Our compensation policy, practices encourage active research — VC, Covenant University

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Covenant VC, Prof. A. A. A. Atayero

The Vice-Chancellor Covenant University, Prof. A. A. A. Atayero in this interview with Publisher/Editor-in-chief, Dr. SAMUEL IBIYEMI, speaks on the importance of research in modern library in promoting excellence among others. Excerpts:

In celebration of World Book Day 2019, what are the programmes initiated and executed to encourage reading culture by Covenant University?

Academic institutions are established to among other things, promote learning through reading. As an institution we have an established centre for learning resources. The library in Covenant University is known as “Centre for Learning Resources” (CLR). The Centre operates a functional virtual library service, which enables staff and students, access to the Web Public Access Catalogue (WebPAC), and other electronic resources from wherever there is a web browser anywhere in the globe and anytime. The library complex is able to accommodate up to 3,000 readers and about 500 researching staff and postgraduate students. Apart from providing relevant library resources, reading lists are recommended to students by lecturers, who further require their students to write term papers, which constitute part of students’ continuous assessment. All these help to inculcate reading culture among our students.

 In a study carried out by Economic Intelligence Unit of Nigerian NewsDirect, the report shows that Covenant University had invested huge resources on modern library with traditional books and Electronics, how is the University ensuring effective utilisation of these facilities? What are you doing to ensure that this library compete globally with others?

Periodic reports of the activities of the Centre for Learning Resources shows that members of the university community are maximizing the resources at the Centre. As I mentioned earlier, the steps we have taken to encourage learning through reading, ensures that the student community is effectively utlising the library resources. In addition, our compensation policy and practices encourage active research activities among our faculty and staff. As an active research institution, our faculty utilize the library resources continuously. Similarly, our round the clock internet services, avails members of the university community with electronic resources from reputable resource databases such as Science Direct, Ebsco, Scopus, proquest, etc. Users of the CLR are able to access resources you may find in the libraries of any world-class institutions.

With these facilities and others in the pipeline, what are the milestones of Covenant University in Research and Development?

Over time, the research profile of the university has been on the rise. One of the milestones in this regard is the entry of the university into the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking for 2019. Covenant is ranked in the 601-800 bracket. Moreover, in the 2019 THE subject ranking, Covenant is the only Nigerian institution ranked; for Engineering and Technology, she is in 501-600 bracket, while for Business and Economics she is in the 501+ range.  Similarly, Covenant is ranked 151 out of the 442 universities in the recent Times Higher Education Emerging Economies Ranking. This is significant, noting that the only Nigerian University that was ranked before now, entered the rankings at 162 in 2016. According to Scopus Affiliations result, Covenant’s cumulative publication volume since inception places her in the top 10 among 173 institutions in Nigeria. This is a significant milestone considering the relative age of the University among higher education institutions in Nigeria. According to Elsevier’s Scival -data analytic tool, in 2018 Covenant emerged as the topmost Nigerian Institution by publication volume for the year. Seventy-five (75) members of faculty at Covenant University were listed among the top 10 Nigerian authors in various subject areas, according to recent computations by Elsevier’s SciVal. Covenant emerged first position at the 2018 Technology and Innovation Exhibition organized by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. Recently, Covenant University was selected to host the African Centre of Excellence in Applied Informatics and Communication. The University had received patents for several products.

 Becoming highly rated by various rating institutions is not without certain issues, what are the challenges of Covenant University as a private university in Nigeria?

Given the top quality of education available at Covenant University, we desire to have more financial aid provisions for our students, so that gifted students can have more support to benefit from the excellent education package on offer in this institution. We also desire to increase the internally generated income from our research and innovation activities. We have taken steps to institute a very robust endowment drive. We have received the approval of the Board to implement a robust research agenda that will not only encourage our faculty to be more research active, but will also secure grants and endowments to fund financial aid for talented students. Also, we desire some degree of liberty to inject our curriculum and programmes with innovations, in response to the changing manpower needs of the 21st century knowledge economy.

 We have checked and found that several research projects in various sectors such as energy (wind power and turbine among others) were carried out successfully by Covenant University; can you provide update on successful researches executed successfully and patented?

There are over twenty research clusters in Covenant, which aims to provide enduring solutions to diverse challenges in our society and beyond. Our patented research results include:

i.) Production of protein nutrient from parkia biglobosa seed; (ii.) Integrated dual powered electric automobile engine; (iii.) Production of a wine brand from hibiscus sabdariffa; (iv.) Production of dry fermented ogi from corn and guinea corn; (v.) Violation self-reporting vehicle speed limiter; (vi.) Pipeline leak inhibitor tool for onshore and offshore crude oil pipeline networks; (vii.) Offshore pipeline monitoring tool; and (viii) an intelligent executive chair.

Partnering is key in fast-tracking growth and sustenance of qualitative education, how is Covenant University taking advantages of this initiative to boost capacity building of graduates, postgraduate students, academics and non-teaching staff, particularly in research activities?

Covenant has built broad based partnerships with local and foreign institutions and organizations as an avenue of growth in providing quality education. Our town and gown seminar series is one veritable platform for building student capacity. Through these seminars, resource persons in the industry engage the students in industry related discourse. Moreover, in collaboration with partners, our students undertake field excursions, local and international internships, international exchange programmes, SIWES, and Industry based research. As for the faculty and staff, opportunities exist for sponsorship to international and local conferences; postdoctoral fellowships as well as short-term research leaves in partner institutions are encouraged. Recently, Covenant was selected to host the African Centre of Excellence in Applied Informatics and Communication. This World Bank funded partnership project will further facilitate researched based capacity building for faculty staff and students.

In which fields of learning, can the university and graduates be recognised as most outstanding for other universities to emulate?

Elsevier’s Scival database showed that globally, Covenant is number one in 26 research fields and number 2 in seven others. These subject areas cut across most of the programmes of the university. According to the latest subject rankings released by THE for Engineering and Technology as well as Business and Economics, Covenant is ranked 501-600 and 500+ respectively. Covenant is the only Nigerian University listed in the rankings, implying that Covenant is the best University in Nigeria for engineering and technology as well as business and economics programmes. The subject rankings highlight the universities that are leading across general engineering; electrical and electronic engineering, mechanical and aerospace engineering, business and management, accounting and finance, as well as economics and econometrics subjects. Based on these facts, you can say that Covenant is outstanding in these fields.

Looking back at the vision 10:2022 launched in 2012, kindly provide update on the implementation and goals attained so far.

Vision 10:2022 is a prophetic mandate with the vision of having Covenant listed among the top ten universities in the world. Sequel to this mandate, the University subscribed to the Times Higher Education World University Ranking, which is the most prestigious ranking body of universities globally. Through our ReCITe agenda, we were able to increase research activities and encourage publications in reputable and Scopus indexed Journals as well as citations in addition to continuous improvements in the learning environment.  Presently, Covenant has made her debut into the THE World University Ranking, entering the ranking at the 601-800 bracket, which presently adjudges Covenant as the best university in Nigeria and West Africa. By this development, Covenant, is now among the top 3% (97th percentile) of over 26,000universities in the world. Again, we entered the THE Emerging Economies University Ranking in 2019, ranked 151 out of the 442 universities in the rankings. Still, in the 2019 subject rankings of THE, Covenant was ranked 501-600 in engineering and technology in addition to being ranked 500+ in business and economics. Besides, in the THE ranking of African Universities, Covenant is ranked among the top 10 in the continent at =6. In all, Covenant is ranked in four of the THE rankings.

What are the plans for Covenant to remain as the best?

We are grateful to God for the place He has given to Covenant among the high league universities in Nigeria, Africa and the World within this short 16 years of existence. To remain the best, we have designed a strategic plan with a 10-point agenda that cuts across the three-prong mission of the University in terms of research, teaching and community service. We would continue to benchmark with the global best and reinforce our quality assurance mechanism. One of our goals is to transit from a teaching to Research University. In line with our strategic human resource drive, we would introduce three distinct career tracks for our faculty-research, teaching and research, and teaching.

What is your expectation of the Federal Government for Nigeria’s educational sector and particularly private Universities?

If you will recall that private universities came on board because of moribund educational standards such as inadequate funding, inadequate quality of faculty, poor policy implementation, lack of resources, inadequate ICT, brain drain, and frequent strike actions amongst others. However, government has a lot to do in addressing the challenges facing the educational sector by placing high premium on education spending, creating enabling environment for staff, improve on internal academic quality standards, and provide motivations for faculty to encourage higher research output and better teaching quality. The government must invest heavily in solving the myriads of challenges the education sector is currently facing. As it stands, solutions to the socio-political and economic problems in Nigeria lie in quality and sustainable education. However, government, in her wisdom allowed private universities to expand access and improve quality. Since the emergence of private universities, the number of admitted students have increased, new programmes that are relevant to our development aspirations has been introduced, and quality has improved. Nevertheless, Government has a lot to do in addressing the challenges facing the establishment of private universities, their efficient management, development, and growth. We should not forget that private universities came on board because of gaps and decay in the public institutions. Therefore, mitigating their challenges is synonymous to solving the problem of the entire sector. For instance, private universities should be able to draw funds from TETFUND and PTDF.

What is the way forward to make graduates of Nigeria’s Universities suitable for gainful employment globally?

The output of a process is determined by the input Therefore, to enhance the global employability of Nigerian graduates, we must continually review our curriculum to reflect expectations of employers globally. Universities should have some level of freedom to create and run new programmes, and our teaching pedagogy should equip graduates with godly character, problem solving skills, and entrepreneurial mindset.

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