UNILAG institute wins German University’s N338m infrastructure grant

The University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, has won 840,000 euros (about N338million) as an infrastructural grant for its Institute of African and Diaspora Studies.

Under a project sponsored by the University of Bayreuth, Germany, UNILAG was on Thursday announced as one of the four African universities to host an African Cluster Centre of Excellence.

Following the announcement, the university’s beneficiary institute is expected to carry out research activities on the thematic areas of mobility, otherwise regarded as migration, and core issues of traditional knowledge.

The project, which will run for seven years, will allow the university’s institute to draw 120,000 euros (about N48million) annually for the next seven years. The fund, according to the university, is only meant for the procurement of required facilities such as video-conferencing laboratory, human resources, among others.

This is coming less than 72 hours after the conflict between the Oluwatoyin Ogundipe-led university management and its governing council chairman, Wale Babalakin, was amicably resolved at a two-day meeting.

The council chairman and the vice-chancellor had, among other issues, disagreed over allegations of financial misappropriation and abuse of rule of law and procedures.

The announcement by the German university was contained in a letter dated May 16 and addressed to the university’s Director of Research and Innovation, Wellington Oyibo.

The letter  was signed by the dean of the German university’s Africa multiple centre of excellence, Rüdiger Seesemann, and the deputy dean in charge of internationalisation and public engagement, Ute Fendler.

The letter also commended UNILAG for standing out among more than 40 universities that applied for the opportunity.

The letter read in part; “We are delighted to inform you that the cluster’s Academic Committee, based on the recommendations of the external selection committee, enthusiastically voted to select your institution as one of the four African Cluster Centres (ACCs).

“The other institutions that will join the cluster as ACCs are Université Ouaga I Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya, and Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. We would like to convey our congratulations on this achievement and express our readiness to embark on our joint endeavour of reconfiguring African Studies, building networks, and working together on shared research questions.

“According to our university’s statutes, we will now have to draft an official cooperation agreement that spells out the terms and conditions of our collaboration, including the management of funds. Here, we will involve the International Office at the University of Bayreuth. Please indicate to us the responsible parties at your institution so that we can start this process as soon as possible.”

Mr Oyibo said the university was excited by the news, describing it as a confirmation of the institution’s drive for excellence.

He said the beneficiary institute, which has the dean of the faculty of art, Muyiwa Falaiye, a professor of Philosophy, as its director, will work alongside colleagues such as Taiwo Akinyele, a professor of History, on the project.

“As a background to this success, UNILAG management considered research grants as a strategy to attract funding to support government efforts. And as the director of research and innovation office at the university, the university management led by Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, has given us the mandate to pursue this agenda.

“It was in fulfilment of this mandate that through our institute, we responded to the call from the German university to competitively establish African Cluster Centre of Excellence that will look at several dimensions on issues around African studies. The Bayreuth University, which is funded by European Union, provided this multimillion-euro-grants for Africa’s benefit.”

He said the major funding for researches in the field will be won through fresh proposals to be submitted by the institute on the thematic areas already chosen.

He added that the purpose was to establish a knowledge centre that will connect Bayreuth University with African cluster centres.

“There were more than 40 institutions across Africa that expressed interest, and UNILAG was one of the 10 shortlisted. The shortlisting meant that a full proposal would have to be developed. Then, there was an on-site visit by an external team which visited us on February 11 for a real-time assessment of our human, structural and infrastructural capacities.

“The main goal of establishing this knowledge centre that will be based in Germany working with the four clusters is to work on different areas. What we have chosen to do in UNILAG is to work on the areas of mobility- migration and core issues of our traditional knowledge.”

Commenting on the development the university’s vice-chancellor said he thanked God that UNILAG was found worthy of the opportunity. He said it is just one of the many research grants won by the university within the 16 months of his administration.

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