The University of Melbourne, Australia and the University of Helsinki, Finland have dismissed claims that Nigerian lecturer, Dr Chidi Ugwu fraudulently won a fellowship award at Harvard University.

 

Ugwu is a lecturer at the University of Nigeria (UNN), Nsukka, but currently a guest lecturer (Indigenous Health) at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, a research institute in Carlton, Australia, under the University of Melbourne.

Born in 1977, Ugwu graduated from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at UNN in 2006 and was awarded his doctorate from the same school in 2016, SaharaReporters learnt.

 

Meanwhile, SaharaReporters had reported claims that Ugwu falsified a diploma certificate from the University of Helsinki to win the fellowship at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University (2021-2022).

 

It was also claimed that Ugwu lied about being a guest lecturer at the University of Melbourne.

 

Photos purportedly showing correspondence between a source and the schools had also claimed Ugwu’s records could not be found in the systems of the respective schools.

 

But when SaharaReporters got in touch by email with Professor Elina Oinas, who signed Ugwu’s diploma certificate on behalf of the consortium in charge of the programme, she confirmed signing the certificate, along with its genuineness.

 

Responding to an enquiry made by SaharaReporters, Professor Oinas wrote, “Yes, the certificate is authentic and signed by me. This course was a high profile PhD training at the University of Helsinki, funded partially by the EU. Mr. Ugwu was one of the participants. They were selected in tough competition among top junior academics. He made a significant contribution. Best wishes.”

 

Regarding claims that Ugwu falsely professed to be a guest lecturer at Melbourne, SaharaReporters also found that to be false.

 

A lecturer coordinating his course at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health (under the University of Melbourne), Dr Kristopher Wilson confirmed to this medium Ugwu’s status as a guest lecturer at the school.

 

SaharaReporters also obtained the ‘Subject Guide 2017’ for Indigenous Health in a Global Context, POPH90291, which sets out a list of guest lecturers for the course, and other information including profiles of lecturers, course details and weekly learning objectives.

 

Dr Wilson of Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, in his email to SaharaReporters, said, “Chidi Ugwu has been a guest lecturer in the course I coordinate (POPH90291) as part of the Masters of Public Health programme at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health since 2017, including the current academic year. Kind Regards.”

 

According to the Subject Guide obtained by SaharaReporters, for Week 11, 2017, Ugwu was to take ‘Fulani People in Nigeria: Delivering Health Services to Nomadic Populations’.

 

It listed weekly learning objectives as “Appreciate the complexities associated with interventions designed to deliver health services to nomadic populations;

 

“Scrutinize pros and cons of applying Community Directed Interventions (CDI) strategies to nomadic populations;

 

“Consider how health workers often lack the required medications and supplies, and have to improvise to deliver services.”

 

It noted some websites for students to use for practice along with some recommended texts they are required to read.

 

His profile as stated on the Subject Guide reads: “Chidi Ugwu got his PhD in Social Anthropology in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. His research interests include kinship studies, political economy of health, and religious systems.

 

“He won an African Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowship (Nairobi) and the African Humanities Program grants for his PhD research part of which he presented to the World History Center, University of Pittsburgh, USA and the African Studies Association, UK, the University of Sussex in 2014. He has been a member of The Lancet/Lowitja Global Collaboration for Indigenous and Tribal Health since July 2014. He currently teaches social anthropology at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.”

 

It was also learnt that Ugwu had since received an invitation from the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health to deliver a lecture entitled 'Fulani People: Delivering Health Services to Nomadic Populations' on October 11, 2021.

 

On how Ugwu was chosen for the fellowship, Claudia Rizzini, Executive Director of the Fellowship Program at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, was however non-committal, saying such direct information about a fellow of the institute as requested by SaharaReporters was confidential.

 

“Thank you for your inquiry to the Harvard Radcliffe Institute.

 

“Information about our selection process is available at https://radcliffe.onlineapplicationportal.com/misc/faq/#selection.

 

“As our selection process is confidential, I am unable to share any further details,” she said.

 

Information on the Institute’s website, however, says, “Each application we receive is reviewed in a two-tiered process–first by experts in the relevant field, then by a multidisciplinary committee charged with selecting a diverse class of fellows of the highest achievement and potential.

 

“Applications are evaluated on the quality and significance of the proposed project and the applicant's intellectual and creative capacity, as evidenced by a strong record of achievement or extraordinary promise. We seek diversity along every dimension, including geography, ethnicity and race, stage in career, and ideological perspective. As a uniquely multidisciplinary community, we highly value collegiality and openness to cross-disciplinary conversation.”

 

When contacted, Ugwu described the allegations against him as spurious claims.

 

He said someone had also written to Harvard Radcliffe Institute with allegations that he used false qualifications to win their fellowship. He, however, added that the school eventually found that there was no truth in the allegations.

 

“Soon after my fellowship position was announced to the University of Nigeria community, someone had written to the Harvard Radcliffe Institute raising almost similar accusations against me as was published in that report,” he said.

 

 “Thereupon, the Institute made their own independent investigation and found that the accusations were false.”

 

As regards the allegation that he falsely claims to have a diploma certificate from the University of Helsinki, Ugwu also dismissed it, saying, “I may have to mention that this program was organized for a cohort. We began to undertake our course work online months before we were eventually flown to Helsinki for a summer school to round it off.”

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