The Increasing Number of Private Universities in Nigeria: Between JAMB Minimum UTME Score for Admission and Quality of Education

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FOLORUNSHO MOSHOOD

The increasing number of private universities in Nigeria, from 3in 1999 to 79 in 2019, is largely attributed to meeting the rising demand for higher education. Other factors responsible for the increase are but not limited to incessant strike actions of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), moral and ethical decadence, protests and riots by students and violent clashes of cult groups in public universities. It would have been better if this rising demand for higher education is as a result of employers’ increasingly looking for quality manpower with higher academic qualifications. It is worthy to note that some founders of private universities in Nigeria are directly using the setting up of universities as a status symbol. Their main goal is to compete with their wealthy colleagues or religious organizations in the business of running universities.

Out of the 79 private universities presently in Nigeria, Oyo State alone has 7 (which is about 9%) thereby bringing the total number of universities in the state to 10. Interestingly, 5 out of the 7 private universities in Oyo State were established between 2016 and 2019. The 7 private universities in Oyo State are Ajayi Crowther University (2005), Lead City University (2005), Dominican University (2016), Kola Daisi University (2016), Precious Cornerstone University (2017), Atiba University (2017) and Dominion University (2019).  Oyo State has a Federal University and two State Universities – University of Ibadan, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology and Oyo State Technical University respectively. Now, there exists in every nook and cranny of Oyo State big billboards and leaflets or handbills of the 7 private universities advertising their products and scrambling for students, who could not make it to any of the public universities – the leftovers!

In striving hard to achieve the aim of meeting the rising demand for higher education that is already stretching the existing facilities in public universities to the limit, some private universities are fond of using JAMB minimum UTME score for admission in their leaflets as part of their requirements for admission. In fixing the minimum UTME score for admission of students into both public universities and private universities, the examination body has either consciously or unconsciously considered many factors including the Quality ofEducation (QoE) that exists in both private universities and public universities. Logically, the fixing of the minimum UTME scores is tantamount to the fixing of Standard of Education (SoE), which is the responsibility of any examination body. The fact that the minimum standard for admission into public universities is always higher than the minimum standard for admission into private universities shows the higher premium and confidence JAMB is placing on the QoE in public universities. This is usually reflected in the number of students making public universities their first choice in UTME every year. One may argue that this is so because the cost of education in public universities is cheaper than that of private universities. But if one should consider the names of public universities, their goodwill, the quality of teaching, etc, that argument may not hold water. Added to this is the ranking of universities in Nigeria, which always has public universities occupying the top 10 positions. The only private university that is usually found among the top 10 universities in Nigeria is Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State. Also, the National Universities Commission (NUC), the body that is responsible for granting approval for the establishment of all higher educational institutions offering degree programs in Nigerian universities, always puts a newly established private university in a particular state into the capable hand of the existing public university in the same state for proper mentoring.

Last year, JAMB minimum UTME scores (minimum standards) for admission into public universities and private universities were 180 and 160 respectively. This year, at the 19th Policy Meeting of JAMB held at Bola Babalakin Auditorium, Gbongan Osun State on Tuesday, 11th June 2019, JAMB approved 160 and 140 as minimum UTME scores for admission into public universities and private universities respectively. This means for this year, JAMB has reduced the standard based on low performances of students in the recent UTME. Note that JAMB allows any university that wishes to increase the minimum UTME score for admission to do so. That is why in most (if not all) public universities the minimum UTME score for admission is 200. Using the 140 minimum UTME score as a requirement for admission by any private university means that a student, who scored 35 marks out of possible 100 in all the four UTME subjects s/he sat for, could be offered admission into that private university. What a standard and system!

If the higher premium being placed on the QoE in public universities is anything to go by, it, therefore, means that JAMB is using QoE that a student would pass through in school to determine the Standard of Education (SoE). One should note that QoE is totally different from SoE. While QoE is an amalgam of everything experienced by a student as s/he passes through the school, SoE is simply an outcome of an educational process or measurable set targets of an educational process. QoE comprises great instructional, infrastructural and recreational facilities; well-motivated and well-trained teaching and non-teaching staff; conducive learning environment for research works, superb extra-curricular/vocational activities; great leadership development programs; a well-stocked library; superb laboratories; great accommodation system; effective and efficient transport system; great teacher-student relationships among others.

However, some private universities are now using the JAMB minimum UTME score (SoE) for admission as bait in luring the not-too-good students into their campuses. It is not uncommon to see such private universities producing leaflets or handbills that boldly advertise admission requirements including the minimum UTME score of 140 to the general public. In doing so, such private universities apart from announcing to unintelligent members of the public that they need more students in their schools to achieve the aim of meeting the rising demand for higher education and perhaps recouping part of the founders’ investments, they are also indirectly announcing to the intelligent ones that the level of their QoE is so low that it can accommodate the not-too-good students, who have the JAMB minimum UTME score of 140.

Folorunsho Moshood writes from Ibadan, Oyo State Nigeria, he is the Coordinator, Civil Society Action Coalition on Education For All (CSACEFA) Oyo State Chapter

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