Tackling admission crisis in Nigerian universities
In a few weeks, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, will commence the 2016/2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME.
The February, 2016 Computer-Based Test, CBT, comes amid worries over post UTME admissions as universities, polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education witness a flurry of applications, which predictably, could exceed 1.5 million candidates.
Over the years, 96 per cent of candidates prefer university education whereas 1.69 per cent chose polytechnics and 1.9 per cent prefer colleges of education while other tertiary institutions take less than 2 per cent.
Due to overwhelming preference for university education, enormous pressure is put on the 141 public and private universities, prompting an admission crisis, which leaves a backlog of over 70 per cent un-admitted candidates.
As a result, universities frequently exceed admission quotas, resulting in overstretched facilities, lean infrastructure to cope with influx of students and poor quality delivery of education, ultimately.
Also, a large percentage of those unable to access admission spaces in the universities are fended off to neighbouring West African countries and other parts of the world with ready admission opportunities, resulting in huge capital flight.
As the crisis rages, successive administrations have struggled to provide a lasting solution, building more public universities and strengthening the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN, to raise its admission quota.
Part of the access-based intervention by the government is also the provision of more infrastructures to existing public universities through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund.
Following a liberalisation policy adopted by the Federal Government on establishment of private universities, more universities set up under the arrangement brought some measure of relief, but private universities are on the other hand, expensive and beyond what many candidates can afford.
Barring all well-meaning efforts to reform, expand and establish new universities, access to university education in Nigeria has remained a defiant obstacle to candidates seeking admission.
Against this backdrop, government must revisit its failed policy on cross boarder education, to allow foreign institutions set up campuses in Nigeria in partnership with public universities for citizens to obtain certificates in those institutions without having to leave the country.
Since the quest for university education is fuelled by undue emphasis on degree certificates, the adoption of a dual mode system in polytechnics and colleges of education for the award of both degrees and professional certificates remains a viable alternative.
Stakeholders must combine efforts to chat the course for a successful implementation of the dual node approach to ease the pressure off universities and boost enrolment into polytechnics and colleges of education.
Also, public universities should be obliged to pursue a deliberate policy to expand existing facilities in their campuses in partnership with government regulatory and intervention agencies such as the National Universities Commission, NUC, and the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund.
Again, universities must ensure proper management of internally generated revenues and apply them to projects that would enhance improvement on their admission profile.
Although the concept of mega universities earlier muted by some stakeholders was fiercely criticised and decried as an elitist approach to the admission crisis, the lopsided distribution of admission quotas in the system negates that argument.
Since some universities already have more admission slots than others, the idea of mega universities is worth considering as part of the pool of approaches towards tackling the admission crisis in universities.