EXPLORING NEW OPTIONS FOR TRAINING OF PTDF SCHOLARS
With the successful institution of educational partnership and collaboration agreements with universities in Brazil, France and Germany, leading to a tuition free regime for Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) scholars, the Fund is exploring the possibility of not only extending such collaborations to top universities in the United Kingdom, but also expanding the scope to include partnership in realising in-country training of PTDF scholars.
The Executive Secretary, Petroleum Technology Development Fund(PTDF), Dr. Bello Aliyu Gusau led a team of PTDF Management to a consultative meeting with officials of the Cranfield university, United Kingdom, an exclusively postgraduate university for Masters and Doctoral students.
The Petroleum Technology Development Fund has in the last decade sponsored not less than 200 students to Cranfield University under its Overseas Scholars Scheme. But with the current challenges across the global oil and gas industry especially with low pricing which has drastically affected the funding capacity of institutions such as PTDF, there is a need to explore other forms of partnership considerations in order to continue with the educational partnership in a more cost effective manner. The Executive Secretary was received by Professor Feargal Brennan, Director of Energy and Power, Cranfield University, acclaimed as one of the World’s top institutions for offshore energy engineering post-graduate study. He expressed the keenness of the university to work with PTDF in developing local content for Nigeria’s oil and gas industry especially with regard to the localisation of the training of Nigerian students through an equal partnership concept with the Cranfield University. He said the idea is for Nigerian students under PTDF sponsorship to remain in Nigeria and receive the same quality tutelage and research as they would have if they were in the university. This he said would involve the appointment of a local supervisor from Cranfield University, the identification of local universities in Nigeria that will host the Nigerian students under the arrangement and the determination of the ratio of field work, research and taught work that can hold between the local universities and the University of Cranfield.
The Executive Secretary, Petroleum Technology Development Fund, Dr. Bello Aliyu Gusau said current economic realities necessitated by global oil price slump make it imperative for the Fund to review its overseas scholarship operations with a move towards more inward looking activities. He said however that PTDF will not succeed in the attempt to domesticate its training activities without a solid partnership with the universities in order to sustain the quality and integrity of the academic training programmes offered to the students. According to him it is fundamental moving forward to review and restructure the existing partnership and come up with more creative ways of working together.
“I am happy you mentioned the possibility of in-country co-operation because at the moment we are in the process of working with our own facilities, that we put in place for various programmes, so it’s really an important issue that we want, going forward, to put on the table. What we have actually commenced focusing on is the split-site PhD programmes and these are some of the issues that we want going forward to work with a university like Cranfield, to see how we can really put that in place – either in some of our facilities or in any of the Nigerian universities that we are working with. But for us the most important reason for coming here, because these are routine things that we are doing or hoping to do, is the new structure that you have now, that synergy between Power and Energy”.
PTDF Executive Secretary, Dr. Bello Aliyu Gusau explained that with a renewed focus on gas by the Nigerian Government, the Fund will be interested in developing the relevant manpower to service all the activities arising from the new attention to gas; the rapid development of power stations needing the gas, and the development of other gas infrastructure such as gas pipelines and processing facilities for gas.
“There is in our country now a focus, not really moving away from crude oil production, but a more renewed focus on gas. Incidentally for all these years gas was seen almost as an inconvenient by-product of crude oil, but it’s now a different ball game altogether, partly because of the sheer thirsts for electricity in Nigeria. You can see why that synergy is so important to us because for us it’s a new area of focus, whereby from what I have seen so far, Cranfield is one of the few places that is offering that kind of synergy, and it’s an area that I believe we can seriously work together. In Nigeria, power stations are springing up across the country, gas pipelines are being contemplated. Processing facilities for gas are all being developed at the same time, so the need for manpower to service all these activities is almost unlimited, so that is why we are so excited that you have this new structure, and it will fit into our own purpose. So we are about to commence a skills gap analysis and most of it will focus essentially on the Mid and Downstream, especially in the processing and transportation infrastructure and also in the gas to power synergy. We are not sure yet, what we are going to find- but these are the sort of things we are instituting and we see your university playing a very important role in the training of high level manpower which we believe is critical in the ongoing transformation of our country. So to that extent, just to put you on notice that we are really looking forward to working with you, to ensure that jointly, this our aspiration will be attained”.
The Petroleum Technology Development Fund he said has over the years upgraded not less than 26 oil and gas related departments in 26 universities in Nigeria and also enhanced the teaching and research skills of the faculty in those departments. However with the move to engage the local universities more in the training of PTDF scholars, the Fund intends to create more synergy between Nigerian universities and the scholarship programmes.
“In the past we took some universities and provided them with the facilities, trained a few faculty staff and engaged in other skills enhancement programmes, that are specifically targeted at university teachers, but we want to go beyond that, we don’t just want to intervene and leave, we want to create synergy between the universities and our own scholarship programmes, so as we move especially undergraduate students into Nigerian universities, we want to create partnerships, for these different departments, and especially in universities with specific areas of our need. We have over 26 of such universities in various engineering and science disciplines. We also have 6 other universities whose upgrade projects are ongoing in different areas, but apart from that we also have our own facilities directly owned and managed by the PTDF. Two of such facilities are what we are focusing on now, one is in Kaduna, the other is in Port- Harcourt in the oil producing region of the country and what we are looking at for these two places is to mount different higher degree programmes, specifically in Kaduna, Masters, PhD’s in different fields and since we are not allowed by law to certificate, so we can only do this in conjunction with other partners, both locally and internationally. This is one of the areas we are going to consider seriously. The facility is still at the level of construction but we want it to go hand in hand with preparation for contenting and some kind of administrative structure for the place. For Port-Harcourt we are thinking of middle level training in the various fields, mainly on the job training, continuous professional development programme, essentially in the technical areas, so these are also areas that we are contemplating future partnership”.
Professor Feargal Brennan, Director of Energy and Power, Cranfield university and other officials of the university spoke on the proposals for partnership put forward by the Executive Secretary of PTDF Dr. Aliyu Bello Gusau for the training of PTDF scholars. They all agreed on the need for flexibility in the delivery of academic programmes through the setting up off offshore facilities with the same cranfield brand and quality.
Mr. Shazim Husayn, Assistant Director, International Recruitment and Development “I oversee international partnershis, recruitments and admission across the University of Cranfield. What we have been discussing is the possibility of Cranfield offering programmes in Nigeria, offering split-site PhD’s and flying faculty. We have been doing this in other countries and it is something we can explore further in Nigeria given the realities of economic situation across the globe. So hopefully we can discuss this further in the coming months, and we can further take that forward. We do some flying faculty in Singapore, Muskat University and we tend to choose the flying faculty model because we like our students to be engaged by our lecturers and to have a good idea of what we deliver here in Cranfield”.
Samina Masood, International Partnership Manager, Marketing, Communications and Development; “we welcome the partnership, we are very keen to receive more students and we would like to support the government in their bid to build capacity through the localization agenda and PTDF has been great in developing a standing relationship with Cranfield university. We have seen bright and intelligent students from Nigeria who have come and done their Masters and PhD’s and we hope that even in future we are able to support the Nigerian government as well as PTDF’s bid to build capacity through a train-the trainers academic programme to realise the localisation agenda in the country”. On the role Cranfield will play in the event PTDF localises its training programmes due to the economic realities facing the country, she said “Cranfield has already set up some MoU’s recently with high ranking universities within Nigeria, and I personally think that there are universities in Nigeria which are ready for having some progressive routes set up, having some split site PhD or develop some faculty development programme with Cranfield and I think Cranfield will be very keen to support such activities, should PTDF decides to go through those routes. In our MoU’s we talk about staff and student’s exchanges, we are at the infancy of it, but there is nothing stopping us and the future is very bright for us to say that in the next few months we could start developing and looking at such initiatives”.
The Executive Secretary and his team also met with other PTDF scholars studying in universities in South West London. At the University of Portsmouth, the Executive Secretary apprised them with the difficult and challenging situation in Nigeria as a result of low oil prices and economic recession which ultimately he said is having an impact on PTDF’s funding capacity for overseas training. He however assured the scholars that the Fund is still committed to meeting its obligations to beneficiaries of its capacity building programme within the resources available to it. According to him “You must understand that all public agencies are undergoing such challenges, so if you experience any bit of challenge with finances, you need to understand why, but PTDF will try as much as possible to adhere to its obligations”.
He said towards addressing the communication problems experienced by the students with officials of the Fund, a portal has been set up to entrench a continuous and prompt response to their communications to the Fund. The Executive Secretary also assured the scholars that PTDF will strive to do more in meeting its obligations to beneficiaries of its scholarship programmes and sought their understanding of the challenges being confronted in sourcing for funds.
In furtherance to the objective of cutting costs in the implementation of PTDF Overseas Scholarship Scheme, the Fund had earlier in the year signed Memoranda of Understanding with the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil and universities in France and Germany. This is with a view to offering a tuition free regime for PTDF scholars without compromising on the academic standards already established for the training of PTDF scholars.
Kalu Otisi Esq.
Head, Press and External Relations
December 08, 2016