Abysmally low student enrolment into private universities in the country has been identified as the major reason the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) recently lowered the minimum cut-off mark for Nigerian universities in the 2017/2018 academic session to 120.
According to data released to THISDAY by the spokesperson of JAMB, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, most private universities already had their minimum cut-off marks set at 120, even before the decision by the board and other stakeholders involved in tertiary education (including private and public polytechnics and colleges of education) nationwide.
JAMB released the data following the outcry by several Nigerians and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) that it was lowering standards in the tertiary education sector by setting 120 as the minimum entry mark for admission into schools of higher learning, which represents 30 per cent of the total score of 400.
A review of the information provided by JAMB showed that of the 293 tertiary institutions in the country, only five universities – University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), University of Ibadan (UI), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, University of Lagos (Unilag) and University of Benin (Uniben) – pegged their minimum cut-off marks at 200 (50 per cent out of a total score of 400), while only the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, among the entire tertiary institutions set 190 (47.5 per cent) as its cut-off mark.
Also, the data showed that 27 other universities – private and public – pegged their minimum cut-off marks at 180 (45 per cent); 22 private universities fixed their minimum entry marks at 120, while one has 110 (27.5 per cent) as its cut-off mark.
For instance, most private universities which included Achievers University, Owo, Ondo State; Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State; Caled University, Enugu; Caritas University, Enugu; Fountain University, Oshogbo; Novena University, Delta State; Renaissance University, Enugu; and South-western University, Ogun State, already had 120 as their cut-off mark, respectively.
Others with the same cut-off mark are the Samuel Adegboyega University; Wellspring University, Edo State; Summit University, Kwara; Edwin Clark University, Delta State; Kings University, Osun State; Arthur Jarvis University, Cross River State; Clifford University, Abia State; and Coal City University, Enugu.
Interestingly, in order to attract students, one of the private universities –Tansian University – even lowered its minimum score to 110 – below what was fixed by JAMB.
The reason the private universities selected such low cut-off marks, according to Benjamin, was to increase student enrolment in their schools.
“Most students prefer to apply to public universities and that is why they have issues with enrolment.
“One hundred and twenty is not the minimum cut-off mark across board. But it is the one determined by certain universities. A lot of the institutions that took 120 as their cut-off mark are private universities,” Benjamin explained.
However, a source in the National Universities Commission (NUC) further disclosed that the reason a lot of private universities had lowered their entry-level scores was driven by profit.
“As it stands, very few students seek admission into these private universities because of the low quality of the teaching faculties, lack of infrastructure and amenities, and poor research track records.
“So they are lowering standards to attract more students, and of course the overriding reason is the profit motive,” the source volunteered.
However, the JAMB data also showed that a few private universities, including Afe Babalola University, Covenant University, Pan-Atlantic University, Veritas University, Ritman University, and Oduduwa University, still maintained a higher minimum score of 180, representing 45 per cent of the total score of 400.
But older federal universities such as Unilag, Uniben, OAU and UNN insisted on 200 as their minimum cut-off mark.
Surprisingly, University of Ilorin (Unilorin), which several students select as their first choice, has a cut-off mark of 180, while no information was provided by JAMB on what the cut-off mark for Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, the oldest and once the foremost tertiary institution in Northern Nigeria would be.
Among the state universities, LASU has the highest minimum score of 190 as its cut-off mark, which several of the federal and state universities set at between 150 and 180.
Furthermore, data on the 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) applications also made available by the JAMB spokesman revealed that the number of students that selected private universities was significantly lower than those that selected federal and state universities.
The data showed that of the 1,718,365 that wrote the UTME in 2017, less than one per cent (0.69%) applied for admission into private universities.
In fact, the combined figure of those that applied for private universities, private polytechnics, private colleges of education as well as private innovative enterprise initiatives was still less than one per cent (0.8 per cent) of the total amount of those that wrote UTME in 2017 for tertiary institutions nationwide.
Conversely, applications into public universities (federal and state) stood at 96 per cent.
A breakdown of this showed that while applications into federal universities was 70.5 per cent (1,212,818), that of state universities was put at 25 per cent (442,461).
“This showed that Nigerian students and their parents still have more confidence in the public university system,” Benjamin explained.
Some of the reasons include quality of the teaching faculties, facilities, and research, as well as affordability.
The data also provided by Benjamin put the total number of students that applied for regularisation as of August 28, 2017 at 49,426.
Regularisation means students that were not admitted through JAMB, but through remedial and diploma programmes in the respective institutions.
Auchi Polytechnic, with 3,060 had the highest number of applicants seeking regularisation, Kogi State Polytechnic, had 970 of such cases and Kwara State Polytechnic, 940.
Most of the universities had fewer of such cases.
The JAMB spokesman explained that the regularisation list is updated regularly as more applications come in.
The data by JAMB further revealed that Unilorin was the university of first choice in 2017, as it had the highest number of students that applied for it in the UTME with 104,038 applications.
This represented nine per cent of the 1,212,818 UTME applications into Nigerian federal universities in 2017.
Benjamin said students seeking admission into universities considered academic stability, popularity, affordability, available facilities and quality of lecturers as part of their checklist before making choices in their applications.
Unilorin was closely followed by ABU, Zaria, with 89,688 applications, Uniben with 85,486 applications, UNN with 79,073 and Unilag with 78,899, in that order.
Among the state universities, LASU had the highest number of applications with 36,119, followed by Kaduna State University – 28,914, and Delta State University – 28,672.
Among private universities, Covenant University, with 2,438 had the highest number of applications; it was closely followed by Babcock University – 1,599 and Afe Babalola University – 1,455.
NANS Dismisses JAMB’s Claims
But even as JAMB churned out data to justify the low cut-off marks selected by several tertiary institutions, NANS Wednesday called on the board to stop what it described as baseless and fruitless efforts to justify a very unpopular policy, adding that Nigerian students had vowed to vehemently resist it.
While reacting to a statement by Benjamin on Monday, the NANS President, Mr. Chinonso Obasi, said that JAMB’s claim that the downward review of the cut-off mark was to stop the quest for foreign education, was unacceptable.
Describing the board’s excuses and explanations as “ridiculous”, Obasi stated that evidence had shown that the worst students in Nigeria usually turn out to be the best students abroad because of the enabling educational policies, teaching facilities, quality of teachers and consistency in study time.
According to him, “Students’ ability to learn and come out with outstanding performances are a function of the enabling environment that is deliberately created by responsible and responsive policies like what obtains abroad and not retroactive and retrogressive policies like what JAMB is trying to push.”
Obasi stated that only the children of the rich school abroad, and so JAMB was insinuating that the children of the rich are brainless and cannot compete with the children of the poor who patronise local tertiary institutions.
The NANS president called on JAMB to work with stakeholders to explore and find lasting solutions to the challenges facing the Nigerian education sector that would facilitate effective and efficient learning rather than embarking on an inglorious exercise of reviewing the cut-off mark.
He insisted that at a time the nation should be thinking of improving the prospects of competitive learning, in line with the dictates of contemporary times, JAMB was looking at lowering standards to encourage indolence and ineptitude.
“JAMB’s position is certainly not in the interest of the growth of education in the country and the future of young people in the country,” he said.
Obasi also regretted the recent unfortunate fire incident that occurred at the female hostel of the Plateau State Polytechnic, Jos campus, and condole with the students and management of the institution.
However, Benjamin explained to THISDAY that his statement on Monday on Nigerian students seeking university education overseas was in reference to higher institutions in other African and sometimes Asian countries, where some of the tertiary institutions of choice are far below Nigerian and globally accepted education standards.
• For table on tertiary institutions seeking regularisation of the students, click below to download