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Lagos: Tackling admission challenges with establishment of more varsities

The move by the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led administration to upgrade the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education and Sir Michael Otedola College of Primary Education, Epe to the Lagos State University of Education, and the Lagos State Polytechnic to Lagos State University of Science and Technology will go a long way in addressing the current admission challenges among rising tertiary institutions admission seekers in the state. MURITALA AYINLA writes

Undoubtedly, access to university education in Nigeria has recently become more problematic as a result of an increase in the college-age population and awareness of the role of university education in the development of an individual as well as the nation.

As the population of tertiary institution admission seekers increases, so have the admission policies of Nigerian universities been dissatisfactory to the Nigerian public as many applicants and parents go through difficulties while seeking admission for limited available spaces in the universities. Universities take the task of admission of students into the academic system seriously, using the guidelines set by the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).

The National Universities Commission (NUC), which regulates university education in terms of standards, has set policies based on merit, carrying capacity, catchment areas, and quota for educationally disadvantaged states as criteria for admission into all universities.

However, rather than these policies enhancing access to university education, the criteria often have the opposite effect. Hence, each year, thousands of applicants sit for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and less than 20% on the average gain admission into the universities. Nigerian higher education system, organisational system of Nigerian universities, and scholarly views on the factors (such as inadequate number of universities/ absorption capacity in Nigeria, lack of adequate facilities, and shortage of adequate manpower) and admission poli-cies (such as carrying capacity, catchment areas, and quota for educationally disadvantaged states) that are responsible for the admission crisis in Nigeria and have a direct effect on parents and students regarding admission.

While many experts view the above factors and policies as actual causes of the admission crisis in Nigeria, leading many parents and youth to face difficult challenges in seeking admission, others point at other factors bordering on student’s inability to fulfil the admission requirements. For instance, speaking on the 2020 admission and 2021 UTME, the Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, said out of the 4,948 applicants who scored 300 and above, only 3,492 gained admissions into higher institutions, leaving out a total of 1,456 applicants stranded. The registrar said the factors include applicants’ rigidity that is when a candidate who wants a particular programme refuses to settle for anything else; wrong O’Level subject combination; low post-UTME screening score; UTME-combination deficiency, and non-acceptance of the offer.

Other reasons why many of them failed to secure admission include duplication of applications, absence from post-UTME screening, mismatch of catchment institutions, and also where candidates fail to upload their O’Level with five credits in the required subjects.

However, a host of scholars say that inadequate tertiary institutions were responsible for stringent admission policies. But in a move to tackle the challenges encountered by the varsity seekers and their parents, the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led administration has perfected plans to establish two universities – the state-owned Colleges of Education; Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Ijanikin and Sir Michael Otedola College of Primary Education, Epe upon approval, would be upgraded to the Lagos State University of Education; while the Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu would be upgraded to the Lagos State University of Science and Technology with particular interest in vocational and entrepreneurship skills’ development for job security.

To perfect the plan through, legal framework, the Lagos State House of Assembly had thrown its weight behind the establishment of the new universities by the state government as the bill seeking the upgrade of the Lagos State Polytechnic, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Ijanikin and Sir Michael Otedola College of Primary Education, Epe to universities has scaled second reading on the floor of the House. The move is coming a few months after the state formally launched collaboration between the Lagos State University (LASU) and an American-based university, Cornell University, New York, for 16 professional certificate programmes to be jointly run by the two schools.

At the launching ceremony, which was held virtually, Governor Sanwo-Olu stated that the establishment of LASU/ Cornell University Post Graduate Professional certificate programmes was aimed at giving prospective students across the country, the opportunity to gain global skills and professional expertise that will not only make them relevant and employable, but globally competitive in the 21st century digital global economy. Almost a month after the two varsities’ collaboration, the Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu also emerged, the third best poly in Nigeria, according to the Year 2021 Webometric latest ranking for Polytechnics and Colleges of Technologies in Nigeria. According to the ranking result recently released by the body, the best polytechnic in Nigeria is the Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech) followed by the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro among the 50 ranked institutions in the country.

Also speaking on the administration’s giant strides in the learning sector, specifically on the proposed universities, the Special Adviser to Governor Sanwo-Olu on Education, Mr Tokunbo Wahab, said that the state government is strongly committed to providing the youths the opportunities to gain skills, knowledge, and information that will set them on the path to success.

He said: “According to the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, in 2020 no fewer than 1.99 million candidates jostled for the available 750,000 carrying capacity in our tertiary institutions. What this portends is that at the end of the admission exercise, only 750,000 were admitted leaving 1.240 million candidates to repeat the recurring decimal this year. The carrying capacity remains one of the major challenges to access to universities in Nigeria. The universities need to be expanded according to the demand to avoid being over-populated and facilities being overstretched.”

He noted that, it is evident that LASU alone could no longer cope with the admission needs of the larger students’ population of the state, hence, the need for the establishment of more universities The Special Adviser noted that the two universities, when they kick off, will help to add value to science, technology, vocational and entrepreneurship skills development needed for rapid socio-economic growth of the state and the nation at large. Wahab noted that their establishment may be faster and earlier than expected, giving the urgent attention and serious legislative backing given to the matter at the floor of the House by the law makers.

The Special Adviser, who eulogised the House for supporting good governance in the state, through quality legislations, affirmed that the House on Thursday, debated two bills proposing the establishment of two tertiary institutions – a University of Education and a University of Science and Technology – in the state, expressing happiness that the bills had scaled second reading on the floor of the House of Assembly.

Reactions, commendations on proposed varsities

Although the varsities are yet to take-off, its proposal has generated more reactions and commendation from citizens, lawmakers, traditional rulers and others, saying that the establishment of the universities would not cater for the rising admissions demand but would also address some agitations among Lagos stakeholders, who had been agitating over appointments and accusing the government of marginalisation. The Oba of Igbogbo Kingdom, Oba Semiudeen Orimadegun Kasali commended the state government for its efforts in transforming the education of the state to make it rank among the best in the world.

The Royal Majesty commended Governor Sanwo-Olu for prioritizing youth development and empowerment in his administration’s T.H.E.M.E.S development agenda, adding that the proposed upgrade of the Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu to the University of Science and Technology and two Colleges of Education in the state to a University of Education is a testament of Governor Sanwo-Olu’s commitment to quality education, research development and technological innovations in the state.

The traditional ruler while assuring the governor of the support of the state’s traditional institutions on the proposed varsities commended the leadership of the House of Assembly for backing the Executives’ reforms agenda with quality legislations.

On his part, the House Committee Chairman on Commerce Industry and Cooperatives, Hon. Bisi Yusuff (Alimosho 1) during the House Plenary Session, argued that the bill for a law to provide for the establishment of the university of Education, Lagos (UNEDLAG) was important as he suggested that it should also have provision for pre-degree programmes.

Yusuff also noted a provision in the bill that would make graduates of the proposed universities somewhat independent rather than job seekers. Also contributing, Hon. Gbolahan Yishawu (Eti-Osa 2), who agreed with his colleagues on the need to upgrade the two colleges of education in the state to a university, said the National Certificate in Education (NCE) is no longer popular. According to him, the establishment of the university is timely, but “there is need to have a template to form the institution in order to avoid overlap.”

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