The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) on Tuesday scrapped the general cut-off marks for admission into Nigeria’s tertiary institutions — for the first time in its 43-year-old history. 

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At its virtual policy meeting chaired by Adamu Adamu, the minister of education, the apex exam body said it would give institutions the freedom to set their individual minimum benchmarks for admission.

It is understood that based on the new arrangement, universities are not allowed to go below 120 while polytechnics and colleges of education are to consider 100 as the minimum for admission.

The development has continued to elicit an avalanche of different reactions. While some Nigerians applauded the move, others expressed concerns that such does not address the inherent lapses in the admission process into tertiary institutions in the country.

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NEW DIRECTIVE BUT OF WHAT RELEVANCE ON ADMISSION PROCESS? 

Before now, JAMB had been saddled with the responsibility of deciding the uniform cut-off marks for public and private tertiary institutions in the country.

In 2020, for instance, JAMB fixed 160 as the minimum cut-off mark for varsities, 120 for polytechnics, and 100 for colleges of education.

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To determine the general cut-off marks, factors such as the overall performance of candidates in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) for the given year as well as the positions of institutions in the country are usually considered by JAMB.

But the practice had always stirred intense controversies, as many institutions often disagree with the position of the board on the fixed cut-off marks.

Debates on such practice are usually premised on the different peculiarities of each institution — ranging from set standards to regional considerations — which often make a uniform cut-off mark difficult to operate.

During the policy meeting on Tuesday, for instance, Is-haq Oloyede, the board’s registrar, made reference to the lingering disagreements in having a general cut-off mark for admissions among tertiary institutions.

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“Some universities such as University of Maiduguri proposed 150, Usman Dan Fodio University Sokoto proposed 140, Pan Atlantic University proposed 210, University of Lagos 200, Lagos State University 190,” he had said.

“Covenant University 190, Bayero University Kano, 180. Institutions have now been given the liberty to decide cut-off marks, there will be no cut-off from JAMB.”

It is understood that prior to the new directive, some institutions usually disregard the admission benchmark set by JAMB if such cut-off mark falls below their set standards.

Speaking with TheCable Lifestyle, Adene Friday, a lecturer in education faculty at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), said the directive by JAMB has no impact on the country’s educational system.

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According to the lecturer, tertiary institutions in the country have always implemented their own cut-off marks after JAMB’s benchmark before giving admission to qualified candidates.

“Schools have been conducting their own cut-off marks and determining the percentage of candidates to take before now,” he told TheCable Lifestyle.

“After JAMB’s cut-off mark, schools will enact their own. So, in essence, the new directive doesn’t have any impact on the educational system.”

Also speaking, Moyosore Ajao, the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), said JAMB went too far in the past by trying to decide general cut-off marks for tertiary institutions.

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He said with factors such as merit, catchment area among others already contained in the country’s educational system, institutions should be allowed to determine their own benchmark for admitting candidates.

“Honestly, I think the cut-off marks to enter the university should be left at the discretion of the various universities because there is already a policy on the educational system in the country that talks about merit, catchment area, quota among others,” he told TheCable Lifestyle.

“Each university has the right to say this is our own admission criteria. JAMB’s responsibility is to conduct an exam and make the results available. They went a little bit too far by now determining the cut-off score by which someone can enter the university. I don’t think that is correct.

“Even at that time when they (JAMB) said the cut-off mark is 160, some universities will still insist that they are going to take 200. UNILORIN, for instance, never taken a cut-off mark less than 180. So what is the essence of making the cut-off that people will not comply with?”

Similarly, Jonas Okeke, a lecturer at UNN, said JAMB’s latest directive is a welcome development, adding that the board had opposed the decision of institutions to determine their own cut-off marks for years.

“Beside UTME, universities should have the power to decide admission because it affords them the opportunity to assess the candidates that could have passed JAMB through any means to get a higher score,” he said.

JAMB UTME

THE BIG QUESTION: IS UTME, JAMB STILL RELEVANT IN THE ADMISSION PROCESS?

For a very long time, the admission process into tertiary institutions in Nigeria has been a subject of heated debate.

This is usually due to the multiplicity of pre-admission exams that often deny several qualified candidates admission into high institutions years after their secondary education.

To successfully gain admission into a tertiary institution in Nigeria, one is expected to pass the UTME and post-UTME respectively.

But in some cases, candidates with higher scores in UTME often miss out on admission into their preferred institution of learning due to several factors such as having a low post-UTME mark.

At its latest policy meeting, for instance, JAMB revealed that 1,456 candidates who scored 300 and above in last year’s UTME did not get admission into tertiary institutions for the 2020/2021 academic session.

As a result, many Nigerians have again raised concerns over the relevance of JAMB in the admission process following the board’s new directive on general cut-off marks.

The new system, some social media users argued, raises more questions as to whether or not a two-tier pre-admission assessment into tertiary institutions assessment after WAEC is really necessary, considering such practice does not apply in several other countries.

In Ghana, for instance, admission into university only requires that applicants have the required grades in subjects relevant to their chosen programme of study.

There’s no agency empowered to conduct entrance exams into tertiary institutions like JAMB. In the United Kingdom, the situation is also the same — as no entrance exam is needed.

Reacting to the development on social media, some Nigerians said the directive further stresses the need to scrap JAMB and allow institutions to conduct their own entrance exams.

A Facebook user identified as Mega Patron wrote: “JAMB itself should also be scrapped. It is a meaningless and avoidable waste of time and scarce resources. Anybody that has completed secondary education with up to four credits relevant to his chosen course of study should just walk straight to his preferred university and be given admission to further his study.

“That is what obtains in other civilised countries of the world. JAMB is useless, unnecessary, unreasonable, illogical and a monumental fraud. It should be scrapped forthwith.”

But some education experts who spoke with TheCable Lifestyle argued that JAMB still plays a significant role in the country’s education process.

Commenting on this, Sheikh Abubakar, a lecturer at the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University (IBBU) in Niger state, said scrapping JAMB would damage the country’s educational system.

Abubakar said allowing only tertiary institutions to conduct entrance exams and determine admission cut-off marks would breed several lapses in the system.

According to the lecturer, what is needed is to review the structure, functions, and status of JAMB to ensure its efficiency.

“I think JAMB has a lot of responsibility in conducting standard exams. If you don’t have such a regulatory body to determine the performance of candidates and leave it only to the universities to organise entrance exams and determine the cut-off marks, you have sold off the educational system,” he added.

“This is because having in-house examination will cause a lot of gaps which is not good for the system. So, there’s a need for an external body to organise, supervise and monitor all activities as far as examination is concerned.

“Across the world, the education process is a continuous one. We were the same people that have JAMB and brought in post-JAMB, which means we’re trying to improve on what JAMB was doing.

“Now, we’re considering the fact that an external body shouldn’t determine cut-off marks for tertiary institutions. A time is also coming when we’re going to say we don’t even need a regulatory body at all again. That’s when we’ve reached the stage when we can confidently trust the individual institutions.

“So, for now, looking at the proliferation of universities and the way university admission, appointment among others are taking place, there’s need to seriously maintain and keep JAMB. What we need to do is look for how to review the structure, functions, and status of JAMB. It’s a continuous process.

Also speaking, Ajao said JAMB is still relevant in the Nigerian system until varsities and other tertiary institutions are given full autonomy.

“Before the coming of JAMB 1978, you need to apply to the University of Where You Want to study and they have their own kind of entrance examination that you need to sit for it and when you pass you will enter,” he said. 

“Every country has its own educational policy and admission criteria. Outside the country, they will tell you they have their own selection criteria, and then you can apply. The only advantage of that is that you as a candidate might choose to apply for two or three universities at a time and you have a chance that if you’re not been selected in one you might be selected in the other one. 

“So, I will say that JAMB is still relevant. However, there is a need to take a second look at it at this vis-à-vis various university departments. The major decision-maker in the university system is the senate and if they say that we want to take autonomy in Nigerian university of course JAMB will have to go. So for now it’s still relevant until we take such a decision.”  

On his part, Okeke said “JAMB is still very relevant because they set standard examinations for candidates seeking admission into tertiary institutions. UTME has a broader scope than that post-JAMB conducted by universities.”

CONCERNS OVER CANCELLATION OF UNIFORM CUT-OFF MARKS BY JAMB

For some Nigerians, the cancellation of the general cut-off marks by JAMB would have a negative impact on the country’s admission process.

To this school of thought, such a move would make tertiary institutions more powerful and increase cases of admission racketeering across schools in the country.

Another major concern for this school of thought is the belief that such a directive would further lower educational standards in the country.

Speaking on this, Abubakar said JAMB’s latest directive portends danger to the country’s educational system as the lack of uniformity in cut-off marks would disrupt extant standards.

The professor of geography at IBBU said while varsities should determine their own cut-off marks due to their distinct peculiarities, there should be a national minimum cut-off mark by JAMB to guide the admission process.

“It’s good to allow institutions to determine who gets admission because the various institutions have their own peculiarities. What JAMB should have done is to be able to give the minimum cut-off mark and leave the maximum for varsities because there’s a need for a standard,” he said.

“The admission process shouldn’t be left like an open market where people determine the price because before you know it, there would be ‘academic inflation’

“With the latest directive, there’s no uniformity, there’s no standard. I foresee more crisis and negative developments in the educational sector and this is how it’s going to go: every institution, particularly political ones will have people building a university for the state, LGA, private or region without adequate guiding standards.

“Then, there would be room for intake of people who originally should not be qualified to go into higher institutions. There would be very low performance in terms of output at the end of the day.

“So, it’s going to pave way for negative developments in education, backwardness in performance, poor admission process, bad graduates at the end of the day, and crisis within the university system because academic misconduct would be taking place since people that are admitted who are not qualified.”

Raising similar concerns, Lukman Adesina Azeez, a professor at the department of mass communications in UNILORIN, said JAMB’s latest directive would reduce education standards in private institutions.

“Since when JAMB had been fixing the cut-off, a lot of private universities were complaining, saying they want to take less but JAMB would disagree. Allowing universities chose their own cut-off will be a good thing for public universities, but not for the privates,” he said.

“Private universities can now decide to go as low as anything since they have fewer people applying to them and there’s no more JAMB’s benchmark limiting them.”

He added that with the removal of national cut-off marks, tertiary institutions should also scrap post-UTME.

“Having universities conduct Post-UTME has always invalidated JAMB’s UTME. It was a way of getting back that autonomy varsities lost when JAMB initially started fixing general cut-offs,” he added.

“But since varsities can now decide what UTME cut-off they would request from students, there no need for Post-UTME anymore.”



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