THE recent decision of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, to peg admission cut-off mark at 120 for universities and 100 for polytechnics and colleges of education has continued to generate ripples from stakeholders in the education sector. This is not surprising because issues bordering on university admission in Nigeria have always been highly contentious.
In the current case, JAMB has been taken to task over the suspicion that its decision was influenced by both financial and sectional considerations. But the examination body said the decision was taken after a consultative meeting with vice-chancellors and other heads of tertiary institutions. It also added thus: “While no admission will be made by any institution without prior approval of JAMB, the academic institutions are at liberty to raise their cut off marks for admission above the minimum set by JAMB”.
JAMB also justified its decision on the claim that “most of the institutions, except a few, have never filled 70 percent of their admission capacity in the last 10 years”, apart from the fact that nearly two million candidates apply for admission every year, but less than 900, 000 are admitted, leaving a huge shortfall of more than one million. There was also the claim that “30 per cent of those in higher institutions do not take the UTME or have less than the cut-off marks”.
But these explanations have not doused the general feeling that lowering the minimum requirement for admission into our tertiary institutions to this outrageous level will be the final nail on the coffin of quality education in Nigeria. Stakeholders who have called for reversal of this policy include some vice chancellors of government and private-owned universities as well as the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS.
In fact, NANS has threatened to call for the scrapping of JAMB if the examination body fails to reverse its decision.
There are those who argue that low admission cut-off marks does not automatically equate to poor quality of graduates. They point out that many admission-seekers rejected by Nigerian tertiary institutions still get admitted in schools abroad and come back to the system well-educated. That is the general drift of JAMB’s defence of the new cut-off mark.
We are gradually returning to questioning the existence of JAMB and letting the various tertiary institutions decide their admission policies and processes as done in other parts of the world.
The clamour for devolution of powers also applies to higher institutions of learning. We believe that institutions should be able, subject to local and international standards of regulation, stake their reputations and set their own policies for the admission of students.
In the meantime, we call on JAMB to eschew political considerations in its admissions policies, while more funds should be committed to the education sector to rebuild its standards across board.