Recently, the Senate of the University of Ibadan approved the withdrawal of 408 students from the University owing to poor academic performance and failure to meet the minimum requirements to stay on in the 70-year-old premier University. Known for her insistence on quality, the University of Ibadan continues to demonstrate quality assurance in ensuring that there is adequate gate-keeping to ensure that only sound minds are admitted so that the same quality shall be released to the society after their training. While it is sad to see such massive withdrawal among their cohort, it is important to note that three-quarter of the withdrawn students were those admitted during the 2015/2016 academic session. This was the same year that the Government of Muhammadu Buhari banned the conduct of post-UTME screening by universities not based on sound empirical evidence but in the name of extorting money from the already sapped parents. The result of that ill-informed ban is the expulsion of 408 students admitted under the banner of ‘no screening’ but admit based on high JAMB scores! Imagine a candidate who scored 290 in JAMB failing to meet minimum requirements to stay in the university? This is indeed a sad tale and waste of resources but it is expected in a nation where parents negotiate soft landing and search for special centers for their wards. This is a country where WAEC questions and solutions have become negotiable and commodified in cyberspace.
Post UTME screening has proven to be a credible admission criterion in UI over the years with empirical data to back it up. The Vice Chancellor, Professor Idowu Olayinka had stated that “our decision at the University to have another level of test after JAMB examination was borne out of our experience over the years on the quality of students admitted to the University. When UI was admitting solely on JAMB scores, unimaginable discrepancies were observed in the JAMB scores of candidates and their performance in their first year. We found candidates with high JAMB scores of over 250 being asked to withdraw from the University at the end of the first year on account of very poor performance. Since the 2002/2003 session when the percentage withdrawal hit an all-time high of 12%, the percentage has been dropping, to as low as 1.9% recorded in the 2014/2015 session. The quality has also reflected in the class of students at the end of the first year. The percentage of students that were in the second class honours (upper division) category and above increased from 17.9% in the 2003/2004 session to 41.1% in the 2014/2015 session. The experience at the University of Ibadan is typical of the situation in institutions where post-UTME tests were conducted. What we have now in the University system are students who are qualified to be in Universities and who have the intelligence to withstand the rigours of academic work.” That 408 are being expelled from UI further lent credence to the credibility of “UI Model of Screening”. Possibly, the more qualified would have passed the test and gained admission rather than those with high JAMB scores having edge against those with low JAMB. A study conducted by some academic on this has been published in the Ibadan Journal of Social Sciences. In other words, policies ought to be driven by research not on political considerations or sentiments.
How does this model work? In the 2017/2018 admission, 53, 513 candidates made UI their first choice while 2,659 applied through Direct Entry mode. However, out of these, only 26, 769 candidates scored 200 and above and were invited for the Post-UTME screening. In my view, pegging scores at 200 and above is one of the measures UI take to ensure that those who have the material are eventually admitted. From the post UTME score of these 26,769, only 9,268 scored 50% and above (5,397 in Science based Courses and 3,871 in Arts and Humanities related courses). I am informed that UI does not consider candidates who score anything below 50% in Post-UTME. These 9, 268 are then be subjected to the admission criteria stipulated by the National Universities Commission (NUC) which is selecting among these ‘finalists’ based on Merit, Catchment area, and Educationally less developed States (ELDS). Thus, only 3,783 made the final admission list. But the number of those to be admitted can be increased if we have a responsive leadership that will pay greater attention to Education by voting about 20% and not the paltry 7% of the total budget that is currently allocated to Education by the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
With the apparent irresponsibility of the Nigeria ruling class in investing rightly in public education coupled with the socio-economic dungeon into which many families in Nigeria have been plunged into, there has been a growing pressure on public funded education as Nigeria public funded varsities have become many are called but very few are chosen. The geometric progression in population of Nigerian youths yearning for university education yearly is not less than 1.5million. The 2016 available data on JAMB website indicated that a total of 1,099, 124 applicants battled to enter Federal Universities out of which University of Ilorin alone had 103, 238 and UI had 59, 176 while UNILAG had 60, 659. Applicants for state varsities were 434, 959, Private varsities 9,656, Polytechnics (17,854), Colleges of Education (17,673) while Innovative enterprise Institutes had 31 applicants. The foregoing shows the flow direction of applicants influenced mostly by affordability and then, quality and because of limited space, entering public varsities have become the battle of the fittest. While parents manage to send their wards to private nursery and primary schools, about 90% of them cannot foot-the-bill of private varsity fees hence the recourse to publicly funded varsities now operating under excruciating conditions. For instance, if money is made available to UI, it can employ more staff, improve infrastructure including the dilapidated Hostels. But how do I tell a Minister of Education who promised to declare emergency in Education in April but seems not to know we are in the fifth month (May) that UI needs a special funding and attention?. With adequate funding no fees will be charged for Post-UTME screening. Let those abusing the youths of being idle fund education so as to increase access and get them engaged. As evidenced from the UI model of post-UTME, education policies must be based on empirical data.
Written by Dr Oludayo Tade, a sociologist