Does poor record-keeping delay academic transcript process?

About a month ago, thousands of students in Nigeria graduated. Many of them are ready to continue their studies in their homeland or abroad.

However, administrative delays in providing academic transcripts have been crushing the dreams of many Nigerian university graduates who want to pursue tertiary education – in particular, those who want to become international students.

Universities and polytechnics admit nearly two million students each academic year, producing about 600,000 graduates in Nigeria. These graduates continually seek worldwide exposure through admission to foreign institutions due to the country’s declining educational standards and employers’ growing preference for degrees earned abroad. In addition, many of these graduates frequently look for scholarship options to help defray the cost of high-quality education.

Yet, a broken system that unnecessarily delays the processing of academic transcripts has blocked many Nigerian graduates who want to continue their education abroad from the chance to do so.

As a promising graduate of the University of Jos class of 2022, Oluwatosin Adegoke had always dreamed of furthering his education abroad to gain more knowledge and expertise. His outstanding academic record and dedication earned him a scholarship to study computer science at the prestigious James Cook University in Australia.

However, his dreams were shattered due to the bureaucracy and inefficiencies that plague Nigeria’s education system. Despite several attempts to obtain his transcript from the University of Lagos, he was unsuccessful, and the deadline for submitting the required documents for the scholarship had passed. As a result, Adegoke lost his scholarship opportunity, and his dreams of studying abroad were put on hold.

Students lose scholarships

The transcript is the comprehensive documented record that includes a graduate’s grades. It consists primarily of course units completed, exams passed and credit units earned. Unfortunately, the delay in getting it from most of the Nigerian universities has cost many of Nigeria’s graduates the chance of a fully funded scholarship opportunity to further their studies abroad.

“After I graduated in 2022, I started hunting for a scholarship, which I was able to secure. But, unfortunately, I lost it after several attempts to get my transcript at the University of Jos, because the deadline Cook University set had passed,” he said.

This setback has left Adegoke devastated, as he knows the importance of further education in his field. The failure of the Nigerian education system has cost him, not only a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but also precious time and resources. “I wonder how many other talented graduates from Nigerian universities have had their dreams cut short by the system’s inefficiencies,” he lamented.

In 2022, another young graduate, Adaobi Okonkwo, had her dreams of studying abroad crushed after graduating from Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. Despite her impressive academic record and dedication, the university refused to provide her with her transcript, citing administrative issues. “When I requested the transcript, they said I’d need to wait for them to look for the records because they are unavailable,” she said.

As a result, Okonkwo lost her scholarship opportunity and has been left wondering what her future holds.

Problems have existed for years

The problem is not new. Emmanuel Nwanyanwu graduated from Rivers State University in south-east Nigeria in 2008. He was motivated to improve his learning abilities, which made him bag the best grades in his undergraduate programme so that he might secure an international scholarship to study at one of the top-class universities abroad.

In 2011, Nwanyanwu attained a full scholarship for a masters degree to further his studies at Manchester University in the UK. However, he forfeited the opportunity when Rivers State University refused to get his transcript ready.

He did not give up and secured another scholarship opportunity to study at Cranfield University in the UK in 2012. But he lost this chance, too, because his university did not provide the transcript.

“I had to defer admission from Manchester University and Cranfield University twice in 2011 and 2012. However, I lost the opportunity because they demanded official transcripts, but I couldn’t get it,” Nwanyanwu said.

When he contacted the examination officer and the records office of the university he graduated from, they claimed not to have his records. As a result, his faculty still needed to receive his documents before they could process the transcript.

“A coursemate and I made sure we followed up with the examination officer daily until he completed it. Then, we had to wait till the next senate meeting in 2012. I gave up, but my coursemate got his transcript on the day the senate approved it because he made arrangements with the exams and records office to prepare the documents and waited for official senate approval. So, I got mine the next year after deferring one of my admissions,” he said.

More shattered dreams

Juliana Bamas was known for academic excellence during her undergraduate studies at the University of Lagos (Unilag) before graduating in 2017. She wrote her name on platinum gold with educational tutorials for students. She was recognised as the best in her class in molecular biology, which earned her a scholarship opportunity in a postgraduate programme at the prestigious British University of Nottingham barely three years after her undergraduate stint.

Bamas urgently applied to get her transcript from Unilag in 2020. She had to provide the undergraduate records within four months to secure the scholarship. Unfortunately, she lost the opportunity due to the delay in processing the document. “It’s something I don’t want to remember, as it makes me sad. I can’t believe I lost a life-changing opportunity due to Unilag’s ineptitude to provide my transcript some years after I graduated,” she said.

She also lamented that she has never secured such an opportunity since. “The problem has killed many dreams, as it kills mine, too. I heard many stories from friends who graduated from other universities but lost scholarships due to this delay.”

What causes the problems?

Dr Auwalu Halilu, a lecturer from north-west Nigeria’s Bayero University, Kano State, said that getting a transcript from any university should not be a problem if there is a high level of good record keeping.

“If universities computerised their results within the last 10 years, issuing transcripts for students who graduated several years ago would not pose as many challenges. Currently, when a student applies for a transcript, the department prints the slip and forwards it to the faculty. Subsequently, it undergoes thorough checks at various stages to ensure the accuracy of the records. It is these procedural steps that often lead to delays,” explained Halilu.

To address this issue and expedite the transcript issuance process, Halilu emphasised the need for universities to adopt comprehensive record-keeping practices.

“By implementing a computerised system for results and transcripts, universities can streamline the process. Additionally, it is essential for departments to maintain accurate records and facilitate smooth coordination between various administrative units. These measures would greatly benefit students and eliminate unnecessary delays,” Halilu concluded.

According to Peter Adamu, a lecturer at Nigeria’s north-east Kaduna State University, the unnecessary procedures followed by Nigerian universities to postpone transcripts are not used by universities in other countries. Every lecturer used to upload results for the students online at foreign universities, and all the essential academic documents could be produced through each student’s portal without any physical presence. But it does not work that way in Nigeria.

He continued that the university board meeting, known in the Nigerian educational system, involves lecturers cross-checking each student’s performance. They would then transfer the information to the faculty for another review before setting it on the table at the senate meeting. The school administration would be present for the final approval.

“I am aware of some universities in Nigeria that postpone releasing transcripts for graduates, which frequently results in scholarships being forfeited. When I intended to apply for my masters abroad, I also became a victim. I had to go above and beyond to get my transcript.

“When a student applies through academic affairs, their body would first request the applicant’s information from the department he graduated from before seeking permission to print it out and send it to the senate for final approval. This is what causes the delay. The procedures are in place because the school is concerned about students manipulating their grades in any way. Therefore, the institution must be cautious to safeguard the information they provide to students,” he said.