BY DAYO ADESULU
In the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, (UTME) brochure, candidates seeking admission into Nigeria’s tertiary institutions are listed under the following categories: University, Polytechnic/Monotechnic, College of Education (CoE) and Innovation Enterprise Institutions (IEIs). Innovation Enterprise Institutions are institutions approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria to provide a veritable alternative route to higher education.
As at 2013, Nigeria had 40 federal universities, 38 state universities, 50 private universities, 128 polytechnics and monotechnics, 117 Colleges of Education and 57 Innovation Enterprise Institutions, bringing the total number of tertiary institutions to 430. Nevertheless, many Nigerian students seeking tertiary education are more interested in university education.
In 2010/2011, Nigeria had 112 universities with carrying capacity of 450,000 and 1,493,611 applicants. Thus, the admitting capacity was 30.13 per cent of the total number of applicants. This means that at best, only 30.13 per cent of the total number of applicants were accommodated during that academic session.
In the 2011/2012 session, five universities were added, bringing the number to 117, with 500,000 carrying capacity amounting to 33.25 per cent and 1,503,933 students applied that year.
However, in 2012/2013, 11 universities were added bringing it to 128 with 520,000 (29.96 per cent) admission spaces. In that year, a total of 1,735,729 applied for UTME.
According to National Universities Commission report of 2011/2012, most of the universities in Nigeria exceeded the alloted admission quota.
For instance, in 2011/2012, University of Lagos (UNILAG)’s admission quota was 6,500 but admitted 7,527; Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) was given 6,688 but admitted 7,397, just as University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) was given 5,970 but admitted 8,267. University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) in the same year was supposed to admit 5,514 but ended up admitting 7,098 while University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) which was given 5,600, admitted 5,699. Also Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi which ought to admit just 2,133 ended up admitting 3,350 students. The above analysis of these federal universities admission quota explains why our universities are over-crowded and lack facilities for students.
Besides, statistical data from JAMB reveals that there are about 30 most preferred universities by students seeking admission every year. In this report, we will look at the top 10 and the number of applicants.
University of Benin (UNIBEN) tops the table with 98,975 applicants, followed by UNILORIN having 94,869. Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU) has 88,087, UNILAG 86,850, UNN 80,785, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) 69,856, ABU 59,427, Imo State University (IMSU) 53,368, University of Uyo (UNIUYO) 52,359 and University of Ibadan (UI) 50,274. This statistics implies that the above mentioned universities were consistently chosen as students’ first choice.
According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, America has 2,680 accredited universities, just as Scotland has 1,419, Wales 1,011. India, with a population of over a billion has over 177 world class standard universities. China has 1,983 institutions of higher learning as at June 2009, as disclosed by the Ministry of Education.
Thus, China with 1.4 billion people has 1,983 universities, India with 1.2 billion people has 177 universities, United States with 318 million people has 2,680 universities compared to Nigeria with about 178 million people and just 128 universities. From the aforementioned statistics, Nigeria still needs more universities and the improvement of the present ones to international standard.
Speaking with Vanguard Learning, Prof. Florence Banku Obi, Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Calaber said that capacity will determine the number of students to be admitted saying: “If we don’t have the capacity, there is no way we can admit more students.”
She noted that licensing more private universities will not solve the problem. According to her, “If you are licensing more universities, where are the lecturers? The same lecturers in federal universities are the ones taking those in private and state universities. The existing universities should be expanded with corresponding infrastructure and facilities to suit the number of students given by the NUC.”
She urged the Federal Government to expand the existing universities and get more lecturers before admitting more students.
Reacting in the same vein, the Deputy Director, Academic Centre of Distance Learning, University of Ibadan, Professor Oyesoji Aremu said that it is needless to tell universities to increase their quotas because there is no corresponding increase in terms of infrastructure. He said, “Telling universities to increase their quota means existing infrastructure would be over stressed. Universities admit the number they can genuinely and comfortably accommodate in the first year.”
Explaining further some of the factors to consider before admitting more students Aremu said that infrastructure in departments and faculties are necessary adding that the unavailability of desks in the lecture rooms should be considered. According to him, in an over- crowded classroom, teaching and learning cannot take place adding that even the lecturer will not be able to do meaningful teaching when the learners are too many.
He said “there is a benchmark for the number of students each lecturer is supposed to take. When a lecturer takes in excess of that number, he has to be paid for the excess. That would eat into the finances of the university.
“If JAMB sees that universities can take only 600,000 students per year but still rolls out forms, what happens to the others? Mind you, it didn’t start this year so the number will increase every year,. The question is, where will they go? All these learners are qualified to enter the university.
“Solution: For as many as are qualified to enter the universities, something can be done about it. There is Open and Standard Education or Distance Learning Education. For Open and Standard education, we can have students in excess of millions because it is basically a virtual university. My advice is that the Federal Government should empower universities to develop their virtual universities. For example, in University of Ibadan, we have a centre called Distance Learning Centre of the Univerity of Ibadan. Lagos also has a Distance Learning Institute, there is also the National Open University. In fact, there are seven certified distance learning centres in Nigeria. Universities that have dual mode; regular students and open distance learning programmes can have students in excess. For example; University of India in New Delhi has students in excess of 10 million. They therefore built a virtual university to take these students who are unable to get admission into regular universities.
More so, it is the same programme, exam and system.
The Ministry of Education should encourage virtual universities. There is no need for new universities, just empower universities to have virtual and distance learning centres.