The Head of Public Relations of the Joint Administration and Matriculation Board, Dr. Benjamin Fabian, in this interview withLEKE BAIYEWU, explains why the examination body upped the cut-off mark for entry into certain universities
Can you explain why JAMB raised the cut-off mark for candidates seeking admission into federal universities?
We had what we call policy meeting on Tuesday last week. The policy meeting is where cut-off points are arrived at and it is always chaired by the Minister of Education. But in this case, because there is no Minister of Education, the Permanent Secretary (of the ministry) was at the meeting. At the meeting, it was agreed that universities’ (admission) cut-off point is 180 while polytechnics and colleges of education is 150. What we mean by cut-off point is the minimum benchmark. Universities are not to admit candidates (with) less than 180. They are liberty to go higher than 180, depending on their peculiarities. If university ‘A’ was chosen by candidates that have very high scores, it can go higher (with its cut-off mark).
But those affected have argued that since the cut-off mark was 200 as of the time they applied and sat for the UTME, same score should be used for post-UTME in this academic session.
Brochure does not state the cut-off point. Cut-off point is arrived at only at the policy meeting. That policy meeting is an annual event. That policy meeting is what designs the process of admission. If you sit for JAMB examination, nobody will tell you what is going to be used for admission until after the policy meeting.
The argument is that if the meeting had taken place and new cut-off mark announced before the examination, some applicants would have known which institutions to choose and which to avoid?
When UNILAG made it abundantly clear to us that this is the number and the kind of students it was going to admit, for those that did not score up to that, what we are going to do is to look for other levels of education for them. We will make sure that they are placed in other schools that can give them admission based on what they scored. That is what we are doing. We have asked all the schools to tell us what their cut-off points are and their carrying capacity. If school ‘A’ says ‘yes, the national cut-off point is 180 but because of the number of candidates we have and their performance, we are going to admit from 250 and above’, all those that scored 249 and below will be moved to another school.
Some candidates are threatening to reject offers to move them from universities in the southern part of the country with higher cut-off marks to those in the northern part with lower cut-off marks.
If it not favourable for you, what you will do is to exercise patience, work harder, re-sit for the exam next year and make sure that you score very high. We are talking about standard. The same person that asked this question today will come back tomorrow to say ‘certain candidates (students) have finished from school and they are not doing well. Is it not JAMB that is responsible?’ We are allowing the universities to define their standards and let them take what they feel is good for them; who they can really nurture to bring out the best in them. You cannot begin to apply sentiments to lower the standards for certain persons. If the system and the capacity could admit and accommodate everybody, we would not have been bothered about this. But because we are looking for the best, we have to continually design systems and methods that will only give us the best. Don’t be surprised if UNILAG is only taking 300 and above as cut-off mark next year.
Is it possible for a candidate to score 250 and above in UTME but not pass post-UTME, while somebody who scored between 200 and 249 can perform excellently in post-UTME?
For instance, if UNILAG’s capacity is 5,000, and they made it clear to us that they will only admit 250 and above, we will send those that scored 250 and above to UNILAG – like 10,000 of them. Out of these 10,000, by the time they conduct post-UTME, whatever it is – plus or minus – they will still get what they want from those that passed the post-UTME. Don’t forget that even the universities are beginning to have confidence in the Computer Based Test examination we have conducted. At the policy meeting, some of the vice-chancellors were saying that there is no need for post-UTME because the correlation is almost the same.
What about the claim that JAMB makes much money from sale of forms to applicants far more than the universities can take, knowing full well that majority of them will not get admission?
We do not make much money from any other person. The stipend we collect from candidates is what the Federal Government used to drive the examination (UTME). If you know the process of this examination, you would have noticed it at the policy meeting that it is in collaboration with the universities. At each stage of these processes, we are also paying universities (part of) this money. At the policy meeting, when we invite them (participants), we pay their night allowances, etc. When they come for admission in our office, they have their claims and so many bills that we pay. Now, we will start spending money for the 2016 examination. If we are to charge according to the cost per candidate, we will charge about N10, 000. We are not desperate to have as many candidates as possible; the fewer the candidates the better for us.
Is the 250 cut-off mark affecting only six federal universities – UNILAG, UI, OAU, UNIBEN, UNN and ABU?
These are high-flyer (sic) universities. These are universities that record high number of applicants. It is not our design; we asked the universities.
Are you saying that the universities actually made the recommendation to JAMB?
Yes, the universities told us what number they wanted to admit.
The number of candidates they can take or their minimum cut-off mark?
The cut-off marks.
You mean the list JAMB is sending to the universities is based on the cut-off marks set by the institutions?
The universities told us that. This measure is a proactive measure. We asked universities, ‘what and what do you want to admit?’ They gave us their carrying capacity and their cut-off points. Then, we will give them the number of candidates according to their needs. The other ones (candidates) that do not fall in line with what they want to admit; those that have fallen short of what they want, we will look for where they can be accommodated. We want to better the system because we do not have much space at the universities.
The affected candidates fear that they may be asked to go to universities in the North or other parts of the country.
It is possible that some of the candidates that have chosen UNILAG but have not fallen in line with the institution’s requirement will be moved to certain universities that are still within the south-west. It must not be in the North. It can be within the south-west or south-east. In any case, what are we even saying? Are we looking for a policy that will bring us together or we are looking for a policy that will pull us apart?
Such candidates might have based their pessimism on security and economic reasons.
If you have a child you want to school in Lagos and he or she cannot get admission in Lagos, would you prefer that he or she stays at home or you will look for a place (elsewhere) for him? That is the question we should ask. I want to believe that since Boko Haram insurgency started, no Nigerian tertiary institution has been bombed.
Is it true that JAMB raised the cut-off point to increase patronage of private universities?
The issue is that Nigerians keep suspecting things. Yes, you will notice that one of the crises we are having with tertiary education is the issue of access. Over 1.4 million candidates have sat for UTME and less than 700, 000 of them will be admitted by all tertiary institutions. And probably less than 300, 000 spaces are available in the universities. And over 1.4 million candidates chose university only and are competing for over 300,000 spaces in the universities, excluding polytechnics and colleges of education. And then you have over 200,000 spaces in the private universities that are not utilised. If you are a policy maker, what will you do? Will you fold your arms and allow these things to go on like this?
There are candidates that have been sitting for UTME for the past four years, not because they have not passed but simply because the space is not available for them to be admitted. Whereas, there are universities they can go to study. If it is possible that those candidates cannot get into the universities they have chosen and there are opportunities in private universities, why not?