With 200 cut-off mark, no varsity has filled its quota in the last 10 years, says Oloyede

Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, JAMB Registrar.

With the minimum benchmark of 120 for admission to the universities and 100 for polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has been widely criticised by stakeholders who argued that the decision would further lower the nation’s education standard. In this interview with Head, Education Desk, Iyabo Lawal, the JAMB Registrar, Prof Ishaq Oloyede faulted critics and insisted that the decision was in the best interest of all.

The decision to lower the cut-off marks for admission to universities, polytechnics and colleges of education has met generated controversy from stakeholders, what really happened Is it true that decision on new benchmark was unilateral?
It is unfortunate that people comment about things they know little about, JAMB examination is not an achievement test; it is a ranking examination. Any candidate for admission to the university must be basically qualified with five O level subjects, it is not JAMB that qualifies them but because the universities do not have the capacity to admit all of them, we decide to rank them. What we had been doing was to ensure that nobody who scored less than 200 had a chance but this year, we are saying any candidate that scores 120 has a chance because since we have been ranking at 200, we have never filled our quota in the last 10 years. Besides, some of those who scored 200 and above do not have the O level requirements and you cannot be admitted if you don’t have five credits
Those who are talking have not even dissected the problem and they are making recommendations. Other educational agencies over the world like UKEAS in the United Kingdom also do ranking, some of them do not even conduct any examination, they only rank candidates.
The Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) is not a qualifying exam; it is a ranking examination. What that means is that you can’t admit any candidate unless he is qualified and what qualifies an individual is the O level not UTME. All those opposed to the new cut off marks, don’t they have their children in these foreign universities? Do they write the UTME there? They are unfair to the common man who has no money to send his children to study in foreign universities. It is part of the class war that the poor man must be kept under.

What we have done is a decision of all vice chancellors, provosts and rectors and those opposed to the decision cannot claim to know better than them. If you have 10 spaces and five of your children are qualified, then you look for a way of ranking them, you can use age, it does not mean that the number six child is not qualified but because he came sixth, then you take the first five.And you can decide on three male children and two female children, so the fourth male child will not say that you are unfair because there is a parameter. So, our examination is for ranking purposes. We want to rank all qualified candidates, what makes them qualified is the O’level.
There was no time in the last 10 years that we have filled 70 percent of the quota; the colleges of education and polytechnics are there doing nothing and they kept on admitting students under- the- table, and we are saying no more under -the -table deals, come and tell us what you are doing under the table and let us see it.

But 120/400 is far below pass mark…
Let me state once again that it is not the UTME that qualifies the candidate for admission, we are not imposing it on institutions to admit specific candidates. For instance, someone scores 300 and another scores 140. The person who scored 300 has four credits, and the person who had 140 has five credits, what this means is that you cannot take either of them, that is what we have been doing. 
What we are now saying is that JAMB is a clearing house, that is why people are faking our results because for them, it is a do or die affair. This is because we have created an unnecessary hurdle. Everywhere in the world, what qualifies one for admission is the O level; the same thing applies to us but because we don’t have enough space, we have set an examination to rank the candidates. There is no pass or fail with UTME; we are not saying that universities should leave a candidate with 230 and take someone with 140. 
Let me give you another example, we have never filled 50 percent of the quota for Physics in the last 10 years, not that there are no candidates who want to study Physics but because they did not meet the cut-off point. You are paying the lecturers but the classrooms are vacant and if the candidate is fortunate enough to have parents who can sponsor him to Ghana, he will go to that country with his O level and come back with the same degree. He will now be boasting to his colleagues whose parents cannot afford such foreign institutions.

But the general belief is that our institutions are oversubscribed
It is not true; there are some institutions that are oversubscribed but they are few. Tell me some universities, except for about five that have filled 70 percent of their admission capacities in the last 10 years because there is a mismatch, you ask universities to admit 60 percent of science students and 40 per cent of students who studied humanities but what the school system is producing is 70 percent humanities and 30 percent science students.

Some critics have alleged that the cut-off mark was reduced to allegedly favour private universities. How would you react to this?  
That is not correct, I have no reason to encourage private universities, but for God’s sake, what is bad in encouraging private universities? You allowed them to be established, you set up regulatory agencies for them and you abandon them.
I travelled to Uganda and discovered that 40 percent of the students in private universities in Kampala are Nigerians. I went to their classrooms and took pictures with them, they did not sit for the UTME but because their parents are comfortable, they want to oppress the children of the poor.

With the present development, do you see some public institutions adjusting their cut-off marks?
Universities have the right under the law to determine the number of candidates they want to admit. I am not afraid of controversy, I know where I am going, I have a goal. 

I want to appeal to people to be patient and reserve their comments, let us see the results. I have been on this for 40 years; I had the opportunity of being the chairman, Academic Planners of Nigeria Universities; I had the privilege of being the chairman, Committee of Vice Chancellors; I had the opportunity of coordinating the association in West Africa and was also the president of the association in Africa. They should know that I have studied the situation before coming out with this.

But with claims of inadequate facilities and obsolete infrastructure in our institutions, don’t you think the facilities will be overstretched with the present development, as more students will be offered admission?
What we have done has not increased quota, we have factored all these in before arriving at that decision. Not JAMB alone, but also the National Universities Commission (NUC) as well as the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE). We have fixed a quota based on available facilities, we are not asking the institutions to overshoot their quota; rather, we are asking them to accommodate those candidates roaming the streets to fill the quota.

At the policy meeting also, the Minister of Education announced the reintroduction of post UTME in the universities which was stopped last year, does it mean that the vices associated with the programme including extortion, cost of travelling and exorbitant fees being charged candidates by the various institutions have been fully addressed?
I don’t know about the other factors, but I’m aware that the minister last year raised the issue of extortion and pointed out that rather than candidates having to travel around to institutions of their choice, they should not travel at all. Instead, they should simply upload their credentials. The minister, by this pronouncement has restored the autonomy of the institutions though with a condition that the fees must not exceed two thousand naira.

In this article:
Ishaq OloyedeJAMB

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