Why universities need contract/temporary staff


By Marzuq Ungogo

Sequel to imposition of IPPIS, a centralised strict payroll system, on all Nigerian civil and public servants, Nigerian federal universities have started sacking contract staff.

IPPIS, which means the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, doesn’t support contract/temporary staff.

A pedestrian and ignorant solution has been brought forth – employ young people to fill these vacancies. But that is never solution to the problem.

As incubation centres of research, ideas and knowledge, universities need to collaborate with people in other universities, industries and communities.

This requires an almost free flow of people in and out of university system daily.

Therefore, the system engages contract, temporary, visiting and even honorary staff.

In many universities around the globe, PhD students are engaged as contract staff to teach undergraduates, as part of their training as future teachers and researchers.

As PhD students graduate, new students are recruited and the cycle continues daily.

Another angle is industry expertise. Universities engage experts with practical/field experience to teach students their experience.

Gown-town gap has been a problem and works against students’ employability. Thus, it makes a lot of sense that a seasoned journalist, for example, is called to share his experience with Mass communication students.

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Such engagements are very useful for students and have become common practice in universities all over the word.

More reasons include visiting lecturers. With many specialisations springing up and few experts available in some fields, it is commonplace for lecturers to visit and teach in other universities as contract staff.

Then, there are issues of external examiners, assessors, consultants and retired experts.

The truth is if you tell any world top university to start running on permanent staff only, they would think you’re mad.

To simply put things, universities are not meant to have only permanent staff.

Even if a university can do that, it is not expected to do that.

Where things work well, recruitment of contract staff is so common and decentralised in world-class universities, that a professor or Principal Investigator (PI) of a research group can independently employ contract staff as research assistants or post-docs.

This is probably why we see so much quality research outputs from top universities.

Since imposition of IPPIS, many more problems have been emerging in Nigerian universities.

For example, the system doesn’t even recognise that some medical science lecturers have to be paid using a hybrid of 2 salary scales because they carry out clinical duties in addition to teaching and research.

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IPPS has been paying these category of lecturers a partial salary for four months. And the list of problems go on and on.

Unfortunately, the Nigerian government has been adamant on centralising university human resource control.

This is not only against the university autonomy laws, but go against the standard global practice of universities.

We all have to add our voice to this before it kills the Nigerian university system.

Marzuq Ungogo, PhD writes from Edinburgh, Scotland

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