Medical professionals in academia don’t need PhD to become VC – Prof Ogunsola, ex-provost, College of Medicine, UNILAG

Former Provost, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Prof Folasade Ogunsola, tells GRACE EDEMA that globally, medical professionals do not require PhD but a fellowship to work in a university and rise to position of vice-chancellor

There are divergent views on whether medical fellowship can be a substitute for PhD for medical practitioners in the academia. What is your view?

When others are employed into a university, their entrance is by PhD but we (medical practitioners) come in with a fellowship. By the time the university has promoted you to a professor, they cannot turn around and say because they didn’t accept you with PhD you cannot become a VC; they never had that contract with the medics. It is all over the world, in most places, medics don’t do PhD; that is not how we come into the academia. You can’t use a PhD to work in a university as a medical person and say you’re a surgeon. You cannot train medical students based on PhD; you don’t have the locus standi. What brings you into the university is your fellowship. PhDd is only a degree that says you have been trained in doing research. Nowhere in the world are medical professionals required to have a PhDd; the requirement for medical professionals is their fellowship, which is their specialty and it is earned by examination. When others are employed into a university, the entrance is by PhD but medical professionals come in with a fellowship. For you to be able to become a professor, you must do research and do it well. PhD is an entry point and it says that you can do research. Now the medical fellowship has incorporated into it research because you must do dissertation and even if you say the dissertation they did is not as long as the PhD, they have spent a long time in the university and have advanced based on doing research.

As a university, you have said that they are good at research, and that is why they are professors. So, you cannot then turn around to change the rule. What has PhDd got to do with you becoming a vice-chancellor? The fact that you have a PhD does not mean you are fantastic (as a scholar).

But ASUU has a contrary opinion to yours on the relevance of PhD for becoming a VC.

It is irrelevant actually; all of that is tautology. It is not just professional; let the doctors leave the university, who would then train your medical students? Who are the people publishing the most? They are the doctors, check it out in the university. It is like saying you came in with WASSCE, then along the line the rules are changed and even though you came out with first class, we won’t recognise you; you can’t do that. You took these people in, you promoted them, you didn’t complain and when it is time for the selection of the VC, you begin to make that an issue. That is political. It is a political hatchet job. There is nowhere in the world that you would disqualify a professor because he doesn’t have a PhD. The people who have the PhD are not better professors, necessarily.

But ASUU has argued that a lecturer without PhD won’t be able to supervise PhD students.

Go and check the laws of a university; once you’re a professor, you can supervise (any student). You know we do that in Nigeria, we use paper. The point is to ask yourself, what is it about PhD? I have PhD and I’m a professor of medicine but what is it really about? I have my fellowship also. What a PhD implies is that you can do research. So, if you can do research through another means without you doing a PhD, does it mean that you cannot do research because you don’t have the stamp of PhD? We have been having Doctors of Medicine forever who didn’t have PhD being the VC and we didn’t complain. So, what suddenly changed? They were not the worst professors or vice-chancellors. What has changed? What is a vice-chancellor, that you are scholarly? These people (medical professionals) have publications, how else do you measure scholarship? There are people who have PhD, where are they? If you go to England, America, are we like their professors of medicine? How many professors of medicine have PhD in the world? Yet, they get Nobel prizes and you tell me that they can’t supervise a PhD student? By the time you are a professor, it means you can do research; that is all about that. What is there about research that we are going up and down? At the end of the day, you publish and create new knowledge, we do that also. Some of our best researchers don’t have PhD; so what are they talking about? The point is that PhD is an entry point, the fellowship is an entry point and you have to do research to get it. You may not do PhD but you would have to do research. So, if Nigeria says everyone should get PhD, fine; but the only time you talk about it is when they (medical professionals) want to become VC, moreso, VCs don’t supervise students. It is an administrative position and it doesn’t matter. Excuse me, who says there are less professors in medicine than the others? Some of them are more popular, prolific and have done better than many of the people we are talking about. Go and check out Harvard School of Medicine and find out how many people have PhD, even in Africa, check how many professors of medicine have PhD. It is going to cause a major upheaval. How can you take people into the university, and 20 years later, you say they don’t have PhD and you have promoted them to professors, then saying that they can’t become VC? It is political and that is why there have been an issue that NUC has to come out and talk because this has been going on for quite a while.

Are you saying that it was for political consideration that the NUC also published that any academic interested in the post of a VC must have PhD?

We had conversations with NUC. It is not for people who have been in the system. Every institution has people who have agenda and we are already having medical doctors leaving the country and more will go. Right now, the situation of doctors leaving this country is a crisis and I’m not joking.  Let them make life so difficult for doctors and they would leave. It is already difficult enough. They are leaving in droves. As I sit here it is hard for me to find younger colleagues. I was talking to my friend in the private sector, she told me that four of them are leaving now in her set of eight individuals. We are here making life difficult for those that are staying. We have to decide as a country where we are going. Don’t forget the people that go into the medical school have the highest score in Universal Tertiary Matriculation Examination, while some of these people we are talking about with PhD had third class. These professors are the ones that come into the medical school with the highest score in UTME. You now say your medical students cannot rise to become VC. There is a political agenda to this by the people who are advising the government. If somebody who came in with a fellowship and has done research in the last 20 years, are you saying there are no other ways to be trained and do research? The people who have done PhD, are they saying that PhD was their best effort and they have not grown? PhD is entry and your experience grows from there. It is about how you do research and how you grow with experience. It is good to have a PhD, there is no problem. But why are you now using PhD to stop a professor of many years from becoming a vice-chancellor? That is political and it has nothing to do with scholarship. This is a political hatchet game and it is going to cause a crisis. It is just a matter of time. Some of the best minds I have worked with in LUTH don’t have PhD.

SOURCE: PUNCH

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