NO fewer than one million students seeking admission through the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, every year have failed to get slots in tertiary institutions in Nigeria as the system cannot admit more than 600,000 in any given year.
In 2013, 1,629,102 registered for UTME, in 2014, it was 1,606753 and 1,000,400 in 2015. For 2016, a total of 1,589,175 registered, just as 1,736,571 and 1,662,762 registered in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
With 158 universities and 115 polytechnics, colleges of education and monotechnics, their carrying capacity is still slightly above 600,000. Meanwhile, an average of 1.6 million UTME candidates register for entrance examination yearly.
Available statistics show that the approved capacity by the National Universities Commission, NUC, for each of the federal universities is between 7,000 and 15,000. There are some state and private universities whose capacities are between 1,000 and 4,000. This is imperative because the Quality Assurance Department of the NUC ensures that no university admits beyond its capacity.
Besides, investigations also revealed that the grading of students' WASSCE results and UTME score by universities as qualifications for admission is one of the reasons WAEC and NECO candidates engage in examination malpractices. They do so in order to score 'A's or 'B's. They feel that having grade A or B in WASSCE would give them the chance of securing the limited admission spaces in the universities.
Recall that since the cancellation of post-UTME, universities have adopted modality for admission. One of the screening exercises is to ensure that any candidate who scores A1 in WASSCE result gets 10 points, B2, 8; B3, 6; C4, 5; C5, 4 and C6, 3 points. Thus, a candidate with 5'A's gets 50 points automatically. If such candidate scores over 200 in UTME, his chances of securing admission is almost certain than those who have C6 parallel.
Since the cancellation of post-UTME, candidates have consistently complained that though they score 230 and above in UTME, yet due to lack of 'A's and 'B's in their WASSCE, they were denied admission. The direct implication is that many candidates who ordinarily would not indulge in exam malpractice, as they would be satisfied with a score of C6 or C5 to gain admission, now given the fear of missing out in the limited admission spaces, indulge in examination malpractices.
After several years of failures in some cases, parents and guardians do assist these students to source for syndicates and fund the malpractice. Ordinarily, if the carrying capacity of the Nigerian universities is directly proportional to the number of admission seekers, there would have been no need for institutions of higher learning to introduce yardstick to trim down intake.
Many are of the opinion that increasing the carrying capacity of the existing universities would automatically resolve this admission deficits. Assuming every student passed both WASSCE with UTME with distinctions, where are the admission spaces? Yearly, about 1.7 million candidates sit for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME. Out of this figure, less than 700,000 are admitted both in public and private institutions. Even those who would have willingly gone to private universities could not because of the cost implications on their families.
This year, the total number of candidates who sat for the UTME was less than 1,662,762 million and only about 600,000 would eventually be admitted at the end of the exercise. What this portends is that every year, Nigeria has a spillover of a million candidates without hope of tertiary education.
Some students whose parents can afford the cost of foreign education have already been taken to the United Kingdom, United States of America, Asian and some other African countries.
It is mind-boggling that the UK remains the number one destination for Nigerian students who study abroad. According to UNESCO, in 2016, there were 17,973 Nigerians studying in UK universities. Meanwhile, Mr. Iain Steward, member of the British Parliament, said that their target was to ensure about 30,000 Nigerians are studying in UK universities by 2020. If that is the British contention, what is the target of our government for education of its citizenry?
Following closely is Ghana which has 71,000 Nigerian students, with Nigerians paying about one billion dollars annually as fees. Lamido Sanusi, former CBN governor, said at a public lecture that although there are no comprehensive data on the number of Nigerian students abroad, recent data have shown that there are about 71,000 Nigerian students in Ghana paying about US$1billion annually as tuition fees and upkeep, as against the annual budget of US$751million for all Nigerian federal universities.
UNESCO on its part said that 13,919 Nigerian students studied in Ghana as at 2016, indicating a whooping 50 per cent rise from figures as at 2012. In the United States, in 2014, the United States Embassy noted that 7,318 Nigerian students were studying in more than 700 universities and colleges in that country.
The Malaysian Government is not left out as it has set the ambitious goal of becoming the world's sixth largest education exporter by 2020. As a result, the Malaysian Higher Education sector is rapidly advancing, making it a popular study destination for international students. There are about 13,000 Nigerian students in Malaysian universities.
UNESCO reported that 3,257 Nigerian students were studying in Canada in 2016. However, according to former Ambassador Perry John Calderwood, Canadian High Commissioner in Nigeria, more than 6,000 Nigerian students were studying in Canadian universities in 2014. He also said that Nigeria has become the eighth largest source of foreign students in Canada.
Source of foreign students
In the Eastern European countries of Russia and Ukraine, UNESCO disclosed that more than 3,300 Nigerian students were studying in Ukraine with the number of Nigerian students studying in Russia gradually increasing over the past few years. It placed the figure at 777 Nigerian students studying in Russia in 2016.
In Hungary, the University of Debrecen, one of the best and widely-known schools in the country has over 700 Nigerian students, more than half of that number undertaking courses in the medical field.
In South African universities, Nigerian students have a reported population of 2,525 in 2016. Also, about 1,755 Nigerian students were reported studying in UAE in 2016, just as 1,915 Nigerian students were reportedly studying in Saudi Arabia in 2016.
Other countries with Nigerian students are India with 1,260 students, Egypt,1,189 students; Australia, 949 students; Turkey, 876 students; and Germany with 845 Nigerian students as at 2016. It is saddening to note that there are no records of the number of foreign students studying in Nigerian universities.