The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) recently announced a new tertiary admission policy wherein it pegged admission cut-off mark for those who sit for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) at 120 and 100 for universities and polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education, respectively. The new policy, expectedly, has generated huge controversy, just like the conduct of this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). The admission policy, according to reports, was arrived at, at the 2017 combined policy meeting which had in attendance the heads of the various tertiary institutions and admission officers of the institutions, among other stakeholders, where some universities chose 120 as the cut-off mark.
The lifting of the ban on conduct of post UTME examinations was also announced by the Minister of education, Adamu Adamu, at the policy meeting. JAMB, in defence of the policy, said one of the things it seeks to achieve is to stem the tide of Nigerian students going to seek tertiary education in institutions outside the country not as a result of shortage of space but because they were denied admission at home due to unrealistic cut-off marks. The board also said it has designed a Central Admissions Processing System (CAPS) to check back door admission and other unwholesome practices associated with admission, which will include a provision for candidates to track their admission. CAPS, according to JAMB, also empowers candidates to raise queries if a candidate they have better scores and other prerequisites than is admitted, which CAPS will not allow, anyway.
While the policy has received condemnation from those who see it as lowering the bar of the country’s standard of education, it should be noted that yearly, students sit for the UTME and only a fraction get admission into the tertiary institutions, even as the institutions have not been able to fill up their admission quotas on a yearly basis, as revealed by JAMB. This year for instance, about 1.6 million candidates sat for the UTME but less than half may be admitted due largely to the issue of cut-off mark. It has also been revealed that universities subvert the existing cut-off mark system by giving admission to candidates who score below the approved benchmark and later inundate JAMB with demands for regularisation of such admissions. It is a known fact that the malaise of corruption has crept into the education sector to the extent that the admission process in tertiary institutions is not usually meritorious but based on nepotism, favouritism, ethnicity, federal character and other such considerations, oftentimes denying the best candidates the opportunity. This factor in the admission process has made nonsense of the high cut-off marks often pegged by JAMB, over time.
As we see it, the new cut-off mark does not amount to lowering of standards or imposition of a cut-off mark that encourages mediocrity on universities, neither are universities and other tertiary institutions under compulsion to lower their standards. It will rather serve as the benchmark for all admissions into tertiary institutions, which now have the autonomy to determine their own cut-off marks for admission, according to their peculiarities and the quality and standard they want to be known for, while ensuring that no one with a score below 120 or 100 as the case may be, is given admission into any of the institutions. The 120 mark does not mean that every candidate who sat for the UTME and scored 120 gets admission automatically. It means candidates with the highest score will be given admission first, down to 120 as the least score for admission. What JAMB has done, in our view, is to empower the Senates of the institutions to decide their own cut-off marks, using the approved cut-off mark as a benchmark. The universities now have the freedom to decide, using the UTME and the reintroduced post-UTME as a clearing house.
It is therefore befuddling that some stakeholders who attended the policy meeting where the decision was arrived at, have now come out to kick against the decision which was, in fact, arrived at by a majority of those of them in attendance. The universities cannot play double standard by welcoming the reintroduction of the post-UTME, which formed part of the basis for the new cut-off mark and would put more money in their coffers, and turn around to condemn a decision a majority of them agreed to.