The recent lowering of cut-off marks for admission into Nigerian tertiary institutions by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has been received with mixed feelings by university lecturers in the South-South. While majority of them described the new decision as counter-productive and dangerous, others see it a welcome development and being inclusive.
The university teachers expressed their feelings on the new Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) benchmark in a survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in the zone. Some respondents said that if JAMB continued on the trajectory of lowering the cut-off marks, Nigeria’s education standards would continue to be eroded.
On 21 July, JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede announced 140 as the new cut-off marks for universities, 120 for polytechnics and 100 for colleges of education.
A University of Benin lecturer, Prof. Monday Omoregie described the 140 cut-off mark for university admission as ridiculous, and a signal of the decline in the quality of education in the country. He said that reducing the minimum score from 200 to 180 and now to 140 by stakeholders, particularly JAMB, was counter-productive.
He said no society grows beyond its level of education and that the reduction was an indication that the system was going down.
He further said: “The cut-off mark is usually based on the level of success. So to come down from 200 to 180 and to 140 is not good at all. What a union like the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been crying for is that government should invest massively in the education in our country. There can be no substitute for that. That is how I look at it”.
Another lecturer at Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Prof. Monday Igbafen said that universities should be allowed to set their own cut-off marks without JAMB. The former ASUU chairman in the university said: “I think we are going to that side now where JAMB cannot insist on what should be the cut-off marks for various universities.
“It should allow universities not even through the UTME, but their own internal examinations to admit qualified students into their systems. The way it is now, some of us are not surprised that JAMB is summersaulting on daily basis. There is nothing that can come out of a system that does not have regard for merit”.
According to him, the new minimum score is a confirmation that JAMB is really out to aid the decline of quality of education in the country.
On his part, a senior lecturer at the University of Calabar, Dr Paul Bukie said development would lower the academic standard in the country. He said that in Calabar, the reduction was capable of producing more unserious and unprepared candidates seeking admission, lamenting that policy would make students not to see education as competitive.
But, another lecturer in the same institution, Mr Jerry Etta said that the reduction was in order and was based on the low performance of candidates in the last UTME.
He further said: “If the performance by the candidates were to be high, the cut-off marks would have been high as well. More so, the low cut-off marks is an inclusive idea and to ensure increase in school enrollment. The fact is, once the candidate has the required West African Examination Council or National Examination Council requirements of 5 credits, the candidate should be admitted”.
University of Port Harcourt’s Dr Williams Wodi urged JAMB to reverse the 140 cut-off mark for universities, as the new situation marks signify danger to the education sector.
According to him, the new benchmarks for admission into tertiary institutions was done to favour a particular section of the country without recourse to its adverse effect on education.
“The past tradition was that JAMB usually used the highest scores to set the lowest cut-off marks. So, it is really surprising that JAMB set 2022 cut-off marks as low as 140 for universities; 120 for polytechnics and 100 for colleges of education. This shows that JAMB wants to accommodate people from some sections of the country that didn’t perform well in their UTME so that they can be admitted”, he said.
Wodi said although JAMB may have good intentions to lower the cut-off marks, education should not be run on the principle of promoting national cohesion.
“It is unfortunate that university education has come to such a level that those who are not qualified are being accommodated to create a sense of federal character. The new cut-off marks should be reversed immediately as it will further worsen the standard of education in this country”, he added.
A Chemistry lecturer at the Delta State University, Abraka, Mr Maxwell Momah said that lowering the benchmark is a good way to encourage students to go to school. He, however, cautioned that the standard of education should not be compromised.
“Though it is a means of generating revenue for schools, the basic requirements should not be compromised. It is important that the admission benchmark is regulated so that candidates that are offered admission will be serious and ready for the journey of life in institutions of higher learning”, he said.
For the Dean of the Faculty of Education, University of Uyo, Prof. Ntiaobong Ekong, reducing UTME cut-off marks would reduce the quality of intakes into Nigerian universities.
He said that the Federal Government should design vocational programmes that would accommodate people who could not meet the standard requirements for admission.
“University education is not for everybody. There is no way you can accommodate everybody but you can design programmes to support those who cannot cope”, he said
Also for a lecturer at Heritage University, Uyo, Dr Mike Effiong, reduction of UTME cut-off marks would lead to academic laziness. He said that the decision had defeated the spirit of healthy competition which is a hallmark of scholarship.
“Learning is progressive; it is never retrogressive. The implication of the decision is that we can’t aspire higher”, he said.
On his part, a lecturer with the Federal University Otuoke, Bayelsa, Dr Amaebi Kobouwei said continual lowering of cut-off marks for admission would lead to poor academic performance in tertiary institutions. He said the UTME served as a tool to assess the preparedness of candidates for tertiary education.
He noted that if the cut-off marks continued to reduce, the quality of undergraduates admitted to Nigerian tertiary institutions would be severely compromised.
Also, a Director with Ministry of Education in Bayelsa, Mr Endurance Osain said the UTME was a tool for assesing candidates’ preparedness to study further.
According to him, if the UTME cut-off marks continue to decrease, it would reduce the quality of education in institutions of higher in Nigeria.