By Oscarline Onwuemenyi
ABUJAâ€”The Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) has announced that it has begun the gradual phasing out of the Masters Degree component of the Overseas Scholarship Scheme (OSS) following domestication of the training programme in reputable institutions in Nigeria beginning from the next academic year starting September 2010.
The Fund has since the inception of the flagship capacity building programme trained one thousand, eight hundred scholars at the Masters level and two hundred and fifty at the Doctoral level in top ranked universities specialising in oil and gas courses in the United Kingdom.
The Executive Secretary of the Fund, Engr. Muttaqha Rabe Darma, who gave a time frame of three years for the complete withdrawal of overseas training for Masters Degree Programmes, said this became imperative following the development by the Fund of sufficient and competent manpower to operate and manage the oil and gas industry in Nigeria.
Additionally, he said the Fund has made significant progress in upgrading the physical infrastructure and teaching facilities of some Nigerian Universities offering oil and gas related courses as well as enhancing the teaching skills and competences of faculty members of these institutions to a level that the universities can deliver the same quality of academic training as their counterparts abroad.
The PTDF Executive Secretary who addressed the first batch of the 2010/2011 PTDF Overseas Scholarship recipients in Abuja, said in test running the in-country training for Masters Degree Programmes, the Fund will be sending 25 students for post graduate studies inÂ the Institute of Petroleum Studies, University of Port-Harcourt and the African University of Science and Technology, Abuja.
He said out of the more than eleven thousand candidates that applied for the 2010/2011 PTDF scholarship, the Fund could only award about 500 scholarships. This he said reflects the competitiveness of the scheme and the level of confidence reposed by Nigerians on the management of the scheme.
He regretted the inability of the Fund to provide more scholarship slots especially to the more than 10, 500 who could not access the scholarship.
According to him, more qualified Nigerians, will be able to benefit from PTDF scholarship with the domestication of the training programmes. â€œSubsequently, beginning from next year, we will concentrate more on sponsoring students to go for post graduate studies in Nigerian universities. It is our aspiration to place at least one university offering oil and gas course in Nigeria for ranking among the top ten universities teaching oil and gas courses in the worldâ€ he said.
The Fund, he said, will now award 85% of its yearly Overseas Scholarships at the PhD level to university teachers. In concentrating the PhD scholarship awards to university lecturers, the expectation is that they will come back and apply the skills acquired in teaching Nigerian students in our local universities.
â€œAmong the 250 scholars out on PhD training abroad, 12 will be concluding their programme this year. 6 of them are university teachers. 22 of the PhD scholars will be finishing next year out of whom 16 are university teachers.
â€œWhat this means is that PTDF has trained a pool of university lecturers, a huge resource base equipped with the necessary skills and competencies to conduct modern teaching and research in our local universitiesâ€ Engr. Darma Said.
The Executive Secretary urged the scholars to reciprocate the Federal Government gesture in sending them to top world class universities abroad by being good ambassadors and to excel in their academics and win laurels that will promote the image of Nigeria. â€œThe story of PTDF overseas scholarship scheme is a very successful one.
Our scholars have performed exceedingly well in their scholarship abroad. I urge you to go there and maintain the recordâ€ he said.
The students will sign consent letters that will enable their universities of study to be sending quarterly progress reports on their performances to the Fund. This will enable the Fund to monitor the scholarsâ€™ performances. The Fund will terminate the scholarship of those who are not doing well.
The PTDF Overseas Scholarship Scheme has a long standing tradition and reputation of supporting and promoting scientific, educational, professional and inter-cultural activities and expanding international understanding and development through sponsorship of qualified Nigerians to top universities in the United Kingdom to qualify as professionals in the field of Engineering, Geology, Science, ICT, Environment and Management Sciences at post graduate level.
The objective of PTDF Overseas Scholarship Scheme is to meet the long term capacity requirements of the oil and gas industry through sponsoring the training of young Nigerians in the United Kingdom in disciplines that are related to the oil and gas industry at post graduate levels.
Beneficiaries on successful completion of their studies will return to Nigeria and fit directly into the oil and gas industry or the academia.