I have followed with keen interest the controversy over the announcement of cut-off marks for Nigeria’s admission processes for the 2017/2018 session, with many commentators and the general public insisting that it is unwise, insensitive and retrogressive, to reduce the cut off mark for admissions into our tertiary institutions: 120 for universities, 100 for polytechnics and monotechnics, and a tentative 110 for Innovative Enterprise Institutions (IEIs). Whereas the complaint has been that there is a dumbing down and lowering of standards, which is of course an obvious reaction, I argue that there is a need for a better understanding of the context in which the decision was taken in the hope that this would shed some light on this controversial matter.
I write as a reporter and as a stakeholder who attended the 2017/2018 Policy Meeting on plans and modalities for the conduct of admissions into tertiary institutions in Nigeria at the Andrews Otutu Obaseki Auditorium, National Judicial Institute in Abuja, on August 22. The meeting started on Sunday, August 20, 2017. On Monday, August 21, there was a special session for admissions officers of all tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
There are 524 tertiary institutions in Nigeria (minus the IEIs) and every institution was represented on Monday and again on Tuesday, when a special policy session was held and decisions were taken at a combined session of Registrars and Vice Chancellors, Provosts and Rectors. The Obaseki Auditorium was filled up at this meeting, which was attended by over 1, 600 stakeholders in the education sector. In other words, it was a meeting of stakeholders and the decisions were decisions taken, by all tertiary institutions in Nigeria. It is therefore wrong to accuse JAMB or report that it is JAMB that is fixing cut-off marks for university admissions.
I recall that at the meeting, when we were about to go into the policy making session, the Minister of Education had to excuse himself on the ground that he had other commitments; all JAMB officials were also asked to leave the hall. The JAMB Registrar explained that he wanted the heads of tertiary institutions to be the ones to take the decisions, not JAMB, not the Minister, and he didn’t want either the Minister or his own staff in attendance so nobody would turn around to accuse JAMB or the Ministry of Education of imposing decisions on the tertiary institutions.