NIGERIA: Controversy over university entrance system

University teachers and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) are once again at loggerheads over Nigeria's reformed higher education admission policy. The board, which operates a competitive national entrance examination, is unhappy about universities being allowed to conduct their own admission exams - and has accused some of using the tests to make money.

Three years ago the Committee of Vice-Chancellors in Nigerian Universities, supported by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, pressured the Nigerian government to scrap the university entrance examination conducted by the board.

The examination was put in place in 1978 by Nigeria's military junta with a view to regulating and limiting the number of qualified candidates into universities. But the board was consistently accused by vice-chancellors and the academic union of mismanaging the process, leading to the admission of weak candidates at the expense of brilliant students.

The government reacted by adopting a middle-of-the-road solution: JAMB continues to conduct the national examination and each university is allowed to organise its own screening tests for school-leavers who sail through the JAMB exam.

The government decision is yet to be accepted by Professor Dibu Ojerinde, Executive Secretary of JAMB, who is calling for rejection of screening tests organised by universities. But university lecturers disagree, and are hostile to the return of the old admission policy.

Addressing the annual meeting of admission officers at Nigerian universities, Dibu Ojerinde described the post-university matriculation screen test (Post-UME) conducted by universities as "unnecessary". He added: "We have received reports that some universities have turned Post-UME into a money-making venture. This is morally wrong."

The JAMB boss warned that he would reject the admission list of any university breaching the federal government's admissions policy. He was particularly disappointed by moves undertaken by some universities to undermine the integrity of his organisation.

"All institutions are expected to indicate how they intend to combine JAMB scores with Post-UME screening test scores for placement purposes. It is unacceptable for any institution to completely ignore JAMB scores," he warned. Dibu Ojerinde was, however, full of praise for some state universities who have written to his organisation saying they are not interested in Post-UME screening tests and will rely on the JAMB scores.

His comments evoked hostile reactions from university teachers. Christy Okon, of the University of Calabar, described Dibu Ojerinde's rejection of Post-UME tests as unfortunate: "These tests have become necessary because over the years JAMB scores, in broad terms, do not reflect the intellectual ability of candidates given admission. There is a credibility crisis in the entire admission process organised by JAMB."

Many university teachers recalled that before JAMB came into existence, universities each conducted their own entrance examinations - and that Nigeria's military junta had usurped university autonomy by imposing a centralised admission policy on all institutions. Kemute Monday, of Niger Delta University, said universities had the expertise needed to conduct teaching and research at all levels and should have the autonomy to select their own students.

Ahmed Bature, of the University of Maiduguri, complained that civil servants given the authority to organise the national entrance examinations had used university teachers to set questions and mark scripts - but excluded academics from the crucial exercise of selecting candidates.

Some university teachers believe there is no need at all for a centralised admission board like JAMB, and have pointed out that many university candidates who score very high marks in the JAMB exam perform poorly in university screening tests. They argue that the federal and state governments should rather put in place guidelines on admission policy, and that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors should be mandated as a watchdog to ensure that universities conform with the guidelines.

The Nigerian media have also entered the controversy. In an editorial the daily newspaper Punch suggested that JAMB be scrapped. It argued, first, that the deregulation of higher education through licensing of private universities demanded a corresponding autonomy in the admission process.

Second, centralised admission had no place in a system where the ownership and missions of universities had become diversified. Third, JAMB had only been relevant when the federal government owned and controlled all the universities. Punch concluded that "the central exam structure should therefore give way to a new system under which every university is allowed to set its own standard of admission".

An official of the National Universities Commission, who did not want to be named, said it was unlikely that the government would scrap JAMB, at least for now. "However, if universities are transparent about the Post-UME screening tests, they may be given more autonomy to select their candidates. Time will tell."


i am presently not in school due to this post jamb stuff and i am really fed up with the whole thing please i need the government to do something about it.

Michael Abozos

I will be happy if the Government does something about the screening test - stop it! In some universities, some lecturers are using the test for a source of personal income. Some candidates may not take the test but are the first people to be admitted, depending on the amount of money paid to lecturers, while some brilliant candidates will not be admitted because they did not pay a bribe.

Eze Tochukwu

The post-university matriculation screen test (Post-UME) should be stopped completely, because lecturers and workers in the universities use it as a means of making money or helping their unqualified relations to gain admission because they failed to pass the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, thereby denying the qualified ones admission. I am a victim of this: I scored 217 in JAMB and 270 in Post-UME in one of the Nigerian universities in the past last year, but no admission yet. The federal government should do something to save us, the poor masses from the menace of screening test.

Jospeh Edeani