ABU won’t delay thesis completion by postgraduate students – Dean
Professor Kabir Bala, the Dean Post-Graduate School, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria says in this interview in Abuja that the institution would avoid factors that lead to untimely completion of thesis by post-graduate students.
In the past, postgraduate programmes, Ph.D in particular, used to take students ten years or thereabout to complete, what effort have you made to address this problem?
We are addressing it; it’s a continuous issue, which presupposes that there is always room for improvement. The former dean tried a lot in addressing this problem and we are continuing from where he stopped. A number of problems may cause the delay, which ABU is unfortunately known for and we are trying to actually change that notion about ABU as much as we can. There are a number of problems that lead to delays; let me begin from the students. Sometimes when a student undertakes course work, immediately he completes it successfully, he leaves and never comes back. Two, there used to be what is called mismatch between perhaps supervisors and students, and we have tried to address that in this way; one, the supervisor must be in the same specialized area with the student’s work, and two, there must be synergy between the supervisor and the supervisee, that is what happens everywhere in the world.
So, these two steps have helped considerably. If you check our statistics, we are generating some input/output analysis. For the past few years, you would see that there were indeed some departments where man power resources were not sufficient to address the needs of registered postgraduate students, that is a challenge, by the grace of God it has been addressed because in recent time we have had upward movement in terms of status of staff in ABU, but we still have pockets of those problems in one or two departments. There is also the increase in human resource capacity, which has also helped considerably in the improvement of graduation rate of postgraduate students.
There was a law by the federal government or is it the NUC that the first generation universities should pay more attention to postgraduate programmes than undergraduate programmes. Has ABU complied with this directive?
It is not a law per se; it is not even a requirement, it is an advice because there is no paper. It is not mandatory, but it is the view of the government that first generation universities would have attained a certain capacity and for the manpower requirement of the country, we need high capacity, postgraduates. Since there are a number of universities now apart from the first generation universities, states, privates, and even younger federal universities, the government thinks that the first generation having attained high capacity in human development, should migrate from training undergraduate students to postgraduate students. And ABU as you mentioned rightly is one of the first generation universities that had attained this capacity. So, we are trying to also comply as much as possible because NUC is our regulator. However, there are challenges; one, ABU still has a role to play especially in its catchment area - northern Nigeria. For instance, ABU is the only university that has the full deployment of all the faculties as defined by NUC, and if we say there will be no undergraduate programme in certain fields, then it means that the students in this catchment will have nowhere to go to because it is only in ABU that you find that kind of programme.
Looking at it from another perspective, there are some of these programmes that may be available, say agriculture, which is very important to this catchment area. You discover that apart from ABU, there are few universities offering agriculture, even though it is a specialization that many people should be going into, based on the geographical situation of the North. I think if we want to be fair we can look at that specifically and it may take a little while before ABU will comply holistically. The other thing is that we can’t pretend to forget about the level of poverty in northern Nigeria. To get as many postgraduate students to enroll in a way that the system would be sustained now will not be easy; a student will finish his programme, and he has no money to collect the certificate. So, we have to have a balance between undergraduate students and postgraduate students. That is the way we want to go.
You were appointed dean about a year ago, what are your plans?
As the saying goes, if you don’t plan to succeed then you plan to fail. So, one of the most important things that I want to do and want to be remembered for as a legacy in this school is to improve the graduation rate, the input/output rate of the university. If a student registers for a two -year course, we will do everything possible to see that he graduates in two years. I think that is the number one objective of any post graduate school.
Secondly, we want to initiate a process of research domiciliation, because all over the world, postgraduate schools are normally the nucleus of research undertaking, which is not the case here. We are trying to work with the director of academic planning. The university’s board of research is domiciled in the directorate of academic planning and we have started talking with the director to see how we can domicile research activities in the postgraduate school, I think that will boost the ranking of the university.
Research is taken discretely, so, what is the strength of ABU? For instance if you ask now, what is the strength of X department? You are not likely to get any reasonable answer. Two, if you say X and Y departments have some relationship, what is the interconnection between these two departments of the university without any collaboration. It’s at postgraduate level that this can be controlled. ABU will have some research direction and I think good things can come out of that. Three, we want to initiate some kind of excellence awards. If students are allowed to aspire to some certain heights, I think it will improve our research undertaking and research output, considerably.
You spoke about research, is there any peculiar research that was undertaken in this school that you have celebrated or you intend to celebrate in the future?
Yes, quite a number. There was a research undertaken by a postgraduate student in the department of computer science, which has now become the exams logic. It’s an exam software, a very successful software. We have had a student in the faculty of veterinary medicine who invented a vaccine, I think for cattle. We also had an engineering student who came up with some kind of improvement in communication software; it is one of the top things in the world now.