THE Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) was established in 1978 to centralise and sanitise the admission process into the Nigerian universities.
Before this period, the admission of prospective students was done by each university on its own. It was individualistic, chaotic and open to abuse as each institution set its own admission requirements without recourse to any central and coordinating statutory body.
Each individual university advertised for students and sold applications forms far in excess of available places. In the process, only a few students were admitted in accordance with its limited academic resources and infrastructural facilities.
To arrest this ugly trend and restore sanity to the admission process, the Federal Government established the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board.
Over the years, JAMB has done a tremendous assignment. It has brought orderliness and respect to the university admission process in a hitherto free-for-all system. Prospective students were no longer left to the mercies of each university acting on its own without recourse to a central coordinating body.
However, 37 years since its establishment, and with the addition of monotechnics, polytechnics and colleges of education, the number of candidates seeking admission to tertiary institutions has gone through the roof.
There is a real admission crisis facing the university system. This is not the time to call for the scrapping of JAMB and a return to the pre-1978 situation that would lead to neo-exploitation of candidates and “money-power” admission process.
According to reports, more than 100,000; 60,000 and 30,000 candidates applied to the universities of Ilorin, Lagos and Ibadan respectively for the 2015/2016 session.
On the other hand, the number of candidates that applied to private universities is significantly low compared to public universities. In fact, only two and 3,000 candidates respectively applied to two particular private universities.
According to the National Universities Commission (NUC) guidelines, a university may not admit more than 5,000 students at a time in view of limited academic and physical resources.
In the case of University of Ilorin, for example, assuming 60,000 candidates scored more than its cut-off point as well as passing its post-JAMB examination, where would the remaining 55,000 candidates go? What is the guarantee that the situation would be better for them the following year?
In the same vein, what happens to the excess candidates in UI and UNILAG? It is not physically possible to admit every student that meets all the admission requirements as this would create health, safety and environmental (HSE) hazards, overcrowded lecture theatres and halls of residence and undue stress on academic facilities and lecturers.
This is why JAMB offers alternative admissions to candidates into private universities who cannot be admitted to their preferred universities.
Those calling for the scrapping of JAMB must offer realistic alternatives on how to address the huge explosion of candidates seeking admission and the imbalance in the applications where over 90% of candidates apply to government-owned institutions.
The huge disparity of applications between government-owned and private universities comes down to the difference in school fees between the two.
Students in private universities can be certain of graduating within the period stated for their courses as they are not prone to incessant strikes and closures that bedevil government institutions.
But the crux of the matter is the relatively high school fees charged by private universities that discourage students from applying to them.
The Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari should address this huge imbalance where over 75% of “admittable” students cannot attend universities because they cannot afford the fees payable in the private universities. This can lead to social, economic and political problems in the future.
As solution, the Federal and State Governments should provide grants to indigent students who attend private universities in an amount not exceeding those payable in federal universities. Alternatively, this could be in form of loans for the full fees.
This measure would assist those who were not offered admissions to government universities, to attend private universities. By doing this, the government would help such prospective students achieve their educational goals and objectives.
In addition, the NUC should assist in the development of private universities by building a relevant edifice for each of them like a library, lecture theatre or a faculty building.
These private universities are admitting students who could not otherwise be admitted in government schools. They also provide employment to Nigerians and boost the local economy of their host communities.
The Buhari Administration should ensure that there is an even spread of candidates throughout the university system, whether government or private owned. Parents are spending huge sums of money in foreign currencies to educate their wards in many foreign private universities.
This exodus is a huge drain on the foreign exchange reserves of the country which can otherwise be used to improve the country’s tertiary educational system. Worse still, the NUC cannot accredit or assess the courses of these foreign private universities or monitor their academic facilities.
At the last count, there are more than 125 universities in the country consisting of federal (40), state (40) and private (45). If JAMB is scrapped, there would be more than 125 entrance examinations by different universities all vying for students.
Universities would massively advertise for students as they seek to generate maximum revenue from this process, in spite of limited spaces; and prospective students criss-cross the country to sit for multiple examinations.
JAMB should be retained and allowed to continue its purposeful assignment. Its current leadership under Professor ’Dibu Ojerinde has taken it to tremendous heights using up to date technology, resources and a dedicated team of professional staff.
It has eliminated examination malpractice, multiple applications, nepotism and admission rackets and introduced credible admission guidelines into the university system.
The JAMB entrance examination system is of a high academic standard; it is internationally recognised and comparable to TOEFL and GMAT examinations commonly used in the United States.