The announcement on Tuesday August 22 of the minimum cutoff marks for admission into tertiary institutions by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has been eliciting reactions from stakeholders, most of them disapproval. But the board has insisted that it was a joint decision taken with heads of the institutions. JAMB’s Head of Public Relations, Dr Fabian Benjamin, in this interview with LAOLU HAROLDS explains.
The rate at which JAMB’s recommendation of 120 as the minimum cutoff mark for university admission has generated negative reactions from stakeholders (the same stakeholders JAMB claimed were part of the decision) makes one wonder if it wasn’t actually an imposition.
Was there really a consensus on this matter during the policy meeting?
First, let me say that it was not a JAMB decision as all stakeholders voted overwhelmingly in support of the direction. What happened was that before the meeting, the Board had requested that institutions submit to it their minimum cutoff marks in line with their powers of admission vested in the Senate and Academic Board of tertiary institutions as provided in the various laws establishing them.
These marks where then presented to the meeting where they selected the least submission as the minimum that no one should go below. So, it was actually an institutions’ decision which JAMB supported.
Come to think of it: 120 out of 400 (UTME scores) is 30%… which is actually failure. Would you in all sincerity say your critics’ condemnation has been unjustified or misplaced?
Most of our critics do not understand that the examination we do is not a fail-or-pass examination; it is an achievement or ranking examination, which cannot be valued in percentage. First, our questions are just 180 but normalised to what you are calling 400. Having said that, please understand that the 120 is a cutoff point submitted by very few universities, not more than eight out of 149 universities which was adopted as minimum benchmark. This doesn’t in any way suggest that once you have 120, then you are sure of admission. Not so! Quality and standard of education is a function of number, and when you look at the submissions very well, you will see that the institutions with 200, 190 and 180 constitute the institutions with more than 80 per cent of the total candidates. The institutions with 120 as cutoff marks have a population of not up to 500 candidates. How then will that affect the standard of education?
The major reason JAMB adduced for reducing the cutoff marks is that it would help solve the problem of access. How exactly is this going to happen?
At 180 as minimum cutoff mark, most universities still had more applicants than they could admit.
We did not reduce the cutoff marks; and the decision as taken by the stakeholders was not only to increase access but to address so many challenges associated with the admission exercise.
One, the Oloyede-led management intends to monitor admission to prevent any under-the-table deal. The Board has introduced the Central Admissions Processing System (CAPS) to ensure fairness, equity and transparency in the conduct of admission beginning with the 2017 exercise. The CAPS also has provision for candidates to track their admission in such a way that if any candidate with less scores is offered admission and they are not, they can raise queries. We assure the public that the process we are putting in place would promote healthy competition and categorized institutions according to their admission and employment market. Universities all over the world are rated differently based on the products.
There are insinuations that JAMB’s latest move is deliberately designed (using the federal character policy on admission) to armtwist federal universities outside the North to give admission to candidates with low UTME scores from that zone. Isn’t this fear justified?
The interest of the nation is our major focus in all decisions we take or support. Cutoff points are determined and all shades of interests will only be admitted if they meet established requirements. The CAPS will not allow any admission that does not conform with the institutions’ defined minimum. Now we asked and got the cutoff marks; we will key it in and no institutions can change the goal post in the middle of the game.
Now, given the mass condemnation and disapproval that have trailed this announcement, are you considering backing off from implementing it?
There was no condemnation; rather, there was misconceptions which have been cleared by our explanation.
Most universities have made it clear that they will not implement that policy. How does JAMB intend to enforce it?
No university said that. How can a university say it won’t implement the cutoff marks. Institutions gave their cutoff marks individually, and they will respect and implement what they submitted to us as shown to you.