic organisation, PhD is the highest academic degree in the university system anywhere in the world”.

He said there was no basis for argument over the superiority of a PhD over a professional fellowship, stressing that such an argument was tantamount to a waste of time.

“…having a fellowship is good but if you want to engage in teaching and research in the university system, you must not downplay pursuit of a PhD, you cannot even compare your research in doing a PhD with your professional or fellowship experiences,” he said.

The NUC position was reiterated by Ade Adejumo, the Ibadan zonal coordinator of ASUU.

He said having a non-PhD holder as vice-chancellor is an ‘aberration’.

“The matter is straight forward. A fellowship is never an equivalent and cannot be substituted for a PhD. They are not the same thing and the NUC that is the regulatory body has pronounced on that.

“They are never the same thing. You cannot give what you don’t have. In this case, the controversy about PhD or Fellowship is not there at all. People should not confuse the public. A vice-chancellor is both an administrative and academic leader. It is wrong to have a vice-chancellor who cannot go to class and teach. So, how will a non PhD holder VC teach PhD students?”

Not true?

But Idowu Olayinka, a former vice-chancellor of the University of Ibadan, disagrees.

Mr Olayinka told PREMIUM TIMES that the governing council of the institution has the right to set up guidelines and select candidates who meet the guidelines are qualified for the position.

“The important thing is for the governing council to set guidelines. For instance, in 2010, the University of Ibadan governing council said you have to be a professor to be qualified which means a candidate who bagged professorship within a year can apply then

“But five years later in 2015, the council said you must have been a professor for 10 years before you are qualified. So, you cannot shift the goal post, the governing council must have decided the conditions in the advertorial. If the conditions say PhD or fellowship, and candidates shortlisted meet that, there is nothing wrong.”

Also, a member of the LASU governing council who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES on the condition of not being mentioned, for fear of being singled out unfairly for punishment, said the governing council “had zero input in setting the guidelines for appointment of the vice-chancellor”.

“Even when the first advert was made, the council never met to look at the details of the advert. It was after the advert that it was brought before the council for retroactive approval.

“This means an action was taken and you are asking the council to approve after it has been implemented. There was no debate at the council and later the exercise led into trouble (until the governor cancelled the process).

“On the latest advert, the council was not aware. Even (as a) member of the council, I only saw it in the news and realised that they have put PhD or Fellowship,” the source said.

The registrar of the university, Yinka Amuni, did not respond to multiple requests for comment sent to him on WhatsApp and as SMS.

He also did not return multiple calls made to his mobile phone.

Source: PREMIUM TIMES