Following the announcement that the cut-off marks for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) has been reduced to 120, there has been some backlash from Nigerians and those in the educational sector. Vice-Chancellors and the Academic Staff
Union of Universities (ASUU) have spearheaded the rejection of the decision of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board to peg admission cut-off mark at 120 for universities and 100 for polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education. ASUU said the action was in tandem “with the dream of the present government to destroy public universities in the country.” Below are some quotes from some vice chancellors, ASUU and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) as obtained by The Punch
Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan(UI), Professor Idowu Olayinka, in a statement released by his Media Assistant, Mr Sunday Saanu, on Thursday, August 24, said UI stated that it would never admit any candidate that scored 120 in the UTME.
“It should worry us as patriots that candidates who scored just 30 per cent in the UTME can be admitted into some of our universities. Yet, we complain of poor quality of our graduates. You can hardly build something on nothing. "The consolation here is that since JAMB started conducting this qualifying exam in 1978, UI has never admitted any candidate who scored less than 200 marks out of the maximum 400 marks.
“This translates to a minimum of 50 per cent. This remains our position as an institution aspiring to be world-class. Reality is that only about four other universities in the country have such high standard.
"To that extent, apart from being the oldest, we are an elite university in the country at least judging by the quality of our intakes," he said. However, he also commended the decision of the FG to re-introduce the post-UTME test. Olayinka said: “It is gratifying to note that the Honourable Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, who chaired the meeting, apologised publicly for canceling the post-UTME screening last year.
“In effect, universities are now allowed to conduct the test using modalities approved by the Senate of each institution. “To be fair to the incumbent Registrar of JAMB, he was not the Registrar when the policy somersault of cancelling the post-UTME test was made last year. "As strongly canvassed by us at every opportunity, for UI, the need to admit the best admission seekers is the primary motivation for the test and not money, even though we do not pretend that you can run any university so properly called without funds.”
The Vice-Chancellor, Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ogun state, Professor Oluyemisi Obilade, on his own part said that the onus would ultimately fall on parents and employers of labour to decide “between a first-class graduate of a university which takes 120 as its cut-off mark or one that takes 180 as its cut-off mark.’’ According to her, TASUED would never go below 180. She also said that many of the VCs at the Combined Policy Meeting during which the 120 benchmark decision was made, said they would not go below 180. “But some universities chose 120 at the meeting. What the JAMB has done is to transfer power back to the Senate of universities to decide their cut-off marks.
"What I can tell you is that many public universities and even private universities will not go below 200. We were told that some universities were doing what they called ‘under the table admission’ and then come back to JAMB after four years for regularisation.
“TASUED will not go below 180, not under my watch. Even in the United States, there is what we call Ivy League universities, and there are those you can call ‘Next Level Universities.’ "There are also those that are termed community colleges. At the meeting, the outcome is that universities have been given the freedom to decide. It is not general legislation and it is not binding on everybody," she said.
Dr Deji Omole, the chairman of ASUU at the University of Ibadan, accused the present government of trying to destroy education in the country. He said: “Rather than sanctioning the identified universities that admitted over 17,000 students illegally, the JAMB registrar simply regularised illegality and lowered cut-off marks to favour the interests of the friends of government who own private universities and are hell bent on destroying public education.” Omole said it was vital for JAMB to be scrapped in order to save the nation’s education and its future.
“Where are the students that the JAMB registrar said entered universities illegally? Which universities admitted them? "If 30 per cent did not take JAMB and found their way into the university system, is that not corruption and a message that JAMB is not significant anymore? What sanction did those who did the illegal thing receive other than regularisation of illegality.
“We are watching because long before now we have said that JAMB has outlived its usefulness. Let the universities set their unique standards and those who are qualified can come in. "Scoring 120 out of 400 marks is 30 per cent. Even in those days, 40 per cent was graded as pass. But now JAMB said with F9 which is scoring 30 per cent you can be admitted. “They deliberately want to destroy education. Even for polytechnic, 100 marks is 25 per cent. It is sad. And that is where we are in Nigeria. They want to destroy public education at all costs. "This is not setting standard for education in Nigeria. It is purely lowering standards and digging grave for the future. This is why ASUU is currently on the struggle to influence the government to do the needful for education in Nigeria,” he said.
Professor Kayode Alese, the Dean of Students Affairs, Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), said that the institution would soon unveil its cut-off mark. “However, I can assure you that FUTA has never gone as low as 120. It has never happened and it will never happen. “Having spoken for the university, my personal opinion is that the 120 cut-off mark will not add value to our education system. "The Federal Government has just increased the pass mark from 40 to 45 in universities. What that means is that you must score at least 45 for you to pass any course. "We have enough candidates and yes you may try to increase access but tertiary education should be for those who have the capability.’’
Prof. Tope Ogunmodede, the Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, said the institution would not admit any candidate with 120 UTME score. “Traditionally, OAU has never admitted students who scored below 200 in the UTME. For us, we are sticking to 200. "The minimum benchmark is 120 but you can go higher than that. I expect that an institution should be able to determine the quality of its graduates because there are internal exams. What has been done is to provide a leeway for universities to decide their cut-off marks,” he explained. Meanwhile, NANS has described the reduction of the cut-off marks for admission into tertiary institutions as “a gross misplacement of priority and an exercise in futility.”
However, Prof. Friday Ndubuisi, the Vice-Chancellor of the Christopher University, Ogun state has a different view. He said the new admission benchmark would have no negative implication on the quality of education. He said: “This is not an imposition. The cut-off mark is a minimum benchmark for admission. This idea of taking the UTME every year without getting admission is worrying. "About 1.6 million candidates sat for the examination this year and about 500,000 will be admitted mostly because of the cut-off mark. "Most universities will not go below 200, but with five credits obtained in two sittings, a person should be qualified for admission. This is, however, not an imposition. Universities still get to decide on whom to admit through the post-UTME.’’