In the last few weeks, there has been an offensive report circulating in the social media and online news platforms about a purported petition to the Presidency against PTDF by a group of faceless “PhD students” alleging failure by the Fund to fulfill its scholarship obligations to them.
This amorphous group of ‘PhD students’ who lacked the courage to put their names in the unsigned petition alleged among others that the Fund refused to pay a one year extension accommodation and feeding allowance, notwithstanding that “the award letter given to each of the PhD students by PTDF indicated that the scholarship covers accommodation, feeding and utilities for the period of thirty six months WITH TWELVE MONTH EXTENSION PERIOD DUE TO THE NATURE OF THE PROGRAMME”
As the document conveying the alleged petition was not signed and without a named author, our understanding was that not much weight will be attached to the claims and allegations contained therein. The petitioners ought to have included their names and specific programmes of study to assist the Fund in establishing the veracity of the allegations.
We have to our surprise been inundated with questions, enquiries and concerns from high ranking members of the public necessitating the need to set the records straight for proper discernment of the issues.
First is that PTDF scholarship is not interminable. It is for a definite period of time. PTDF offers a maximum period of 36months for its PhD scholarship and no more. It is therefore NOT TRUE that the award letter given to PhD students contains a clause for extension by twelve months as misrepresented in the claims by the so called “PhD Students” (quoted with emphasis above).
The 36 months scholarship for PhD students is stated clearly in the award letter and forms part of the conditions for accepting the scholarship by the beneficiaries.
PTDF POLICY ON STUDY EXTENSIONS
In very rare cases, PTDF may consider the grant of extension based on strict conditions and on the merit of individual cases particularly where substantial value will be added to the research work. Other extenuating circumstances that may warrant an extension of the study programme include health challenges by the scholar. The duration of such extensions as determined by the merit of each case is usually for a period of three to six months. Such requests must be competent and compellable.
The grant of study extensions is a privilege and not a right that automatically accrues to the scholar. To be eligible for consideration, the scholar must make a formal application for an extension, show evidence of substantial progress in studies in the preceding years, show evidence of extenuating circumstances that justify the extension with support documents from the university and the supervisor corroborating the assertions.
Given the cost structure in the sponsorship of a single PhD student in an average UK university, the request for a one year extension which is likely to attract huge financial burden for each student, is not one that is granted casually unless the student satisfies the rigorous criteria outlined above. Extension entails huge financial commitment on PTDF, and this has the potential of denying many other deserving applicants the opportunity of accessing the scholarship.
The Fund however continues to review all applications for extensions and those with merit are being approved for payment.
Given the generous nature of PTDF scholarship, the Fund requires the scholars to strive diligently to complete their study programmes within the prescribed duration, adhere to the rules and procedures of the universities of study and to generally be good ambassadors of Nigeria. We are glad that majority of our PhD scholars who commenced their studies in 2016 have successfully completed their programmes.
The Fund remains committed to the pursuit of its mandate in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. Under no circumstance shall the Fund willfully put those legitimately under any of its academic sponsorship programmes through any form of hardship, deprivation and embarrassment. However, beneficiaries seeking to exploit the system by accepting the terms of the scholarship award only to later seek additional funding through coercion and misrepresentation will not be allowed to have their way.