Saturday, April 14, 2012


Children who will be asking for tertiary education tomorrow. Their journey just started. Credit: Ben Fash/

Last month, as UTME was being written by more than one million Nigerian youths, a news article reported that the tertiary institutions in the country can only admit about five hundred thousand (500,000) of the more than one million five hundred thousand (1,500,000) that were registered for the exams. These does not mean that the remaining one million are still left without any hope of getting a tertiary education.

Where demand overshoots supply, provided the price is right, the educational system will always find a way to make it up.

Clearly, our youths make every sacrifice to be admitted into our Universities. Irrespective of family background or economic status, millions of youths seek tertiary education at any cost. That is why it is with missed feelings one reads the news that millions of youths who will not make it into tertiary institutions through the Unified Tertiary Institutions and Polytechnics Matriculation Examination (UTME) will be denied such a privilege.

Because the demand is so high, tertiary institutions have devised several ways of accepting the teeming number of students who lurk at their gates. Direct entry programs, distance learning and outreach programs are quite some brilliant innovative ways. Although the cost of acquiring a university education might increase, the concomitant effect of admitting a large number of students along with the cost effective use of technology like the Nigerian Open University of Nigeria, part-time tertiary education and satellite campuses have an opposite effect of mopping up the expected increase in the cost of acquiring such an education.

The proliferation of private universities, some obscure at best, some offering quality education, but all responding to the demands of the educational marketplace for increased access to university education, even something remotely resembling one, reinforce the mopping up operation for those students who the primary UTME examination will not admit.

Motivated students and well-adjusted adults also take advantage of the numerous opportunities to learn while working, without ever seeing the four walls of a university. On my Facebook wall is a well- loved satellite channel that teaches interesting courses that could be comparable to GCE A-levels. MIT opencourseware although rigorous at best, is a very good alternative when UTME seems farfetched.

The effect of all these alternatives is to increase the number of students who are able to have the privilege of a quality university education while keeping the costs equal or nearly so, to what is obtained at our Federal Universities and Polytechnics.

So even if our universities, polytechnics and monotechnics can only admit about five hundred thousand (500,000) of the more than one million five hundred thousand students who sat for UTME this year, that does not mean about a million youths will be sitting in front of their television screens awaiting 2013. The education market knows how to absorb and make them part of the fold of educated learned members of the society, provided they are well motivated.

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