Everybody Wants University Place

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THE Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, has decided that candidates in the 2014 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, UTME, would compulsorily register only one university, one polytechnic, one college of education and one innovative enterprise institute. It is considered a solution to challenges with admissions to higher institutions.

Candidates formerly had a second preferred institution. Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, JAMB registrar explained, “From our experience, universities refuse to take students who make them a second choice. Last year, vice chancellors of universities, rectors of polytechnics decided that students should only pick one university, one polytechnic, one college of education and one innovative enterprise institute when applying to write the UTME. If they do not follow these instructions, they cannot apply.”

Prof Ojerinde expects the move to solve the admissions crisis. “We also hope that this will curb the admission crisis. Often, there are spaces in tertiary institutions other than universities, but everyone wants to go to the university,” he said.

What the JAMB registrar calls “admission crisis” is not the fact that only one-third of those who applied for university admission in 2013 got places. Extortion of candidates causes the empty spaces in schools while over applications, to some schools, is part of the crisis. The perceived difference in the quality of education different universities offer informs candidates’ choices.

Official discrimination against non-university graduates is the biggest factor. It starts with the admission cut off points – 180 and above for universities, 160-169 for polytechnics, 150-159 for colleges of education, and innovative enterprise institutes. The impression is that candidates for institutions other than universities are inferior. The quality of facilities and teaching staff in polytechnics, colleges of education and innovation and enterprise institutes reflect the discrimination. Nigeria rates teachers less intelligent than other professionals. The low cut off point says so.

Nigeria is already paying dearly for her decisions. Fewer candidates are applying to polytechnics and colleges of education. How would we fill the gaps this would produce?

According to UTME, in 2013, 1,670,833 candidates applied to universities, 28,977 candidates to polytechnics, and 28,445 to colleges of education for 520,000 places in over 128 federal, state and private universities; 76 federal, state and private polytechnics; and 63 colleges of education.

Polytechnics and colleges of education candidates were 3.4 per cent of the application received. The 57,422 candidates for all the polytechnics and colleges of education were slightly higher than 52,608 applicants to the University of Ibadan, which was the 10th most preferred university.

Candidates’ choices reflect the premium Nigeria places on university education. The appropriate response should be policies that would establish the importance of each segment of education by its contributions to society.

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