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"Just scrap JAMB" - Prof. ‘Dibu Ojerinde

The Registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. ‘Dibu Ojerinde

NAVIGATING the complex university admission process in Nigeria has become more tortuous. And it is all because the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, headed by ’Dibu Ojerinde, has lost grip of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. 


The crisis worsened in July when the University of Lagos raised its cut-off mark for the second round of tests in tacit agreement with JAMB, which had pegged the cut-off mark at 180 (out of 400) for universities. JAMB also allowed others like the University of Ibadan, University of Ilorin and the Imo State University to “go higher.” The disparate marks caused confusion and ignited the raging crisis.

Feeling aggrieved and frustrated that they might not gain admission next session, the candidates and their parents staged a protest at UNILAG and called on the government to compel JAMB and UNILAG stick to the original benchmark. Last week, the Federal Government intervened, ordering all schools to abide by the 180 cut-off mark for universities and 150 for polytechnics and colleges of education. All the institutions have obeyed, but the government’s directive has not addressed the fundamental issues at stake.



In their favour, the candidates argue that it is wrong for any institution to exclude any applicant from the post-UTME solely on the basis of its own cut-off mark. They say that every applicant that meets the JAMB cut-off mark has the right to sit the post-UTME, and should not be forced to attend schools other than one of his or her choice. JAMB, according to the candidates, agreed to the higher cut-off mark in order to satisfy its policy of reassigning candidates to some “needy universities,” where those candidates did not apply to. Defending itself, JAMB said it allowed a small group of public universities to fix a higher cut-off mark because “the policy is aimed at ensuring that our universities admit only the top best as done globally.”

We disagree. If JAMB is desirous of excellence, why did it set 180 and 150 as cut-off marks when 200 is 50 per cent of 400? Why should less-than-average students be impressed into universities, centres of excellence? As for the “attractive” public universities, the real issue plaguing them is their low carrying capacity. Another dilemma is the high fees charged by private universities that make a majority of candidates to shun them, despite admission spaces there. For the second year in a row, 98 per cent of the 1,436,837 school-leavers that sat the UTME applied to federal and state-owned public schools, while only 15,000 (or two per cent), applied to 48 of the 62 private universities.

In the 2015 admissions applications, while UNILORIN recorded 107,491 candidates to come tops, UNILAG had 62,473 applications. It can admit just 9,000 candidates. But private universities like Obong University, Ntak, had 16, Southwestern University, Okun-Owa, received two, Wellspring University, Ogbaneki, had seven and Kwarafa University, Wukari, had five. The highest number of applications among private universities was the 3,042 received by Covenant University, Ota. Clearly, something is wrong here.

To save university education in Nigeria, the Federal Government needs to act expeditiously by decentralising the university admission system, and allow each university to set standards and admit its own candidates. Competition has a unique way of driving innovation and raising standards. This has been the position of this newspaper all along. As it is, JAMB has lost its relevance; it is causing confusion and has to be scrapped now. It might be a tough decision to make, but the government must quickly face up to this reality. To reduce costs in a decentralised system, like-minded universities can resolve to dissociate themselves from the UTME and organise their own separate tests as it is done in other countries. That JAMB has become anachronistic has dawned even on the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities. ASUU sees the current system as “chaotic, exploitative, costly and insensitive.”

JAMB was established by Decree (now Act) No. 2 of 1978 at a time only 13 federal universities existed. The government had reasoned that JAMB would provide opportunities for admission seekers through a three-pronged approach that devoted 45 per cent to merit, 35 per cent to catchment area and 20 per cent to educationally less-developed areas. This policy worked initially, but the advent of state-owned universities in the 1980s and private universities in the 1990s has rendered it obsolete as each state and region now boast several universities.

University education is very critical for development and every country makes admission policies to suit its peculiar needs. In the United States for example, there is no central admissions body, though there are about 4,000 universities. Each institution is at liberty to prescribe admission standards, which might require that a candidate sits for SAT or TOEFL. Candidates apply directly to the schools of their choice.

The process is similar in the United Kingdom, where applications rose from 80,003 in 1963 to 700,000 in 2010. In the UK, students apply to a maximum of five universities, but a review conducted by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service is considering limiting candidates to two schools from 2016.




To resolve the logjam, Ojerinde has just suggested the centralisation of the post-UTME. “The only way to solve that problem (admission crisis) is if the post-UTME is centrally conducted, such that the score in Lagos will be tenable in Calabar or Maiduguri or anywhere,” Ojerinde said. “If each university will be conducting its own post-UTME, there will be no end to the crisis.” This proposal is banal and is as unimaginative as the situation on the ground.

This proposal seeks to endorse the current regime of exploitation and hopelessness, which JAMB has been foisting on candidates for years. Why double the pains of admission seekers through another cumbersome, ineffective centralisation? Why would Ojerinde admit that some universities are allowed to set a higher cut-off mark in one breath, and in another, say that the post-UTME result from one university should be valid for all other universities nationwide?

Nigeria cannot afford to toy with university education any longer by allowing JAMB to remain. The knowledge industry drives today’s world. Indeed, the rot in our universities is evident in the global rankings. Therefore, the basic step to reform the system is to start with a competitive admission process. We urge the Federal Government to decentralise the process, scrap JAMB and return to the pre-1978 model in which universities selected their students. The government should enunciate a policy to immediately expand public universities in order to accommodate more students.

Source: PUNCHNG.com
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