Photograph — uniben.edu

The Joint Administration and Matriculation Board (JAMB) recently announced that it has reduced Nigeria’s admission cut-off mark for tertiary institutions to 120. The board also pegged the cut-off for polytechnics and colleges of education at 100 while that of Innovative enterprising institutes was pegged at 110.

This action comes barely two years after one Nazeer Usman Kokoshe tweeted at President Buhari to reduce the cut-off mark for the JAMB exam by five percent. The then Professor Dibu Ojerinde led administration after much “consultations” with university heads and policy makers reduced the cut-off mark by 10 percent – from 200 to 180.

However, with this recent reduction from the afore 180, comes mixed feelings among the Nigerian populace. A good majority feel that it is a drawback for education in Nigeria and a ridiculous decision. It has also sparked a debate among university stakeholders who aired their views on how discouraging the reduction can be to Nigerian students.

The Guardian reports that Prof Idowu Olayinka, Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan (UI) was perturbed as to why a candidate with 30 percent score in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) should be offered admission into any of the nation’s universities.

“It should worry us as Patriots that candidates who scored just 30 percent in UTME can be admitted into some of our universities. Yet, we complain about poor quality of our graduates. You can hardly build something on nothing…,” said Prof Olayinka.

Adding to this, former Vice Chancellor of the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Prof Shamsideen Tella expressed his dissatisfaction with this development. “It is a ridiculous decision; pass mark for examinations in the universities is not less than 40 percent, what is the motive for reducing the cut off marks? What is 120 to 400? That is very low,” he said.

“What is the objective? Is it to enhance access, if you want the institutions to take so many students, have you made facilities available and injected more funds into the sector? I think the government is further killing the system.”

However, in a bid to justify the boards stand, Prof Ishaq Oloyede, the current JAMB registrar described the boards’ decision as a recommendation which ought to provide the institutions with a benchmark and that universities could raise their cut off marks above 120 but not more than 180. He also stated that most of the institutions have never filled 70 percent of their admission capacity in the last 10 years.

“JAMB examination is not a qualifying examination. It is a ranking exam. Any candidate for admission to the university must be basically qualified with five O” Level subjects. In the past, the procedure is that anyone that scored below 200 is not qualified, but this year, we are saying a candidate that scores 120 has a chance because since we have been ranking at 200, we have never filled our quota in the last 10 years.”

“What JAMB did was a recommendation, we only determined the minimum, and whatever the various institutions determine as their admission cut-off mark is their decisions. The Senate and academic boards of universities should be allowed to determine their cut-off marks,” he said.

This notwithstanding, the facts posit that the constant fluctuations in the policies of the examination board continue to raise red flags that point towards the unstable nature of the country’s educational system.

Also, with the recent reinstatement of the Post-UTME tests, one could sufficiently say that this decision made by the examination board could be subject to further alterations in the nearest future. Hence, the question of how low the board is willing to go in order to give room for tertiary institutions to “fill 70 percent of their admission capacity” is one that our policy makers need to answer.

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