Myschoolarena conducted an opinion poll on the recent Joint Admission and Matriculations Board (JAMB) reducing the Post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination Board (UMTE) scores from 180 to 120 for Universities and 100 for Polytechnics, Monotechnics and Colleges of Education. This new minimum cut-off point for universities has received lots of criticism from parents, lecturers, civic right groups, and students.

A senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of Lagos, Sub-Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Dr Franca Attoh, bemoaned the extremely low points, stating that these scores would not encourage hard work among students. Setting these scores below 50% would further reduce the standard of education in Nigeria. She advised that there is a need to shift from Mass Education to 21st Century Activity Based Learning to achieve better results. She alleged that she is not worried as tertiary schools would set their cut off points in order to ensure that credible students get admitted.

Ugo Ezeani, an avid writer and scholar said “if the cut off is 120, it does not stop the school from selecting its choice by starting from the best/highest. This would mean that there would be hundreds of choices long before it gets to the turn of someone with a score of 120. The only reasonable explanation I can think of for this policy is that when the universities exhaust those who meet their cut off mark or a higher one, they refuse to admit students who scored below the cut off mark even if they still have space to admit more. Having said that, the question to ask is: what is the point of a cut off mark if it’s going to be set so low? What do such people (with low scores) hope to achieve in university? Is there a point sending them there? If JAMB is prepared to settle for such low scores then an equally valid (and equally ridiculous) solution would be to make the JAMB test easier so that more people can score higher. It will achieve the same thing.

Prof Njokama in the Faculty of Medicine, Lagos State University, described it as laughable and reiterated what Dr. Attoh had said. He is of the opinion that JAMB should not abdicate the responsibility of the Universities to themselves. Universities should and must be the first to decide what their cut off scores would be and not JAMB.

A parent, Mrs. Frances Ekwunife, expressed her disappointment on the new JAMB scores and wondered what they hope to achieve from this new policy. She particularly stated that this is a deliberate attempt to ruin the university system and encourage mediocrity.

An expiring undergraduate, Dennis Arinze had this to say, “although it may seem ridiculous to set such low scores, students should be on guard to study more less they are totally cut off from this year’s admission.” He is more worried that this may actually deny students admission than admitting them.

Meanwhile, Ruben Abati came out to put the records straight in his article, admonishing other stakeholders who were at the meeting to desist from criticising the policy as some of the participants in that meeting voted for this new cut off points but have since gone on a self-righteous expedition to distance themselves from it. He stated that those who cried wolf the most were the ones who compromised the admission process in 2016. These cut off scores and intending challenges were tabled, discussed, voted upon and decisions were taken. The admissions process into Nigerian tertiary institutions are always compromised; standards are violated. JAMB, therefore, decided that every institution must declare the lowest cut off point for its programmes and that every admission must be properly reported and documented, and brought to the notice of the regulator in order to enforce standards and have accurate statistics for educational planning. It is on record that some higher institutions admit all kinds of persons who do not have basic qualifications and never passed through the central admissions body. It is surprising then, that the same schools that voted for 180 in 2016, are now asking for 120, 110 and 100?

Another reason Mr. Abati stated for reducing the JAMB cut off points is that many tertiary institutions do not respect the admission quota in line with the Federal Character prescribed by the Constitution. Most universities simply admit students from their catchment areas and ignore students from other parts of the country. Therefore, every year, many qualified students from different parts of the country are left stranded. They miss the opportunity to go to university not because they are not qualified, but because they have been shut out by the politicization of education in Nigeria. To correct this mischief, JAMB has now created a second tier admissions platform called the Central Admissions Processing System (CAPS). This computerised admission process will make it more inclusive, open and interactive. It is an admissions-market where students who have been rejected by their first choices can seek alternatives, where JAMB can help rejected candidates seek other offers, and every institution can go in search of qualified candidates who may have been rejected elsewhere. This is to help increase the admissions ratio in the country, reduce under-the-table admissions, check the exodus of Nigerian students to foreign universities especially to mushroom universities, create more opportunities and ensure greater equity.

Abati went on to add that if this works, in no time, every tertiary institution will establish its own brand equity. The labour market in Nigeria will soon begin to differentiate between the students who graduated from a school that admits with 100 over 400 marks and another school whose cut off mark is as high as 250, in the same manner in which there is a marked difference in the UK between a graduate of Metropolitan University and a graduate of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. This differentiation in quality and standards is perhaps long-needed in the Nigerian education market.

He concluded by adding that JAMB’s next and biggest challenge, is to ensure that market forces do not ultimately subvert quality and standards in the tertiary education sector. It is also up to parents to determine the kind of school that they want their children to attend, and for every institution to choose between mediocrity and excellence.

It is interesting to note that with all the wows and woos on the new cut off scores, JAMB’s intentions are laudable but with everything associated with Nigeria Policies, we hope this new policy will yield its desired objectives for the benefit of tertiary institutions, students, and parents.


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