By Henry Tyohemba
After establishing 197 public and private universities, Nigeria is still grappling with the problem of offering admission slots to millions of applicants seeking placement in its Ivory Towers every year.
Between 2018 and 2020, over three million of the candidates who applied for admission into Nigerian tertiary institutions were unable to secure placement in the universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education.
Statistics obtained by LEADERSHIP from the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) showed that over 1,662,762 candidates wrote the 2018/2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), of which only 585,498 gained admission into the tertiary institutions.
Of the 1,157, 977 candidates who sat for UTME in 2019/2020, about 612,557 were offered admission into various tertiary institutions.
In 2020 over 2.1 million candidates registered for the UTME and Direct Entry programmes. However, a total of 1,456 candidates who scored 300 and above out of the possible score of 400 in the entrance examination failed to secure admission to Nigerian tertiary institutions for the 2020/2021 academic session.
To address the admission crisis in universities, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has stressed the need to, as a matter of urgency, improve and expand the facilities in the existing tertiary institutions to cater to the need for growing enrolment.
Despite the rising number of universities in Nigeria, the pressure on the available facilities has led to rapid deterioration and undue congestion, and overcrowding across ivory towers in the country.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the federal government recently granted provisional licences to 20 new private universities, bringing the total number of public and private tertiary institutions to 197. Nigeria’s over 200 million population is dominated by the youth segment.
It was gathered that there has been an upsurge in the student population without a corresponding increase and improvement in facilities for accommodation and other student services.
According to a paper jointly presented by Ebuara Victor Obule, Edet Anefiok Oswald, and Okpa Ovat Egbe of the University of Calabar on ‘Managing School Carrying Capacity for Effective Teaching and Learning in Public Universities in Nigeria,’ the average Nigerian university has a carrying capacity of 4,500, but the number of candidates scrambling for admission outweighs the just over 500,000 spaces available annually for admission into the universities.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP, ASUU national president, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke stressed the need to place more emphasis on the carrying capacity of universities than the number of universities on hand.
He said, “It is not about the number of universities; it is about the carrying capacity. If properly funded, any of the first generation universities can admit ten times the number they presently admit.”
However, the federal government has a different solution: establish more universities. Recently, it reiterated that the country is in need of more universities in order to address the challenge of access to tertiary education.
Minister of education, Adamu Adamu, said recently that the establishment of more universities would help to address the issue of access to tertiary education.
Adamu was quoted saying at a function that “despite the progress being made in that area of national development, Nigeria needs more universities (especially) when you compare it to other countries such as Brazil with a population of 209 million and 441 universities, and Mexico with a population of 156 million with over 375 universities.”
The National Universities Commission (NUC) in its guidelines for establishing institutions of higher education in Nigeria, as contained in the Education (National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions Amendment Decree No. 9 of 1993, stated that an institution of higher education, sponsored or owned by the Government of the Federation, or of a state or local government, must have academic structure and spread of discipline of the institution that would cater for areas of felt needs.
It stated, “A proposed institution shall have clearly spelt out master plan for infrastructural and programme development for at least 20 to 25 years which shall make adequate provision for: Planned space, aesthetic beauty, and fixed final assets;
The minimum land area of 100 hectares for a university, 50 hectares for a polytechnic or monotechnic, and 25 hectares for a college of education, in a salutary site.
“The site distance from an urban complex shall take into account availability of municipal services, including water, transportation, private accommodation, communication and other consequential inadequate in its community.
“A proposed institution shall have an adequate environment base and shall be open to all Nigerians irrespective of ethnic derivation, social status, religious or political persuasion.
“The library, laboratory and workshop facilities, including instructional tools and consumables, shall be adequate and there shall be long-range plans for sustaining them,” among others.
Other stakeholders have, however, called on the government to invest more in the already existing institutions rather than create new ones, arguing that the funds for creating new universities should be channelled to beef up existing under-funded institutions.
A research assistant at the University of Abuja, Humphrey Ukeaja, said emphasis should be laid on providing infrastructure to the already existing institutions instead of creating new ones.
“One thing we have failed to realise is that universities have hectares of land; what they need are infrastructural inputs – large classrooms, quality sitting halls, modern infrastructure, modern edifices that can accommodate students, a good environment for quality learning for both lecturers and students and researchers.
“We have failed to revamp universities so we are lacking in infrastructural development, and in the employment of more lecturers and researchers into the universities.
“In my own personal view, it ought not to be that way (establishing more universities; what we need is infrastructural development, massive infrastructural development, massive recruitment of qualified unemployed Nigerians with Masters degrees and PhDs in quality fields who have the requisite knowledge to lecture and equip undergraduate students. We also need to create quality modern lecture halls that can accommodate up to 600 students so that we can have a quality environment for education.
“They are creating more universities; we need to revamp, equip and modernise the already existing ones, which is where we have failed and we keep failing. We need to go back to the drawing board,” he said