In continuation with my validation of the place of marketing if the federal government eventually scraps the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), currently being conducted by the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB), as recommended by the Oronsaye Committee (on the rationalisation and restructuring of federal government’s commissions and agencies), these issues to justify my standpoint that government should ensure this year’s UTME becomes the last should be taken into reckoning: Tools of promoting university education; competition for branding, raised standard of universities; benefits to students as consumers; and place of JAMB after scrapping UTME. Restriction of candidates’ choice has been highlighted earlier.
As stated in the preceding piece, the tag “university” should be viewed as representative of all Nigerian tertiary educational institutions. Furthermore, related personal incidents are recalled here to buttress my standpoint.
Tools of promoting university education
After more than three decades, an impression of Princeton University, New Jersey, USA, still remains among members of my family. This stemmed from its imposing information package to prospective students sent to Philip, my now late older sibling, as succor after feeling devastated for being rejected as a fighter pilot in the Nigerian Air Force, despite his highly impressive entry academic qualification. Even where years later he ended up studying at the State University of New York at New Paltz, New York State in consonance with my (also late) father’s view that it was obviously a pipe dream for someone from his own part of the country to become an Air Force pilot barely few years after the civil war; coupled with the high fees at Princeton being a hindrance considering younger ‘sponsorship desiring’ siblings (including yours truly) who would also itch for tertiary education later. What still stands out about PrincetonUniversity, even as I write this piece, is what the introductory package my brother received contained – Aside forms, it included alluring write-ups and glossy coloured pictorial brochures, which made aspiring students desire not to study elsewhere but at Princeton.
Even where presently the concept of sending fascinating information materials, in hard copy format, seems to have waned with the advent of the internet and its associated web sites, how many Nigerian universities have web sites, talk less of materials designed for the web aimed at enticing prospective students? In comparative terms between web sites of typical foreign institutions and ours (those that even have sites), the difference is quite clear.
These foreign based web sites have navigation components such as:
At a glance; vision; visitor information; president’s welcome; staff directory; virtual tour of campus; admission and registration; search courses; programme catalog; check list for financial aid; work study; tuition and fees; publications; events calendar, etc. Several of these sites often make e-recruiting (electronic recruiting) quite convenient.
FaceBook is acclaimed as the most prevalent social media tool in higher education. Links to this social networking site (quite appropriate for reaching the relevant target market for university education) by the few Nigerian institutions that appreciate promotion via the web, seems a taboo. I am aware that through FaceBook ‘virtual tours’ showing off campuses can be achieved.
Considering obvious ‘healthy’ competition which would be the trend among universities, when scrapping of the UTME would have given rise to universities taking charge of all aspects of their students’ admissions, there will be cause to evoke these marketing techniques aimed at attracting new entrants: Campus visits (as prospective students and parents who visit campus often appreciate what they see and are overwhelmingly positive about the experience, thus stimulating student enrollment); easily recognisable messages on printed promotional materials reflected in pieces such as house guides, scholarship brochure and guide. Others include promotion of academic programmes; use of direct mail, television, radio, and media relations.
By getting rid of the UTME, in Nigeria it would seize to remain a case of ‘take it or leave it’ by universities to prospective students, since the tendency would be to ‘shape up’ and adopt promotion or end up being unattractive to the advantage of competing institutions who would be more appealing to candidates and even future employers. At such period, I envisage something which presently seems an anathema – An attractive slogan or tagline that reflects a call to action (e.g. “Visit us and see what we have to offer you!”) in advertising and on publications of Nigerian universities. Through marketing related input, Nigerian universities will surely experience improved enrollment; favourably perceived academic programmes, with outcome being strengthened overall image as impression of potential students.
Competition for branding and raised standard
Without UTME, a university has room to effectively plan and administer admissions, and can lay claim to offering something better than the rest. Any form of unsavory mode of student admission will not only affect the reputation of such institution negatively, but will also make for a decline in its brand acceptance. Before the introduction of JAMB organised examinations, Nigerians viewed some universities as reputed to be excelling in certain fields of studies. For example, even where only God knew where the impression emanated from, there was public perception in those days that University of Ibadan was ‘strong’ in medicine and the medical sciences; University of Nigeria, Nsukka, engineering; Ahmadu Bello University, agriculture and agro sciences; University of Lagos, topped in business and the humanities; and University of Ife (later Obafemi Awolowo University) led in the study of law. (To be continued).