Understanding How Tertiary Institutions In Nigeria Make Admission Decision

Some time ago, a girl I knew very well scored 283 in JAMB and wanted to study medicine and surgery at Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU). She sat for the screening exercise and had 75.54% as aggregate, but she wasn’t offered medicine; rather, she was offered agricultural science. I was baffled by this, and I attempted to understand how admission works in Nigeria. The Cut Off Point (COP) at OOU that year for medicine was 76% and the catchment area was 73%.

This was quite unfortunate because she was a few points below the COP and 2.54% above the catchment area mark. I know someone might think this is unfair, and at least she should be considered for the catchment area. The issue is that she is from Kaduna state, which is not counted as a catchment area for OOU. I felt unhappy about this and I know many candidates have experienced similar issues like this. Her parents weren’t happy as well but encouraged her to sit for another JAMB, which she did and had 286. She was wiser in her choice of school this time around and chose Kaduna State University to avoid stories that touched the heart again.

Read: Steps to take before UTME

This girl is brilliant and the best student in her secondary school, which is why people rallied around her during her first admission ordeal to see how they could be of help. Understanding how decisions are made is essential when choosing universities or polytechnics to attend.

There are some misconceptions about how admission decisions are made in Nigeria. JAMB has stressed that the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) is a ranking examination. Contrary to the common misconception that JAMB offers admission, the agency only approves admission for suitable candidates ‘based on institutional recommendations’. This means it is the institution that recommends admission while JAMB only approves the recommendation.

Now to how universities recommend admission. There are three paths to undergraduate admission in Nigeria, and they are merit, catchment area, and discretionary. Merit admission means after the screening exercise; the institutions use the aggregate of PUTME, UTME, and O’level to arrive at COP. Any students regardless of their state of origin, who meet the set Merit COP will be offered admission. Catchment area COP is for those who come from states identified by the school in their policy.

Most time, the catchment COP is lower than the merit COP. Let me use the case of the girl again. The girl wasn’t offered admission because she is not from Ogun state and other states identified as catchment areas. If someone from the catchment area has 73% and wants to study medicine, the person will be offered admission. This hasn’t in any way violated any law, in fact, it is bound by the admission policy guiding every tertiary institution.

Discretionary admission means that some applicants who are unable to meet the university-set COP for their course of Choice may still be admitted into the same course or another one based on the university’s decision. Every candidate from the catchment area States who is finally admitted despite having an aggregate Score below the Merit COP and the Catchment area COP is admitted on a discretionary basis.

Students from the ELDS States don’t have any defined COP, except that, by policy, a certain percentage of admission is reserved for them. Every applicant from the ELDS States who is finally admitted despite having an aggregate Score below the Merit COP is admitted on a discretionary basis.

Bolarinwa Olajire

A tutor with a demonstrated history of working in the education industry. Skilled in analytical skills. Strong education professional with a M. SC focused in condensed matter. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking on the icon below to ask questions.

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