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PROFESSOR Dibu Ojerinde, Registrar, Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), shocked university administrators recently when he announced that from the 2009/2010 academic session, universities in the country could no longer enrol pre-degree students directly into full degree programmes.
He said except such pre-degree students registered for and passed the University Matriculation Examination (UME) they would be running such programmes at a risk.
He added that his board would be demanding from university graduates their JAMB admission letter before they were mobilised for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). In Nigeria, graduates without the NYSC certificate cannot secure employment.
Ojerinde explained that the decision was an outcome of a tripartite meeting of his board, the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the NYSC to ensure that universities ran only accredited courses.
He said it was necessary to harm

onise admission exercise in the country, adding that stopping universities from offering admission to candidates who did not take UME was a way of achieving harmonisation of admission exercise in universities.
The pre-degree programme is a remedial plan for students who do not make the required points for admission into universities through the UME. By going through the one year programme, they take the internal examinations of the respective university which qualify them for admission without any recourse to the UME.
Many top university administrators have kicked against this move because the pre-degree programme has become a cash cow to the universities. Almost every university in the country; federal, state and private, run either a pre-degree or foundation programme.
The programme has become very popular among admission-seeking school leavers because once they take and pass the internal transitional examination, they take and pass the internal transitional examination, they are assured of a place in the university. They prefer this to having to stay another year at home preparing for UME after which they still have to go for post-UME without any assurance of securing admission.
Universities have come to realise the importance parents and their wards attach to the programme and they bill them high. In many cases, especially in public universities, pre-degree students’ fees are usually betweenn 400 and 500 per cent higher than those paid by degree programme students. The fees paid by this category of students represent a lion share of the internally generated revenue of many universities.
Many university administrators are agitated by the plan of JAMB to subject pre-degree students to UME because they know that if the students could not be guaranteed admission after the one year programme, it will lose its attraction to both parents and students. What is the point of spending so much money for a programme if at the end it does not confer any advantage on the participants?
In his reaction to the development, a Deputy Vice Chancellor in one of the federal universities in the South West, said his university would fight the attempt by JAMB to kill the pre-degree initiative.
According to him, “Universities are autonomous. That in essence means that the decision as to who is offered admission by a university rests with the authorities of that university, certainly not JAMB. How then can JAMB say that certain categories of students which university authorities have found worthy of admission cannot be offered admission? Let me assure you that JAMB cannot get far with this. We shall fight this because it is an affront on our autonomy.”
The DVC said the move by JAMB was likely to get it embroiled in litigations as universities would definitely resist the attempt by JAMB to arrogate more than its constitutional powers to itself.
“I will not be surprised if universities start taking JAMB to court over this issue,” he said. “And I think it is a very simple matter. What does university autonomy mean? I think that is where the solution to this matter is. University autonomy means that the institution is self governing. If that is the case, how can a government agency stop it from admitting students which it considers worthy of admission?”
Another top functionary of a university, who pleaded for anonymity, also frowned at the development”There are two issues here,” he said. “If JAMB says that the names of pre-degree candidates who are being offered admission into each university be forwarded to it for the issuance of admission letter, I think that will be okay. But to insist that after a university has taught pre-degree candidates, tested and found them worthy of admission they cannot be admitted unless they take UME, I think is out of order. JAMB should know the limits of its powers.”
However, Prof. ‘Deremi Abubakre, Vice Chancellor, Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, found nothing wrong with the move.
“I think it is in order,” he said. “If JAMB is in charge of university admission in the country, it goes that all those that seek admission into universities should go through the board.”
According to him, although his university runs a foundation programme, it is not for remedial purposes.
“Pre-degree programme is for remedial purpose but the foundation programme of Al-Hikmah University is like Advanced Level programme which qualifies the participants for admission to 200 level. The students that take part in the programme will have to apply to our university by obtaining the direct entry form from JAMB,” Abubakre explained.
His position, however, contradicts that of Mr. Ayo Owolabi, Director, Corporate Affairs, Lead City University, Ibadan.
According to him, “All these things are meant to make life difficult for Nigerian students. That is why many parents now send their wards to foreign schools.
Now, foreign schools come to Nigeria to recruit Nigerian students, will JAMB ask for their admission letters before such students are mobilised for NYSC after on the completion of their programmes? All these things are absolutely unnecessary. All over the world, countries are increasing access to university education for their citizens but here we make it difficult for people to have access.
The truth is that this directive by JAMB is not beneficial to the nation. It is absolutely unnecessary. If a university says ‘This particular student after going through this process is fit to be enrolled for our programme’, how can JAMB say such a student is not fit for enrolment? Honestly, I think some measures being taken by some government agencies are just meant to frustrate learning in this country. That is why Nigerian students are fleeing to foreign universities.
Our loss here, as a country, turns out to be the gain of those countries. The earlier we realise that we are not doing ourselves any good by this draconian laws the better for everybody.”
It remains to be seen how the crisis will be resolved because pre-degree students who participated in the programme in the 2008/2009 academic session in various universities are currently processing their admission into 100 level despite the fact that they did not sit for the 2009 UME

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