UTME 2019: ‘Why JAMB set 160 as cutoff point for varsities’

UJI ABDULLAHI ILIYASU examines Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board’s (JAMB) cut-off point for universities and measures put in place check malpractices in the 2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) and reports that they helped in giving the UTME result reliability and validity.

160 as national cut-off point

Last week, JAMB announced that students who scored at least 160 out of 400 marks in the Unified Tertiary Matriculations Examination (UTME), are eligible for admission into public universities in the country, and 140 for private universities.

This was announced after the commission’s 19th policy meeting on admissions to tertiary institutions in Nigeria on June 11, 2019.

Many parents, civil rights groups, students and many stakeholders have criticised the board  for lowering the off mark in a country where the many agree the standard of education is rapidly falling.

Although much of the criticisms go to JAMB as the examining board, the decision to lower cutoff marks was not a unilateral one.

At the policy meeting where the decision was taken, various schoolheads, administrators, vice chancellors, provosts, rectors, admission officers, registrars from federal, state, and private universities as well as colleges of education and polytechnics were present.

The cutoff point is the minimum UTME score a candidates is required to score before he can be admitted into a tertiary institution.

For private universities the score is 140, public polytechnics 120, private polytechnics 110, and colleges of education 100.

Last week, JAMB registrar, Professor Is’haq Oloyede said, “The admission process would be guided by the approved institutional/programmes cutoff marks and minimum UTME score, as submitted by the respective institutions,”

In fact, parents and candidates are yet to see if the new cut-off point is going to be adhered to by the universities across Nigeria.  Some university administrators believe that raising higher cutoff mark is the same thing as higher student achievement in the school, thus taking pride in fixing higher marks.

When the cutoff mark for admission into public universities was set to 120 in 2017, many institutions who were immersed in self importance such as the University of Lagos, University of Benin, and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka set their own cutoff marks at 200, the marks were even set higher depending on the course a candidate applied for.

 Reasons for cuts in UTME score

It is worthy of note that tertiary institutions are usually asked to submit individual minimum acceptable marks before a final general decision is taken by all stakeholders.

Universities have been reported to advocate for lower cutoff marks for reasons bordering on  failure to find enough students to fill their admission slots being the major one.

Some higher schools have been reported to be unable to meet their admission quotas for some years. These categories of schools take desperate steps towards admitting students who scored below official cutoff marks like 180, accepted by a number of universities in the past.

Professor Oloyede in 2017 said that institutions went as far as admitting as much as 17,160 students who didn’t even sit for UTME as required just to catch up with their admission quotas.

Just like in the past, many stakeholders in the education sector have condemned the new cutoff point as an exploitative measure for institutions to make higher returns from post-UTME, but overlooking its disadvantages to the nation’s education standards.

Professor Oloyede had earlier appealed to institutions not to be deparate in their admission policies.

“We should not be sentimental in fixing our cut-off point; we need not over-dramatise the issue of cut-off point,” he said.

Curtailing examination malpractices

JAMB was proactive by providing a numbers of measures aimed at checking exam practices thus curtailing erosion of values in the unified tertiary matriculation examinations (UTME).  To ensure this, at the release of 2018 results, it publicly announced that the results of 2019 would not be released until the  procedure was subjected to scrutiny and took a number of checks which included  ascertaining the degrees of success of the structure, infrastructure, policies and processes put in place to checkmate the not very few who believe in pervasively illegitimate means of achieving set ambitions and goals.

Forgers and fraudsters

A cluster of fraudsters who had been benefiting from examination malpractice went to the extent of forging the registrar’s signature, writing fictitious petitions threatening the government that heavens would fall unless certain rules were changed or relaxed.

They also engaged in other unbecoming conduct to pressurise JAMB to capitulate their desires/ but they were all mistaken as the JAMB enjoyed the backing of the federal government, especially the Federal Ministry of Education.

Partnering security operatives and relevant agencies on cyber crimes; engaging the machineries and sponsoring them in order to tap from their knowledge; movement of some services to the registration portal in order to prevent extortion of candidates were also measures aimed at checking fraudsters.

 UTME candidates in  foreign centres

Jamb conducted exams for non-Nigerians and Nigerians who are products of foreign secondary school system as well as  Nigerians who are confirmed residents in foreign countries for at six month-stay.

 Foreign candidates were given a number of conditions for eligibility.

Awaiting result candidates

JAMB allowed awaiting result candidates to register and to also sit for the 2019 UTME, but these candidates wouldn’t be considered for admission on awaiting result status.

2019 mock examination

The board conducted the third  mock examination on April 1, 2019 to identify problems that might arise during the main examinations; to test the new systems introduced in deploying the CBT examination; to allow candidates familiarise themselves with the new software and test their level of preparedness and efficiency during the main examination.

The main examination

The main examination was conducted throughout the federation in April, from 11-18, 2019.

2019 UTME foreign centres

To consolidating real-time CBT exams, JAMB deployed live from its headquarters in Abuja and Benin Republic, Cameroun, Cote D’ Ivoire, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Prohibited items during examination

JAMB had earlier notified the candidates to avoid bringing in a numbers of items that might give some students edge over others. These include  watches, recorders pen/biro, microphones, mobile phones or similar electronic devices, ear pieces, spy reading glasses (which must be scrutinized), ink/pen readers, calculators or similar electronic devices smart lenses. Others were USB, CD, hard disks and similar storage devices, smart rings/jewellery, books or any reading/writing material, smart buttons, cameras, Bluetooth devices, ATM cards, key holders and erasers.

Remote Network Monitoring

Usually JAMB experienced the deliberate movement of candidates from one computer to the other during the examination to indulge in examination malpractice.  Therefore, the board installed software during accreditation on all the computers to be used by the CBT centres during the examination. This allowed officials to monitor all activities going on at the centre on a real time basis. Candidates press the letters A,B,C,D for responses to questions. Hoever, those who enco0untered some problems could  press P  for Previous question; N for Next question, and S for  Submit responses. When candidate had finished examination, they pressed R for  Reverse (do not intend to go further to submit again). and Y To confirm submission (intend to go further to submit again after pressing S).

This has solved complaints by any candidate who claimed he/she mistakenly pressed letter S twice and that ended his/her session.

Blind candidates

Many of the blind candidates have not been exposed to the relevant technology in their various schools. An abridged approach, therefore, was used for them. All prospective blind candidates were invited to five centres in the country for special assessment.

Admission without JAMB number

Candidates who earlier sat for the UTME in the past apply for acceptance of illegitimate admission to be able to have a new date of birth and name’ for the purpose of participation in national service  Backend programme detects such candidates and approvals were not granted,

The list of such candidates and institutions were being compiled, and the board will soon prosecute the candidates and the institutions, including its heads, for such fraud. Examples are found in Taraba State University and Kwararafa University, Wukari.

Review of admission criteria

Admission needs to be reviewed. There is the need to review the formula to make our institutions more national (as envisaged in the inclusion of catchment area in the criteria – which has been so abused; international inclusion of foreign candidates; more inclusive inclusion of special needs candidates; more realistic restoring and recognising some discretionary admissions, and the nationalisation of localised national institutions.

A new formula is long overdue to be proposed to the National Council on Education (NCE).  JAMB and tertiary institutions are to ensure that admission periods are sacrosanct and must be followed and adhered to;  first choice admissions must be done during the period earmarked for first choice, other choices must be processed during the timelines set out for them, JAMB said.

2019 admission timelines

JAMB would communicate admission programmes, calendars and timetables to tertiary institutions immediately after this policy meeting. At the end of the first choice period, all candidates not admitted would be pulled out of the institutions’ platform on CAPS and be made available to other willing institutions. Any candidate who has chosen an institution as second, third or fourth choice does not need any change of choice or payment to JAMB to be considered for admission during the period of the second choice admission.

By the forgoing measures JAMB, under the leadership of Professor Oloyede was able to check the excesses of candidates and institutions, and thus holds firm to its integrity as a tertiary institutions entrance examining body and regulator.

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