UTME Cut-off Marks: Monitoring Admission Processes, Dropping Education Standard

Stakeholders Differ on New UTME Cut-off Marks

New UTME Cut-off Marks, Blessing or Curse to Higher Education?

Following the announcement of new cut-off points by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board for higher institutions, which generated uproar in the country, some experts are calling for the reversal of the policy, just as the board explained the rationale behind the new minimum scores for admission into higher institutions. Funmi Ogundare reports

The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) last week released new cut-off marks for the 2017/2018 academic session, pegging universities at 120, polytechnics and colleges of education at 100, while innovative enterprising institutes was pegged at 110. The board however said institutions are allowed to raise their cut-off marks above its stipulation.

These decision was taken at a combined policy meeting in Abuja, on admissions into universities, polytechnics and other higher institutions in the country, where stakeholders, including vice-chancellors, rectors and provosts of higher institutions agreed that admission should close on October 15 and December 15, 2017 for first and second choice universities respectively.

The meeting was also an opportunity for the board to announce that it has lifted the ban on post Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (post-UTME).

The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu had described as a mistake the federal government’s ban on tests conducted by universities after the UTME, saying that it was banned because it had become an avenue for corruption.

The JAMB Registrar, Professor Is-haq Oloyede, said universities should not go below the minimum 120 cut-off point adopted by the meeting for admissions and called for the adoption of flexible cut-off marks for admission processes by higher institutions in the country.

“What JAMB has done is to recommend; we will only determine the minimum, whatever you determine as your admission cut-off mark is your decision. The senate and academic boards of universities should be allowed to determine their cut-off marks.”

The registrar said the board discovered over 17,160 illegally admitted students by higher institutions and that the body had regularised some of them. “30 per cent of those in higher institutions do not take JAMB or have less than the cut-off marks.

In a swift reaction, some Nigerians have expressed worry about the decision, saying that it was taken without due consideration for its implication on the quality of education in the country’s tertiary institutions, while some said it would further lead to a decline in the standard of education.

A parent who prefers anonymity said, “so the folks who will become teachers in future can gain admission to higher institution by merely scoring 25 per cent in the examination; 100 out of 400 marks?

“The minimum marks for admission dropped from 200 to 150 and now 100. Is 50 in view? The irony is that more people are now passing WAEC, so why will more people pass WAEC but marks to get into the universities are reducing? Is there any bottom again? How low can we get?”

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) also condemned the new cut-off marks announced by the board, saying that it lowers to outrageous levels the minimum requirement for admission into universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, while demanding an urgent reversal of the policy.

The National Coordinator and Secretary, Mr. Hassan Taiwo and Ibukun Omole in a statement noted that every year, nearly two million candidates apply for admission, but less than 500,000 are admitted leaving a huge shortfall.

“Before now, the popular belief was that the reason for this situation was because there are very few tertiary institutions available for the increasing number of admission seekers. The new twist added to this debate by the JAMB registrar only further underlines the monumental crises afflicting public education and the emergency the situation has already become.

“As a result of the collapse of quality education at primary and secondary school levels over the years occasioned by poor funding and the emergence of private unregulated and usually below-standards private schools, the quality of candidates for admissions has progressively worsened. This is reflected in the annual average performance in qualifying examinations like WASSCE which shows that increasingly fewer numbers of products of secondary schools are able to make credits in five subjects.

“This collapse of quality education at secondary school level is no doubt the outcome of the policy of underfunding and education privatization pursued by successive governments over the last three decades which saw a boom in establishment of private schools many without any real facility nor quality teachers; a variety of which is beginning to manifest at the tertiary levels today.”

They argued that the problem will not be solved by artificially lowering the cut-off marks, adding that JAMB is effectively preparing the ground for another crisis in the medium and long-term.

“More so, if the quality of education continues to worsen as it definitely would if government fails to step in with more funding, it is only a matter of time before candidates are unable to make 120 cut-off marks. If this happens, will JAMB lower it to 50?

The Spokesperson of the board, Dr. Fabian Benjamin told THISDAY in a telephone conversation that the cut-off point was not decided by the board alone as insinuated by the public, adding that it is a decision of all stakeholders that there should be a minimum requirement.

According to him, “what that means is that whatever the situation is, even if you don’t have candidate at all, we would prefer you close down your institution than going lower than 120. I want Nigerians to understand one thing that never in the history of cut-off points have we ever adhered strictly to it. We are trying to ensure that we adhered strictly to cut-off points now, even the 180 cut-off that Nigerians complained about that we are lowering the standard, we have never adhered strictly to it.”

He disclosed that most times the board usually receives entries from an average of about 1,000 candidates who were admitted through the back door applying for regularisation; a term used for late admission, adding that some of them have never written UTME and they still graduated from different institutions.

“We did a study and we discovered that it was as a result of the stringent conditions that we usually put in place that were imposed on these institutions. Nigerians will always appreciate that we say one thing and see different things happening.

“What we resolved at the policy meeting is that this time around, we want to monitor admission process and whatever is agreed must be followed strictly, and because of that we emphasised on what will be a realistic minimum cut-off point for every institution.

“Before now, when the cut-off point was 180, some institutions were admitting people who didn’t write UTME. We have an institution that came for regularisation of 2,000 candidates that it admitted within a period of three years and when we looked at that list, we discovered that only four out of the 2,000 met the minimum requirement of 180.

“What that means is that if we had followed strictly, that you must admit only candidates that meet this cut-off point, that institution wouldn’t have admitted them. What we are saying now is to allow institutions decide their cut-off points,” Benjamin stressed.

The spokesperson said so far the board has received cut-off points sent in by various institutions in the country, adding that most of them have taken 180 or 200.

“We are not saying that once somebody gets 120, you must admit him. No. Let the university admit candidates based on their peculiarity. There are universities that will not admit anything less than 200. Ado Bayero University for instance said it clearly that apart from agricultural courses, it will not admit anything below 180. For all other courses, you must have 200 and above and there are so many institutions like that.

“One institution cannot determine the cut-off point of another institution. Let them determine their own cut-off points and at the end of the day when they are not doing well, the time will come when people will say that their standards are low, that is the way to go instead of trying to impose a generally universal standard that is not there. Our observation should not be the yardstick to determine the standard of education in Nigeria.”

On the reintroduction of post-UTME, he said, “it is a ministerial directive and we are not opposed to it. Our concern has always being that whatever that will be done to improve education in Nigeria is welcomed and I know that for the ministry to go with that, it must have reviewed the decision of last year and discovered that there are loopholes that needed to be covered. What the minister also said is that it should not be an avenue to exploit the candidates.”

On the cut-off marks, THISDAY checks revealed that while some institutions have already started implementing it, the senate of some institutions are planning to meet to fix cut-off points for each programme.

In Caleb University, Imota, Lagos, the Spokesperson, Mr. Elvis Otobo confirmed that the senate will meet this week to fix cut-off marks according to each programme. “Caleb stood by JAMB when it was 180, it will still stand by it now that it is 120 knowing fully well that cut-off marks for programmes defer from one to another.”

The Director of Media, Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH), Dr. Charles Oni said his institution is yet to do anything about it.

The Spokesperson of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, Mr. Niyi Oduwole said though his institution pegs admission at 180, the vice-chancellor and the registrar who attended the meeting in Abuja would present the report to the senate of the university to determine the cut-off point in view of the recent development.

On the reintroduction of the post-UTME exercise, he said it is a welcome development. “We will be able to have an idea of the candidates we are admitting irrespective of their score, it will also give us the opportunity to have access to them without necessarily going against JAMB’s directive.”

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