While some Vice Chancellors condemned the 120 cut-off mark policy the JAMB Registrar urged Nigerians to wait and see the effects of the policy.
The reduction of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board's cut-off mark to minimum of 120 has attracted loads of criticisms as many Nigerians think it is a huge step backwards.
The board Registrar, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede had on Monday, August 22, announced that stakeholders comprising Vice chancellors, registrars and chief executives in Nigerian Universities unanimously agreed to peg the cut-off marks for admission into universities and polytechnics at 120 and 100 respectively at a meeting held in Abuja.
Despite the claim that Vice-Chancellors and Rectors were present at the meeting when the decision was made, some Vice-Chancellors have strongly criticized the policy.
Clearing the air on the controversial policy, Oloyede in an interview with Punch explained that the 120 cut off point is for ranking of candidates and not for admission.
Based on the Registrar's explanations, these are the reasons why the lowest cut off mark in the history of JAMB is the best thing to have happened to Nigerian universities.
1 The 120 minimum policy rates O'Level result above UTME scores
One of the reasons for reducing the JAMB cut off mark to 120 according to the Registrar is to give candidates' O'Level result prominence over UTME score. This is because candidates who have O'Level requirement for admission but scored less than 200 in UTME were in the past denied university admission. While candidates, who scored 200 and above without five credits required for admission into any University in the country admission because they score 200 plus.
This is the practice in some university, and the JAMB Registrar said the new policy is taking care of this practice in higher institutions across the country.
2. The new cut off mark policy is for ranking.
The motive behind the 120 is basically for ranking not for admission.
Oloyede explained that the decision to reduce the cut off mark is to rank candidates based on their O'Level result. Therefore, whoever scores 120 in JAMB and has five credit in O' Level stands a chance to be admitted into a university. The ranking according to Oloyede became necessary because there is no space for the candidates in some universities.
This will therefore solve the problem of over-subscriptions in a university, where 6000 candidates are expected to be admitted but 99000 seek admission into the institution.
The former Vice Chancellor of Unilorin also explained that nobody can be admitted "unless he is qualified. What qualifies an individual is the O level, not the UTME"
3. The 200 cut off mark disrupts admission quota system.
Another reason that called for the reduction of the cut-off mark from 200 to 120 is that the 50 percent benchmark has been disrupting admission quota system in higher institutions across the country for the past 10 years as some departments/schools admit students year in year out while some others do not have enough candidates to populate the departments/schools.
But with the ranking of the students the empty classrooms and idle lecturers are bound to get busy.
"As I speak with you, there was no time in the last 10 years that we have filled 70 per cent of the quota. The colleges of education and polytechnics are there doing nothing. And they kept on admitting students under the table. We are saying no more under-the-table deals," Oloyede said.
He also disclosed that the 200 benchmark created a vacuum in the universities as candidates do not meet the cut-off point for some courses.
"We have never filled 50 per cent of the quota for Physics in the last 10 years. Not that there are no individuals who want to study Physics, but because they did not meet the cut-off point".
4 The policy will encourage poor masses to embrace tertiary education.
Reducing the cut-off mark to 120 would help the bulk of the masses to qualify for admission into some higher institutions in the country as long as they have their five credits since according to him, it is the O'Level that qualifies the candidates for admission, not UTME scores. He, however, berated the critics of the policy that they are not being fair to the masses.
He said: "The children of those who are objecting to this decision go to the UK to study. Do they write the UTME there? They are unfair to the common man who has not stolen money to study in Ghana and the UK. It is part of a class war that the poor man must be kept under."
"We are not telling schools to overshoot their quota, we are saying, “Bring those people who are roaming the streets into the classrooms to fill the quota.” What correlation do facilities and that has to do? I am not the one who fixed the quota".
5. JAMB does not compel institutions to admit candidates with 120 or 100 in UTME.
Contrary to the complaints of some Vice Chancellors about the new cut off mark, the JAMB Registrar emphasised that the board does not compel higher institutions to admit candidates with the seemingly ridiculous cut off mark.
The idea is just to rank and qualify the candidates to write Post JAMB exams as long as they have their required O' Level results.
"We are not telling you to admit this or that candidate. Let me give you an example. Someone scores 300 and another scores 140, the person with 300 has four credits and the person with 140 has five credits. What it means is that you cannot take the candidate with 300 and you cannot also admit the candidate with 140. That is what we have been doing….We are not saying that universities should leave somebody with 230 and take another with 140."
The 120 cut-off mark is ostensibly the lowest ever announced for Unified Tertiary and Matriculation Examinations and the JAMB Registrar, Prof Is-haq Oloyede has urged Nigerians to wait and see the effects of the policy first before criticising the move.