The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) says N6,396,159,060.00 has been approved for 217 research proposals recommended by the National Research Fund (NRF) under the 2020 grant cycle exercise.
Executive Secretary of TETFund, Professor Suleiman Bogoro, made this known at the inauguration of the Fund’s National Research Fund Screening and Monitoring Committee (NRFS&MC) and Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on Tuesday in Abuja.
He said the amount approved under the grant cycle that was concluded in January 2021, almost equalled the N6.7 billion that was disbursed for 240 research grants between 2012 to 2019.
His words : “From 2012 to 2019, a total of 240 Research Grants have been awarded at a total cost of N6,708,367,736.25.
“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 N6,396,159,060.00.”
Bogoro, who has embarked upon a paradigm shift that has flipped the list of intervention areas in TETFund, catapulting research to the top spot, posited that Research and Development (R&D) holds the massive key for the nation’s rapid development.
He said 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.
“In order to actualize 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.
“A seed fund of N3 billion was approved by the Board of Trustees in 2011 for the initial take-off, augmented with an additional N1 billion in 2015. Upon my reinstatement in 2019, we transformed the NRF into an annual intervention and enlarged the funding envelope to N5 billion. As at the 2020 iteration of the NRF Grant Cycle, we had increased the funding pot to N7.5 billion.
“For 2021, we have made available N8.5 billion, indicating a clear progression and our determination to keep moving in the right direction.”
While saying that the NRF intervention is primarily targeted at researchers in public tertiary education institutions, Bogoro said private universities can now take advantage of the fund by teaming up with eligible beneficiary institutions to compete for research grants.
He, however, charged members of the committee to live above board, warning that TETFund’s would not hesitate to wield the big stick against erring member as two members were fired from the previous committee for compromising standard.
Bogoro listed the terms of reference of the NRF and Monitoring Committee to include : “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 Grant.
” Categorize pre-qualified Research Proposals into streams and disciplines to aid the appointment Assessors/Reviewers;
Recommend pre-qualified and categorized proposals; among others.
The TETFund boss also listed the term of reference of TAG as
“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.
“Review materials for journal publication from relevant professional bodies; and advise the Fund on development and sustainability of the Academic Publishing Centres (APC) being sponsored by the Fund.”
Inaugurating the NRFS&MC and TAG, Chairman, Board of Trustees of TETFund, Kashim Ibrahim-Imam, commended Bogoro for his passion on R&D.
Kashim-Imam, who said no country in the world has developed without prioritising R&D, assured that the Board of Trustees would continue to focus strategic attention on R&D as well as other areas to usher in the desired development in the country.
The TETFund’s Board of Trustees chairman said apart from the various infrastructural developmental projects being executed by the agency, N30 billion would be spent on training of academic staff in 2021.
He said : “This is our 10th anniversary because TETFund is 10 years old and TETFund has impacted most positively in every aspects of the development of tertiary education in Nigeria.
“Our budget for this year alone is N300 billion. The figure for R&D grew from N5 billion to N7.5 billon in 2020 to N8.5 billion for the year 2021…..
” In the related field of academic staff training and development, TETFund is spending N30 billion this year; training universities scholars as well as scholars from polytechnics and the colleges of education for higher degrees of master’s and PhDs.”
Expressing satisfaction on the transformation of public tertiary institutions by TETFund, Kashim-Imam said the agency would soon commit more resources to its various interventions lines following President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to increase education spendings by 50 per cent during the London Education Summit.
While saying members of the Technical Advisory Group and National Research Fund Screening and Monitoring Committee were selected on merit, Kashim-Imam however, expressed concerns on the quality of research being churned out by some beneficiaries of TETFund’s grants.
“It is not enough that we adequately funding research, we are concerned, and I am speaking for the Trustees in particular, about the quality of the research, about getting value for the money you have been appropriating for the research, about you spearheading the drive to take this country to the next step. It is a very critical assignment,” Kashim-Imam said.
Responding on behalf of the newly inaugurated National Research Fund Screening and Monitoring Committe, its chairman Professor Abubakar Kundiri, promised that the members would give their best to achieve the assigned tasks.
Kundiri also vowed that no stone would be left unturned to effectively strengthen the monitoring of TETFund’s research grants.
On his part, the chairman of the Technical Advisory Group, Professor Charles Awo, assured the readiness of his team to serve according to its mandate.
Represented by the Vice Chairman of TAG, Professor Nasir Meturare, Awo commended TETFund for the confidence reposed on members of the group, assuring to live up to expectations.
The inaugurated National Research Fund Screening and Monitoring Committee have two years life span.