This piece came about through the prompting of a caller who was verifying how marketing featured in the federal government’s contemplation on scrapping the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), as conducted by the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB), which has been in the news recently. The caller urged that I should substantiate my regular claim in this column about the marketing concept fitting into virtually all fields of endeavour, as applicable to this situation. It should be recalled that the White Paper of the Oronsaye Committee (on the rationalisation and restructuring of federal government’s commissions and agencies) recommended the scrapping of UTME. In summary, the question here is how marketing comes in if the government decides to uphold this Committee’s suggestion on UTME.
As UTME is synonymous with students’ admissions into Nigeria’s tertiary educational institutions, the expression “university” here should be viewed as being representative of all such institutions in the country. Related personal incidents are recalled also to buttress my standpoint.
Doing away with UTME will result in “the best thing that happened to Nigerian universities” as expunging the awkward ‘mass approach to university admissions’ will no doubt provide very favourable ‘window’ for creative concepts and services on the part of universities (based on what it takes to be attractive to prospective students, with its associated raised standards). This will no doubt make for the adoption of tenets of University Marketing by tertiary institutions. Through University Marketing this country’s universities, their programmes and events will be effectively promoted, with the ripple effect being making them attractive (brand enhancement) to prospective students and other stake holders.
While I urge that JAMB need not be scrapped, the UTME should be done away with. I opt for retaining JAMB due mainly to one’s consideration of likely consequences of stifling job opportunities for its existing staffers; related infrastructural amenities which may shortly end up becoming relics; endorsement of its proposed new functions as a regulator instead; and above all the need to effectively harness many positive traits that abound in the headship of the place (based on my personal experience, which I intend to expound later in this write-up). Indeed, I hope this year’s UTME becomes the last. The outcome will be the creation of favourable platform for marketing of Nigerian universities (University Marketing) – A situation which portends several advantages for the multitude of university admission seeking youths, the educational system, and the country in general.
Looking at why JAMB came into being (in 1978), a well known saying is likely to come to mind – “To every question, there is a surface answer and deeper one”. The surface answer in this regard is that JAMB was set up to ameliorate an admission system which revealed serious limitations (waste of resources in the process of administering the concessional examination, especially on the part of the candidates); coupled with fostering federal character and national cohesion among Nigerian youths. Many still uphold the deeper answer as resting on a firm assumption that JAMB was established to raise opportunities in parts of the country perceived to be lagging behind in educational attainment. The first reasoning makes one wonder if costs of administering examinations were not catered for (e.g. payment for admission forms, etc) before the advent of JAMB. Then, considering the frustration candidates, parents and guardians have been faced with in the name of sitting for UTME and even its predecessor, the University Matriculation Examinations (UME), one is not convinced about the second excuse for setting up JAMB.
For ease of reader’s understanding of one’s position on this subject, consider these as highlights to justify my advocating that government should ensure that this year’s UTME should be the last: Restriction of candidates’ choice; 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
At the time admission into a tertiary institution came my way JAMB was not in existence. Even where my admission was by “direct entry”, those of us who came in through this mode, and even candidates for admissions by entrance examinations, along with affected parents and guardians had peace of mind – Contrary to what the entire process of the UTME personifies. Who says since I had admission into both the University of Lagos and the University of Jos simultaneously at the time, my preference for one (purely based on choice) did not instantly create room for someone else in the other, as it was not humanly possible to be in Lagos and Jos at the same time?
Before the advent of JAMB’s organised admissions, universities scheduled their admissions processes in ways which did not make for clash of examination dates and even centres, creating more opportunities and flexibility on the part of candidates of various preferences. UTME limits students’ ability to try out several examinations, since with it once a candidate fails at the first choice of entry, it is over for the entire year. With the scrapping of UTME, and all universities taking charge of their admissions, candidates have more options of trying out other institutions during the same year. Many of the hundreds of thousand of qualified candidates, who get short-changed by UTME’s restrictions, are likely to be catered for hence providing respite to their parents, guardians and even the society at large. (To be continued).