It has become a common occurrence in Nigeria to see many young, talented youths finding it hard to secure admission into their preferred choice of course in higher institutions. It is difficult in Nigeria to secure admission to study in the university, and only about one in four applicants eventually do. Moreover, the government’s policy on tertiary school admission is also not helping matters.
In 1978, the Federal Military Government established the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to be Nigeria’s regulatory organization to oversee the admission of students into Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges. Currently, admission is conducted uniformly, and aspiring students can only apply to two universities, one polytechnic, and one college, limiting their entire admission opportunities in the year to only 4 institutions. This is very poor compared to advanced countries such as the U.S where a candidate can apply directly to as many schools as possible, and in fact, some exceptionally talented applicants have been able to secure admission into all ivy league schools.
There are two fundamental problems with the current setup of JAMB that makes it difficult for many of the aspiring students to find admission.
Firstly, this structure assumes that every student is interested in all the different types of higher institution – Colleges, Universities and Polytechnics. Therefore, it mandates them to choose at least one school in each of the 3 categories. It also suggests that the University is the most important, followed by the polytechnic and that the College in the way it arranges the options. It is necessary for JAMB to recognize that not all students are interested in the same type of institution, and even if they are to some extent, they do not all possess the required qualifications or skill set for admission. The different institutions are created to train different professions and to different depts. Therefore, none of these types of institutions should be presented as being more important than the others.
Secondly, and more unfortunately, this structure limits the number of institutions a candidate can apply to, to only four in a whole year. This means that a candidate who wants to go to a polytechnic can only apply to one. This is a huge barrier for these candidates. In many countries, individuals seeking admission can apply (directly) to as many schools as they wish. This increases their chances of securing admission. In 2017, according to Punch, 1,840,225 candidates applied for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted by JAMB but at the end of the admission process, only 550,357 were able to secure admission. This represents just 29.9 per cent of the applicants.
While some institutions (mostly federal and state universities) which are cheaper, have much more applicants than they are capable of admitting, many institution, especially private institutions get much fewer applicants than they can admit. This wouldn’t be the case if the options of candidates were not limited by JAMB.
Wouldn’t it then be better if individual higher institutions conduct their entrance examination based on their own standards and uniqueness while the JAMB exists as a regulatory body, ensuring that the schools conform to laid down rules and follow due process? It is quite dazzling that many of our institutions still conduct a post-JAMB exam before they select those who finally get admitted. This berates the very function of the JAMB and validates the notion that it would be better and less burdensome for applicants if individual institutions conducted their entry examinations.
JAMB appears to have overstayed its existence in its current structure and obviously needs to be reformed for more opportunities to be created for admission seekers. The institution is also unreliable as it has been in the limelight for several corruption scandals in recent times. In just one year, with new leadership, JAMB’s remittance to the Federal Government grew by over 100 times to about N7.8bn and cases of mismanagement and embezzlement are currently being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
As admission seekers write the 2018 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), it is important to note that they are fighting against several odds including unconducive environment and limited opportunities, challenges which are worsened by the very existence and current structure of JAMB itself.
Written by Stephen Oyedemi