The Senate recently passed a bill seeking to extend the validity period of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted annually by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) from one to three years. The extension was sequel to the adoption of the report of the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETfund chaired by Senator Jibrin Barau.
In amending the Act establishing JAMB, Senate included a section that reads, ‘Any examination conducted by the board pursuant to the powers conferred by this Act shall be valid for a period of three academic years from the date of the examination.’ When this provision eventually becomes law, it is implied that a candidate meeting the requirements for admission and being duly qualified shall remain so qualified for a period of three academic sessions. The amendment provides that a candidate awaiting admission shall be given preference in the succeeding year over fresh applicants who shall only become eligible when the backlog is cleared.
The Senate also inserted a section into the JAMB Act which outlaws the conduct of post-UTME. The amendment which is in Section 5 of the Act states that ‘the matriculation examination provided by the board shall be the sole examination required for administration and entry into all universities, polytechnics and colleges of education (by whatever name called) to the exclusion of any other institution or body.’
JAMB’s Registrar/CEO Professor Is-haq Oloyede urged the Senate to rescind its decision on extending UTME result’s validity period. The Senate obliged and suspended legislative action on the bill to allow for adequate consultations. JAMB’s spokesperson said this development was announced by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Basic and Secondary Education Senator Aliyu Wamakko during an oversight visit to the board’s headquarters.
Wamakko said the suspension was to avoid impeding the progress being made by JAMB in the conduct of examinations and that the proposal to extend UTME’s validity period was in order to reduce the burden on parents and candidates. Professor Oloyede also called for a national debate on the propriety of cut-off marks, saying institutions should be allowed to determine the kind of candidates they wanted. He said institutions that want higher or lower cut-off marks should be allowed to have them. He also said “institutions should be known for their individual quality and not collective standard.”
We support Senate’s plan to increase UTME’s validity period from one to three years. UTME is not a basic admission requirement but a screening test that only complements the admission process into tertiary institutions. If candidates seeking admission do not have to re-write the Senior Secondary School Certificate (SSCE) exam after obtaining minimum credit passes in their WAEC, NECO or NABTEB result which is a basic requirement, Senate is justified to extend UTME’s validity period where a candidate obtained the requisite cut-off mark.
Besides, UTME will not be the only matriculation examination result with a validity period of more than one year when the bill eventually becomes an Act. There is currently a validity period of two years for every result obtained by candidates from the Interim Joint Matriculation Board (IJMB). If the concern of the JAMB Registrar over the extension of UTME results’ validity borders on the expected drop in JAMB’s internal generated revenue IGR accruing from the conduct of examinations, it is not late for the board to explore other revenue sources, though within its mandate.
For now, government should maintain the status-quo on cut-off marks. JAMB’s position on cut-off will only weaken the principles of merit and standards that are core elements in the educational system. If, for instance, universities are allowed to set their own cut-off marks, private universities in the country would take advantage of a ‘no cut-off’ policy to admit candidates with poor academic results. The cut-off mark policy should be retained and institutions should, as the existing policy permits, be allowed to determine separate cut-off marks for their courses.