6 January 2015

Lancaster University signs an agreement to co-supervise PhD students at one of Nigerias top universities as part of Lancasters internationalization strategy

Lancaster’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Mark E Smith, led a delegation to the University of Benin to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) supporting research collaboration through co-supervised, split-site PhDs.

Initially the PhD students’ research will be focused on environmental issues, including pollution, energy security, waste management, food and water security, which are all areas of major concern in Nigeria. Long term, the intention is to develop the collaboration to include PhDs in other disciplines.

The first group of students, funded by the Nigerian government, will enroll with the Lancaster Environment Centre in mid-2015 and will spend their first year studying at the University of Benin, one of the largest in Nigeria. The research students will spend their second year at Lancaster and their third year back in Nigeria.

Professor Smith was accompanied by Lancaster’s Pro Vice Chancellor, Professor Steve Bradley and by Professor Kirk Semple and Dr Ruth Alcock from the Lancaster Environment Centre. They attended the University of Benin’s Founder’s Day celebrations and the graduation of around 20,000 students, which were taking place during their visit.  Professor Smith delivered the prestigious Convocation Lecture on “Internationalization, Partnerships and Research Collaboration in Tertiary Education”.

“There is a whole world out there and we have to both prepare our students to be active participants in it and ensure that our researchers are tackling the challenges which face it. Knowledge does not recognize national borders”, Professor Smith told Prof. O.G. Oshodin (JP), Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin and an audience of staff, students and distinguished alumni.

“The UK’s success at producing impactful research has in large part been because of the level of international engagement. Nearly half of all UK research outputs are the product of international collaboration.”

Professor Smith also stressed the importance of university business collaboration in his lecture, particularly around environmental innovation.

“The ‘greening’ of the global economy is no longer a choice, it is a necessity,” he said.

He cited Lancaster’s involvement with the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation as an example of universities pursuing high-quality problem-based research guided by the needs of business and he praised Benin’s determination to create the first West African hub for university/business collaboration.

The University of Benin has asked for Lancaster’s support in creating an Academia-Industry Forum based on model developed by the Lancaster Environment Centre, which hosts more than 25 environmental technology companies within the department.

“The Forum will for the first time close the gap between academia and industry in Nigeria and promote mutually beneficial activity,” Professor Smith said.

Dr Alcock, Director of Business and Enterprise Partnerships at the Lancaster Environment Centre, said: “Professor Lawrence Ezemonye from Benin was so impressed with our work when he visited Lancaster that he wants to set up something similar in Benin.

“Currently there are no businesses based on campus at Benin, despite its size, so there is huge potential. There are many academic staff at Benin who are interested in collaborating with business and so we are happy to share what we do and to offer any support that we can.”

Dr Alcock and Professor Semple, attended the first meeting of Benin’s Academia-Industry Forum during their recent visit as well as being invited to the wedding of Professor Ezemonye’s daughter.