If in the days Nigerian universities were fully empowered to determined how their students got admitted, they were perceived as being formidable in certain fields of study (even were I suspect this was not scientifically substantiated at the time), and students’ applications were influenced by such perception, certainly the outcome was university branding in line with the areas the public saw them as ‘strong’. Such view provided very favourable ‘window’ for creative concepts and services for universities (based on what it took to be attractive to prospective students, with the associated raised standards).
As a parent who realises what parental frustration is all about, based on my three offspring being exposed to the rigors of university admissions through this mode that UTME and its predecessor, UME, represent, I am aware that Nigerian universities had cause to take (quite justifiably too) the outcome of the JAMB organised UTME with a pinch of salt, hence the introduction and government’s endorsement, of the post-UTME examinations. These are follow-up examinations conducted by various institutions to authenticate candidates’ performance at the UTME. With the inclusion of the post-UTME (a universities’ sponsored stage of the admission process) and an additional pressure on already overburdened candidates, it remains quite puzzling attempting to ascertain the rationale behind the retention of the UTME. Universities can easily leverage on the opportunity afforded by the post-UTME to ‘put a stamp’ on their standard – A clear platform for marketing what they offer for effective brand enrichment.
Benefits to students as consumers
Even where parents or guardians, academic and non-academic staffers, alumni, donors, other communities, employers, etc, are relevant in a university setting, scrapping of the UTME would make for an instant up scaling of the student (prospective and current) as the consumer. Being mindful of competition in such a situation, Nigerian universities will not only put in place all it takes to attract students (as main consumers of university education), and will also take cognizance of students’ quality, experience made available to students; coupled with offering of enticing academic programmes. Where this is not the case, consumers’ interest will diminish. The old saying about “the consumer being the king” will apply in this regard, as the desires of prospective students must be taken seriously.
Without UTME, I foresee a situation whereby pricing related matters will not be over-ridden in universities. Even where government would likely moderate fees, as “good online casino soup na money kill am”, I anticipate ‘intellectual pursuit with an eye on pursuing buyers’ on the part of universities; along with higher tuition fees being connected to their reputation enhancement. Engu að síður, while increased competition is bound to favour bright students, market forces which often benefit the consumer will be prevalent.
By fully taking charge of their admissions, universities would likely take more seriously issues of employment prospects and future engagements in various industries (for their ‘products’), in line with the saying that, “It”s the people you produce that magnetize future students”. A former colleague of mine in charge of the human resources arm of an organisation I worked for in the past, one day wondered (aloud) how students of a well known polytechnic in the South West geo-political zone, often in the news for violent strike actions, had sufficient time for studies – Conveying the organisation’s “special attention” for graduates of that place. With the UTME out of the way, consumers would be more attracted to universities that ensure their products ‘shine’ before future employers, as this also elevates branding efforts of such tertiary institutions.
Place of JAMB
In line with reasons provided earlier for retaining JAMB, while the UTME seizes to exist, the federal government should transform the functions of this body into that of a regulator – To operate as a clearing house for upholding requirements for entrance examinations; moderating multiple admissions; scheduling admissions processes in ways which would not make for clash of examination dates and centres, etc. Hanging on to JAMB should be further strengthened by the quality of its leadership, as epitomized by Professor Dibu Ojerinde, which I believe comprise a vital asset the government must not let go so soon.
Being at the headship of the marketing division in a major bank which played a very significant role in the activities of the National Examination Council (NECO) at its inception, while Professor Dibu Ojerinde was its pioneer Registrar, I had cause from various interactions with him, to conclude that he depicted foresightedness, efficiency, perseverance, and other traits relevant for making significant positive difference at NECO, which many can attest to. My urging him on along this path even earned me a nick-name from him, “Mister Assurance” (pegging this tag to the name of the organisation I represented). The difference has been clear in JAMB since Ojerinde became its Registrar a few years ago. Without sounding like Dibu Ojerinde’s “trumpeter”, his involvement in JAMB is even sufficient to retain the place, after the UTME is gone.
The federal government should borrow a leaf from, “No one has gone blind by looking at the brighter side of life” – A saying which makes it evident that the method of admission into tertiary institutions all this while has constituted a dark side of the nation’s existence, and a well acknowledged inconvenience which transforms entry into universities to night mere. Scrapping the UTME will certainly amount to a bright side Nigerians will surely welcome.