Who is Afraid of OAU Governing Council’s Shortlisting Criteria for new VC?

By Professor Akinola Fadahunsi

My attention was drawn to an advert entitled “An Open Letter to President Muhammadu Buhari” published in one of the national newspapers ( The Nation) on Thursday, March 24, 2016 jointly written by some officials of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

The said advert protested against the selection procedure for the appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor embarked upon by the Governing Council of the University which they considered to have violated the statutes and laws of the University governing the appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor. The two unions stated that the Governing Council of the University, going by the statutes, was supposed to come up with a shortlist of suitable candidates for the post of Vice-Chancellor based on advertised eligibility criteria and thereafter set up a Joint Council and Senate Selection Board that would critically assess the shortlisted candidates for the post of Vice-Chancellor.

According to the two unions, the Governing Council of the University bungled the procedure by coming up with a shortlist of suitable candidates for the post based on criteria beyond the advertised. They further claimed that by this singular act of the Governing Council of the University, the role of the Joint Council and Senate Selection Board had been usurped.

But one would want to disagree in totality with the principal claim of the said advert and describe the submissions of the advert as some huge misunderstanding of the autonomy bill granted by the Federal Government to Governing Councils of Universities following the 2009 Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)-Federal Government Agreement which empowers Governing Councils of universities to appoint Vice-Chancellors based on established university statutes, laws and modalities.

In pursuance of its mandate, the Governing Council of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife placed adverts in widely-read newspapers stating eligibility criteria as stipulated by the University statutes. Thereafter, the shortlisting was done based on the advertised eligibility criteria.

Anyone who is not stingy with fact will reason along that the criteria drawn from the advertised eligibility criteria by Council are not new to the University system. And what are these criteria? They are: Teaching, International Exposure, Publication, Fund Attraction, Supervision, Years as Professor, and References!

Out of these criteria, four - Teaching, International Exposure, Publication and Supervision - are regular promotion criteria in all Nigerian universities, especially if you are moving from the rank of Lecturer Grade 1 to Senior Lecturer and to Associate Professor and full Professor. The remaining three - Fund attraction, Years of Professor and Referees - are usually used for post-professorial applications for different posts in university.

Beyond individual universities, all of the above criteria are unspoken criteria daily used to judge applications for fellowships, postdoctoral fellowships, grants and international prizes in different academic, research and intellectual disciplines and funding agencies all over the world. For the purpose of emphasis, it must be stated that the above criteria, comply with standard and best practices around the world.

Who among Obafemi Awolowo University academics is afraid of the above Governing Council criteria for the shortlisting and even for the final appointment of applicants for the office of Vice-Chancellor? Take fund attraction for example, one of the duties of Vice-Chancellors is to master the art of attracting investors and funders for the enhancement of universities for 21st century compliance in all domains for excellence and also for webometric ranking.

It is therefore, cardinally expected of an intending applicant for the office of Vice-Chancellor to have had an enviable track record of fund attraction. What do you say about an applicant to the office of Vice-Chancellor who lacks international exposure? How would he or she administer a university without intellectual mobility to familiarize self with best research and administrative practices around the world?

The purpose of this piece is to show that the Governing Council criteria used for shortlisting applicants for the final appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife are in compliance with the University statutes and laws. The criteria will aid excellence for the production of a world-class Vice-Chancellor who can network with universities, investors and funders across the world to enhance best research and administrative practices for a 21st century university.

The Council shortlisted six applicants who will have to be interviewed by the Selection Board. Anyone of these applicants will emerge as the new Vice Chancellor. The people that are opposed to these criteria are those who either do not understand what a University is or are playing sheer mischief.

Written by Professor Akinola Fadahunsi, a retired professor who lives and writes from Osogbo.

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