FORMER Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, NUC, Professor Peter Okebukola has said that Nigerian universities deviated from the initial agreement NUC had with Vice-Chancellors in 2004 when it introduced post-UTME to screen candidates via oral interview and written essay. Just as the Deputy Director, Distance Learning Centre, University of Ibadan, UI, Professor Oyesoji Akanmi also stated that scrapping post-UTME is against the university autonomy, saying, ‘’ The development will place admission burden on the 40 federal universities.”
Though many stakeholders who spoke with Vanguard expressed joy with the scrapping of post-UTME, some others have reservations, adding that it will not address the problem of admission deficit encounter yearly.
Okebukola who was the Executive Secretary NUC when post-UTME was introduced in 2004, said that it was a tough battle fought under the leadership of Professor Chinwe Obaji as Minister of Education to get approval. While expatiating on reasons for the introduction of post-UTME in 2014, he explained that the NUC and the vice-chancellors discovered that more than ever before, they needed to admit into the universities, secondary school leavers who have at least two characteristics.
The first characteristic, he noted, is to ensure that admission seekers attain minimum cognitive competence in the relevant subjects in the discipline they wish to study. The second was to test their competence in written and oral English, critical thinking and ability to present ideas in a logical sequence befitting of undergraduates in Africa’s most-expansive and well-regarded university system. ‘’JAMB’s UTME targets only the first characteristic; while the university-level screening should measure the second,’’ he said. He, however said: ‘’We got the blessing of President Olusegun Obasanjo and the National Assembly to do the following: (a) maximum charge to candidates for the exercise should be one thousand naira, (b) candidates should be screened not with the kind of test used by JAMB but through other mechanisms. The screening, he noted was agreed upon by all vice-chancellors to be through oral interview and essay which JAMB assessment does not cover, adding: ‘’Up till about 2009, these guidelines were largely followed leading us to get very good quality candidates for our universities.’’ According to him, since 2010, both guidelines were ditched by most universities, stressing that universities were conducting the same tests as JAMB, charging at least five times the agreed-cost and not conducting oral interviews and essay screening.
The goal of the post-UTME, he explained, shifted from selection of the best candidates to using post-UTME to make money. ‘’Since universities have derailed, it makes intuitive sense to close the post-UTME shop,’’ he added. The former Scribe expressed joy in the scrapping of post-UTME, adding that it now takes the universities system back to the original model of post-UME which NUC initiated in 2004 while he was serving as Executive Secretary. Meanwhile, in his reaction, the Deputy Director, Distance Learning Centre, Prof Oyesoji Aremu said that scrapping post-UTME would not address the problem of access to the universities, but will rather place admission burden on federal universities. According to him, scrapping post-UTME would place more burden on the 40 federal universities, adding that more than 80% of candidates yearly make federal universities like University of Ibadan, University of Lagos, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ahmadu Bello University, University of Benin, and University of Nigeria, Nsuka their first choice.
He warned that if candidates are forced on the universities, it will make a mockery of the expected quality assurance which the policy of Post-UTME is all about. While lamenting the scrapping of post-UTME which he noted negates the question of university autonomy, he explained that the Ministry of Education through its agency, National University Commission regulates the universities, adding, ‘’university autonomy especially in federal Universities is a function of University Senate and each Governing Council. ‘’Thus, determination of admission policy (including Post-UTME), regulation of academic activities among other activities, are functions of Universities’ Senates and not that of the Ministry of Education,’’ he said. Prior to Post-UTME, he noted that most federal universities have been conducting another layer of assessment of candidates in form of interview and interaction. This, according to him is to ensure Quality Assurance given the fact that UTME has been compromised in terms of quality of the candidates who seek admission.
His words: ‘’The scrapping of post-UTME would also unsettle the candidates and their parents emotionally and in some, give false illusion that they can get admission with 180 Cut-off Mark, a benchmark that is practically impossible given the huge number of applicants. In proffering a solution, Aremu disclosed that the way out is for the Ministry of Education, through NUC, to call a stakeholders meeting to re-appraise the problem of access to admission. He said: ‘’University admission should be deregulated. It should be a question of quality of education provided by each University. Government should also re-evaluate JAMB with a view to making the body and its evaluation interventions much more acceptable to the end users. Open access to education through Distance Education should also be re-invigorated and less discriminatory.”