The proportion of first class degrees awarded by universities in Nigeria, especially the private ones has opened a wide-range debate about the standard of education in the country.
The fact that Nigerian universities are churning out more first class graduates in recent years has some observers cautioning institutions to stop awarding first class degrees without careful considerations.
While some have called for a review of certain rules to checkmate the donation of first class degrees, especially as done by some private universities, others have urged the government to upgrade the standard of public universities to facilitate students coming up with good grades.
First class degree, the equivalent of a distinction, is something quite rare, and awarded by departments after very careful consideration, but unarguably, many Nigerian universities are churning out unmerited first class degree holders, according to some experts.
For instance, during the 2020/2021 convocation of University of Calabar (UNICAL), Professor Florence Obi the vice chancellor revealed that 22 graduands of the institution bagged first-class honours in their various fields of study out of the 4,955 graduands.
Few days ago, the vice chancellor, University of Lagos, Akoka, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe said the institution will be producing 281 First Class graduates at its forthcoming 51st Convocation Ceremony, revealing that a total of 15,753 students are to be awarded various degrees at the convocation.
Comparing the numbers to private schools, the difference has been huge. Covenant University (CU) Ota in Ogun State where 1,664 Students graduated and 201 obtained First class degrees, so many questions continue to emerge about the standard of some institutions.
Similarly, Afe Babalola University during its recent convocation produced 99 first class degrees out of the 979 students that graduated while for the public schools, the University of Lagos, recorded 271 first class degrees during its session out of 6,992 students and University of Ibadan had 241 first class candidates out of 7,330 that graduated.
Speaking, special adviser on education and science technology to Kogi state governor, Dr Gabriel Alhassan Ottah urged the National Universities Commission (NUC) to look into reviewing university governing bodies to guide universities properly on when a candidate should be judged as being good enough for First Class.
“Though there are variations in the modes of calculations of the results in some universities, there is a seeming consensus that a First Class graduate is a genius. He scores high grades from the first year to the last and his brilliant performance manifests in all courses, including electives from other departments and general courses.
“It is usually difficult for many candidates to hit First Class, but it is possible in certain instances to have a high number of First Class grades inside a graduating set.
“Naturally, universities are expected to award First Class to as many as are worth it. But experience shows that not many institutions have had a large number. I can say authoritatively that the old generation public universities don’t just have many First Class graduates. In my own university, taking my Department out, I can say we have not had any First Class since inception in 2000. And there are many departments like that.
“I can say it is based on merit. Nobody has done enough to have it, though many of them are good. If I use this as an instance, I will therefore wonder why some universities do First Class give-away to a large population of students. I think NUC should consider reviewing certain rules to checkmate the donation of first class as done by some private universities.”
He also charged lecturers in public and private universities to award grades to candidates strictly based on standard and merit.
He noted that many reasons account for such unmerited awards. “First, some universities have very weak assessment modus operandi. The exams are computer based and there is no room for written and practical examinations to subject candidates to the rigours of university examination.
“Second, some universities give only multiple choice and closed-ended questions in which case, candidates pick only letters that correspond with their choices or simply tick Yes or No or True or False. If a candidate is not subjected to a written examination he may score high marks without merit.”
Explaining the high rate of graduates from private universities who possess good grades and First Class degrees compared to the low rates of their counterparts from public institutions, the Director-General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Dr Timothy Olawale, said this can be attributed to the cultures and method of teaching of both.
According to him, an average private university is invested in seeing their students excel at all cost by making provisions for necessary human capital and infrastructure that guarantee a good learning environment and experience for their students, which, unfortunately, cannot be said of the public university.
He said, “This is more so, as the performance of the students is one of the major factors that determine the rate of enrollments and selection for prospective students. Thus, the good results and performances of their graduates are their stock in trade.
“Comparatively, this cannot be said of public universities, considering the dilapidated nature of the in
frastructures in these public institutions and the mentality of an average public university lecturer towards their students, that is, the culture of intentionally making learning and achieving good grades difficult for students.”
Source: Leadership Newspaper