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Funds, major challenge we’ll likely face to meet our vision –FUPRE VC

Prof. Akpofure Rim-Rukeh is the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun (FUPRE) in Delta State. In this interview with GABRIEL CHOBA, he speaks about his administration’s 100 days in office, vision, challenges and plans to make the university a world-class centre of excellence

Today marked the first 100 days of your assumption office as the Vice- Chancellor of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, how has the situation been in terms of your achievements?

The first 100 days in office has become the traditional yardstick in the recent times for a leader to reel out his early achievements in office. But, I believe that the first three months in any new leadership role is critical to listening and learning, and to start setting the stage for future success. On the 4th of May, 2020 I took over the mantle of leadership as the fourth substantive Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun (FUPRE) and today marks the first 100 days of my administration in office.

And by the special grace of God we have recorded some measurable achievements and these wouldn’t have been possible without our collective efforts. In achieving this dream, we have to prepare the Blue-Print for Accelerated Growth and Development of the University.

This document would form the major roadmap of the administration over the next five years. However, within our 100 days in office, we have signed two research-related Memoranda of Understanding (MoU).

The first MoU is with Weltek Research Limited and under the collaboration we intend to carry out research that leads to innovation in petroleum refining and petrochemical industry. Again, the other Memorandum of Understanding is with Onose Deep Oil and Gas Limited, which focuses on promotion of technology transfer in technical areas in the oil and gas sector. The partnerships formalised a long relationship between the university and the two companies, and which we strongly believe will result in several interdisciplinary projects over the next five years.

There are a lot of ongoing infrastructural developments in the university through the Federal Ministry of Education NEEDS Assessment Fund. These are the construction of 1,000-capacity university convocation arena, a 500-capacity university auditorium, 750-capacity students’ hostel, sporting facilities and a number of classrooms, as well as other ongoing infrastructural development being funded by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), which are the Phase II of College of Science and Phase II of the Entrepreneurship Building. Also, we have rechristened the College of Technology in line with the growing trend in the Engineering and Technology world; we have also received approval from the National Universities Commission (NUC) to change our College of Technology to College of Engineering & Engineering Technology. This will enable us to expand our academic scope into engineering and technology programmes.

During the handing over, your predecessor complained about poor funding in the institution, has this in any way improved?

Well, to achieve improve funding drive, we have strategised on ways to generate income for university through increased Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from commercial activities by venturing into businesses such as FUPRE Microfinance Bank, FUPRE Water Plants, Animal Production Venture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, FUPRE Publishing House, and FUPRE Bookshop.

What then are the plans on ground to achieve your administration’s vision and what are the challenges envisaged?

There is no doubt that as you make plans, there are likely challenges, and the main obstacle is usually from within as some people will not want you to succeed. But in this case, my staff and colleagues are all supportive. When you make plans and there are people who are ready to fight you, it will be difficult for you to achieve such. But, in our case in this university there is nobody like that as they have all keyed into my vision and are supportive of this administration. In the area of finance, how we are going to source funds is a major challenge that we might likely face. Although, there are some organisations that have confidence in us and what we are doing which we are going to approach for assistance in this direction.

How do you plan to enhance the growth of the institution towards achieving your vision of a world-class university?

Of course, we are going to achieve this through what we tagged: “Attracting Regional/International Faculty and Students.” And to this end, we have established the Directorate of International Development, which is charged with the responsibilities of developing a comprehensive policy that is aimed at recruiting, retaining and supporting international staff and students. Also, we have developed a strategic security plan critical for the smooth running of the university with plans to develop an international standard accommodation facilities for students and members of academic staff in order to promote faculty engagement, students’ exchange programmes and teaching partnerships on joint research on global issues. In achieving our set goals, we are working towards increasing university and industry relationship and today, FUPRE has been admitted into the Education and Training Sectoral Working Group of the Nigerian Content Consultative Forum (NCCF) of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board.

Another critical factor in ensuring stability in the system is the healthy management-staff relationship, what are your plans in ensuring a cordial relationship with the various workers’ unions on campus?

Our strategy on staff matters and as part of our efforts is to hunt for academic talents by utilising a robust and transparent recruitment and selection process that would ensure that we hire the right people into the right job at the right time. The recruitment process is already ongoing. The 2020 promotion exercise is also ongoing and we are presently concluding on the reward system for staff for the purpose of encouragement. All these are being done to ensure a cordial working environment with staff and students towards collective development of the university.

There is the challenge of insufficient space and facilities for staff and students, especially in the areas of classrooms, offices and others, how are you addressing this?

Let me start with physical and infrastructural facilities. We have introduced the policy of naming the university facilities after or in honour of donors. For now, the Federal University of Petroleum Resources does not have any tradition of naming the university properties, academic and non-academic programmes and facilities in honor of persons or entities that have made important financial contributions to boost teaching, research and community service, which are core mandates of the university. However, today, the policy for the naming of university facilities after their donors has duly been approved by the university Governing Council as well as the Finder’s Fee Policy. This policy initiated by the university has also been approved by the council.

As the only petroleum institution in Nigeria and Africa by extension, how do you intend to secure a synergy and working relationship across the board?

To be modest, in order to increase partnership in our public-privatepartnership (PPP), the Built-Operate and Transfer (BOT) model has been established, while the Directorate for Public Private Partnership has also been created. The policy for PPP based on build-operate-transfer has also been approved by the council. Under our PPP arrangement, the following projects such as construction of cafeteria services for students, construction of a building to serve as the senior staff club, construction of junior staff club, construction of Postgraduate students hostel, construction of hostel for international students, two female students hostel of 1,000-capacity bed space each are to be executed. Other projects include the construction of three male students hostels also of 1,000-capacity bed space each, construction of ICT building/centre, the university printing press, the university guest house, a university shopping mall, the design and building of FUPRE Demonstration Primary School and Secondary School, as well as the FUPRE Business School complex and construction of the University Liaison Office in Abuja.

What is the accreditation status of the university’s academic programmes, and is the institution introducing new courses?

Already, we have prepared the curriculum for the following academic programmes, which are the Department of Petrochemical Engineering; Department of Natural Gas Engineering; Department of Computer Engineering; Department of Statistics, Department of Science, Laboratory and Technology and Department of Health, Environment, Safety and Security. Meanwhile, the commencement of the College of Petroleum Management and Policy Studies, and Department of Civil Engineering is awaiting regulatory approval. We have taken steps to prepare a curriculum that will lead to the award of Professional Master’s Degree in Engineering Management, Oil & Gas Management, Environmental Policy and Regulation and Fuel & Energy. We have also taken steps to initiate programmes leading to award of professional certificates in Supply Chain Management, Environmental Modelling Energy Finance, Pipeline Engineering, Environmental Corrosion, Environmental Risk Management, Process Safety Management, Environmental Scarcity and National Security, Carbon Capture Market and Climate Change Dynamics and Gas Reservoir Improvement Techniques. Also, on the approved Research Policy, in the period under review, we put final touches to the comprehensive policy that will guide the university research for approval by the council.

You talked about new courses introduced in the university, what process is in place for their accreditation?

Like I said earlier, introduction of new courses takes process; the first thing is to prepare the curriculum or academic brief for the courses, which will be taken to the National Universities Commission (NUC) for approval. Before approval by the Commission, there is what we call the Resources Verification and that is the stage that we are now. As I said, wehavepreparedthe curriculum for thecourseswhichhavealready beensenttoNUC. The new courses were segmented from existing programmes and we have qualified lecturers to teach them. For example, Computer Engineering is from Electrical/Electronics Engineering where we have many Professors and PhDs, as well as Petrochemical Engineering which was segmented from Chemical Engineering Faculty, and we also have Professors of Chemistry and PhDs in the Department. Besides, we are already recruiting members of academic staff, who are competent scholars in their fields. From our advertisement, we have received 19,000 applications who are mostly Professors and PhD holders in the areas needed. I believe that by the time the NUC team will come for the accreditation exercise, there is not going to be any problem in terms of qualified faculties and facilities.

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