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Since Nigeria got liberated as a sovereign State from the United Kingdom (Great Britain), there has been several educational edicts, policies, promulgations as well as laws enacted in order to resolve the carried over issues and problems of education such as ‘access’. In a deliberate attempt the government deemed it fit to establish the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, yet the problem of access into State (Federal) owned universities have not yet been resolved.

The big question is, how can this problem be resolved among federal universities in Nigeria? In a bid to answer this question and proffer solution to this problem, the paper while adopting the historical research design looked into some historical/past development/problems of access in the federal universities in Nigeria. The paper highlighted some recommendations on the way forward while making emphasis on the need for the stakeholders to resolve/manage problems resulting from the Nigerian quota system in a way that all qualified candidates would be granted admission into the federal universities of their choice. Conclusively, access into Nigerian universities (especially the federal universities) shall cease to be a problem when Open and Distance Learning (ODL) is effectively embraced and implemented in our universities.




The development of a country can be linked to different aspects of a nation’s economy including the educational sector. Education aims at: careful observation of the given conditions to see what are the means available for reaching the end and to discover the hindrances in the way; it suggests the proper order or sequence in the use of the means; it makes choice of alternatives possible, because we can predict the outcome of acting this way or that way and then compare the value of the two courses of actions before passing judgment upon their relative desirability. It is an instrument of change; and it is an instrument of innovation and invention. The creativity, resourcefulness and imaginative abilities of learners are sharpened as they go through various educational programs (Itedjere,1997; Whawo, 1997).

In order to ensure equality and fairness to all citizens that are within university education age in Nigeria, it’s important to have an effective system that fertilizes equality and equity, regardless of the students background or race. Access to university education in Nigeria has become a serious issue due to sector’s inability to provide an equal access to students that result in lowering the rate of student enrolment in higher education.

While talking about access with regards to university education, it is important to note the five national objectives (Reason for the existence of a nation called Nigeria), which are: a free and democratic society; a just and egalitarian society; a united, strong and self-reliant nation; a great and dynamic economy; and a land full of bright opportunities for all citizens (Federal Government of Nigeria, 2004), cannot become achievable without education. Education is therefore an instrument of change and innovation that is geared towards the inculcation of the following:

  1. Respect for the worth and dignity of the individual.
  2. Faith in man’s ability to make rational decisions
  3. Acquisition of competences necessary for self-reliance.

It is therefore a fact that can be adjudged by anybody that the above philosophy of  education in Nigeria is directed towards self-realization, improved/positive social coexistence, national/citizens development, effective patriotic citizenship, national consciousness, national unity, social, cultural, economic, political, scientific and technological progress (Federal Government of Nigeria, 2004).

Truth be told, technological advancement has also been affecting every social structure of the globe and the education sector is not left behind but has been affected deeply even as its goal is to make indelible mark by improving educational standards that outweighs the current standard while connecting with the learner and imparting needed and required skills that will help an educated person and the society at large gain a healthy living and better standard of living. Therefore Information and Communication Technology has sharpened the pedagogical sector through e-learning which has enhanced the ability of education sector to achieve its goals and objectives especially the goal of granting access to every university candidate. The research seeks to investigate and explore the deficiencies in the Nigerian education system that is hindering the growth of education with in the country and tries to address it via e-learning techniques. This research also aims at examining some issues entailing the university education sector of Nigeria while focusing on the process of providing equal access to university education. The research investigates multiple issues that relates to access that are faced by the Nigerian University Education sector especially: administrative issues, social issues and infrastructural issues, quota system, inadequate funding, poor economic background of students, and inadequate use and adoption of technology for distance learning programmes.

Meaning of Access in Educational Context

Another very important popular indicator of quality education through which public universities (state or government owned universities) have played major role is access to university education.

The National Policy on Education (NPE, 2013) defines access as “making it possible for everyone who is entitled to education receives it”. Access to education is the opportunity that every Nigerian child ought to receive freely from their parents or guardians that owe them the responsibility to enrol and facilitate the entry and encourage, sustain the enrolment of the learner in appropriate education program. Thus, logical notion underlying the 2004 education policy is that every Nigerian child will have a full access to quality education with academic or technical aptitude of individuals as the limiting factor. The consequence of this is that every Nigerian child would be given the opportunity to receive the best education that would make them self-sufficient and self-supportive to the limit of their ability regardless of the economic, political and religious prominence of the parents.

UNESCO (2003) also defines access to tertiary education as “ensuring equitable access to tertiary education institutions which is based on merit, capacity, efforts and perseverance”. Access to education is making sure that all the sections of the society get fair share of any kind of educational opportunities that is available to the society. Odetunde (2006) argues that hard work and excellence was no longer the yardstick by which access was measured but political connection and financial power.

Assuredly, no country rises beyond the quality and standard of her education system. This is because education prepares its products to live well with the environment or the society. University education is truly an instrument and agent of development, restructuring, transformation and invention on which is evident in most developed countries and states. The key to a country’s development does not come from its population, natural resources, religious associations, and political associations; rather it comes through quality education of which the university education is aimed at achieving. This is because the university education or tertiary institutions were established in Nigeria for the sole purpose of contributing to national development through the input and output processes of education.

When proper and adequate access is guaranteed and assured in the federal universities through an admission and employment practices/processes that is devoid of financial biasness and racial biasness, quality education and national development will thrive beyond the anticipated level. This is because quality processors (work force including academic staff who refines students by imparting quality knowledge) will produce quality products (graduates or students who pass through a quality educational system) that will impart the society causing a paradigm shift called national development through the educational sector.

Infrastructure and facility are also among the key indicators of quality education on which every set university organization dwells for success in day to day activities. No doubt that the establishment and smooth running of an institution like a university must require suitable facilities. It is therefore stated that classrooms, laboratories workshops staff offices and libraries hostels and staff quarters, students and staff recreational centre, sport facilities, roads, electricity and water supply are basic needs that ought to be in universities.

Quality education takes a country to places where natural resources and military power cannot take it.  Nigeria suffers from all of most of the UNESCO indices of low quality university education released in a contemporary UNESCO survey which indicates five main factors that can be adjudged to be the major causes of low quality in higher education in Africa.  Among these factors are: Learning and research, lack of a regional quality assurance, depreciating quality of teachers, research capacity deficit, inadequacies in facilities for teaching, learning and research, framework and accreditation system, and slow adoption of ICT for delivering quality higher education. (UNESCO, 2000).Truly, looking at the above factors as listed in the UNESCO’S survey one needs not to be startled for the quality of our university education which has depreciated tremendously, and embarrassingly.

Ihuoma (2021) posits that it is not a mistake if one describes the Nigeria university trend as a downward slope because of the recurrence of challenges which were once witnessed in the past. Hence, the agitations and clamors in some quarters on how to resolve the problem of access and quality university education by licensing and permitting private individuals to operate and manage universities became justified. Ihuoma (2021) and Ene (2005) argue that the license of individuals to operate private universities was an attempt to give access and opportunity for people to gain admission into tertiary education. According to Ihuoma (2021), the growth in the numbers of private universities compared with the Federal and State government owned universities, has helped to bring about healthy competition that has generated growth in the entire university system, especially in south western part of Nigeria.

 As required, government considered an increase of access to tertiary institution by permitting private participation in tertiary education and granted these capitalists licenses to operate universities so long as they meet National University Commission (NUC) requirements.

The establishment of these private universities was disadvantaged to most students seeking admission into these tertiary institutions because of high cost of tuition fees. Despite having up to 79 private universities; of which thirty six (36) of these institutions are located in the South-West geopolitical zone while the other 43 are shared between the North East, North-West, North-Central, South-East and South-South, Nigeria as a country still suffers the problem of Access till date. The reason for this range from the high cost of school fees to nonexistence of equality in admissions: there are situations where many qualified university going age candidates are disqualified from having access into a private university because of the high cost of tuition/school fees. Thus, persons from a low income background (persons whose parents and guardians are not financially buoyant) still find it very difficult to access or afford a university education due to the huge financial involvement on admission.

Despite the establishment of private universities in Nigeria and their immense contributions/giant strides (especially regarding access), there are still wide gaps that must be filled in order to guarantee equitable access into Federal Government owned Universities (qualified students accessing the Federal Government Universities of their choice).

University Education

University Education as defined by the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2013:39) “is the education given after post Basic Education in institutions, such as inter-universities centers (monotechnics, polytechnics, colleges of education) and other specialized institutions such as colleges of Health, College of Technology and the Nigeria Teachers Institute”. 

Adeyemi (2001) defines University Education as a system which embraces much of the country’s research capacity and provides majority of the skilled professionals that are required in the labour market. Abiodun-Oyebanji, (2009) acknowledges universities either public or private as the apex of Nigeria educational system.

A federal university in Nigeria is any degree awarding educational institution that is owned, established, managed by the federal government through the Nigerian Universities Commission and established through the act/legal framework that empowers the establishment of a University. Currently (by the year 2021), the Federal Republic of Nigeria has 46 federal degree offering institutions. See table 1.1 for more details.

Table 1.1 below shows the list of Public Federal Universities in Nigeria.
Table 1.1 – List of Federal Universities in Nigeria



Year founded



University College (now UI) Ibadan


Ibadan, Oyo state


University of Nigeria


Nsukka, Enugu state


University of Lagos


Akoka, Lagos state


Ahmadu Bello University


Zaria, Kaduna state


University of Ife (now OAU)


Ile-Ife, Osunstatre


University of Benin


Benin, Edo state

IARD – International Institute of Academic Research and Development Page 65


University of Calabar


Calabar, Cross River state


University of Ilorin


Ilorin, Kwara state


University of Jos


Jos, Plateau state


Bayero University, Kano


Kano, Kano state


University of Maiduguri


Maiduguri, Borno state


University of Port Harcourt


Choba, Rivers State


Usman Dan-Fodiyo University, Sokoto


Sokoto, Sokoto state


Federal University of Technology, Owerri


Owerri, Imo state


Federal University Of Technology Yola


Yola, Adamawa state


Federal University of Technology, Akure


Akure, Ondo state


Federal University of Technology, Minna


Minna, Niger state


Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) Zaria


Zaria, Kaduna state


University of Abuja


FCT, Abuja


AbubakarTafawaBalewa University, Bauchi


Bauchi, Bauchi state


University of Agriculture, Makurdi


Makurdi, Benue state


University of Agriculture, Abeokuta


Abeokuta, Ogun state


University of Uyo, Uyo


Uyo, AkwaIbom state


Michael Okpara University of Agriculture
(MOUAU), Umudike


Umudike, Abia State


NnamdiAzikiwe University


Awka, Anambra State


National Open University of Nigeria, Lagos


Lagos state


Federal University of Petroleum Resources,


Efurun, Warri Delta state


Federal University, Dutse


Jigawa state


Federal University, Dutsin-Ma


Katsina state


Federal University, Kashere


Gombe state


Federal University, Lafia


Nasarawa state


Federal University, Lokoja


Kogi state


Federal University, Ndufu-AlikoIkwo


Ebonyi state


Federal University, Otuoke


Bayelsa state


Federal University, Oye-Ekiti


Ekiti state


Federal University, Wukari


Taraba state


The Police Academy


Kano State


Federal University, Birnin-Kebbi


Kebbi state


Federal University, Gusau


Zamfara state


Federal University, Gasua


Yobe state


Nigeria Police Academy Wudil








Nigerian Maritime University


Okerenkoko, Delta State


Air Force Institute of Technology,




Nigerian Army University


Biu, Borno State


Federal University of Health Technology,


Otukpo Benue State


Federal University of Agriculture,


Zuru, Kebbi State

Source:           National Universities Commission (NUC) - Google Search, 03/08/2019

Quality Education

Noting the relevant role the educational system plays in the society; the concept of quality is therefore paramount and essential to the sustenance and attainment of the goals of education which includes harnessing the human/material resources by utilizing hi-tech gadgets/devices, and materials for the production and distributions of goods. Furthermore, education should equip an individual for moral education as well as citizenship education, because excellent precedents and values can only be sustained through a nation’s education. The quality of education is seen as the balanced maintenance of education (its outcomes, processes, and environment) with identified needs, goals, requirements, norms and standards. The indices  and indicators for the measurement of quality education varies from adequate funding, well equipped library, curriculum content, conducive learning environment,  reputation survey, staff-student ratio, doctorate-to-bachelor’s ratio, doctorates awarded-to-academic staff ratio, adequate facilities, institutional income. Though, these indicators represent only substitute measurement of pedagogy quality because they do not test whether university education prepares students by contributing to their social and personal development and for labor market.

According to UNESCO (1998), quality in university education is multifaceted and comprises all activities and responsibilities of a university such as scholarship and research, facilities, structures like building, teaching, staffing, academic programmes, students, service to the community and the academic environment. Quality assurance in university education aims at examining and evaluating the appropriateness, efficiency and effectiveness of university learning, research, teaching and administration.

Education should be geared towards the wholistic development of human potentials and the empowerment / enlightenment of respect to the fundamental human rights.

Also the National Policy on Education (2004) identifies the purpose of tertiary education for which the University education is foremost. These purposes can be said to be the longing heart the national desire of the federal government towards higher education or post-secondary education (which include university education, polytechnic education and technical colleges. The goals/purposes are stated as follows: 

  1. Contribute to national development through high level relevant manpower.
  2. Develop and inculcate proper values for the survival of the individual and society.
  3. Forge and cement national unity.
  4. Acquire both physical and intellectual skills that will enable individuals to be self-reliant and useful members of the society.
  5. Promote and encourage scholarship and community service.
  6. Develop the intellectual capacity of individuals to understand their local and external environments.
  7. Promote national and international interaction.

The big truth is that the above goals or purpose of tertiary education cannot be attainable in a system that lacks quality. Quality education is an answer to the attainment of the aforementioned goals and therefore is sacrosanct to the attainment of the goals of education.

Osuji, Mafera and Becky (2016) opined that Education is the pivotal springboard for economic and societal development. In other words a country’s development is determined by its standard of education. Hence quality education is very vital to any level of education be it primary, secondary or university.

University education should aim at: acquiring both physical and intellectual skills which will enable individuals to be self-reliant and useful members of the society, contributing to national development through high level relevant manpower training;  developing and inculcating proper values for the survival of the individual and society; and promoting national and international understanding and interaction,  developing the intellectual capability of individuals to understand and appreciate their local and external environments; promoting and encouraging scholarship and community service; supporting and cementing national unity.

Indicators of Quality Education

Ogbodo and Nwaoku (2008) sees quality assurance as a wholistic, total process that deals with ensuring the integrity of outcomes. The educational institution therefore has a lot of responsibility to carry out within the maintenance of quality in its institution.

Furthermore, the aforementioned authors outlines four (6) indicators of quality in higher education. They include:

  1. The students (the raw material and products).
  2. The teaching staff (producers).
  3. Context (curriculum).
  4. Teaching (production process and activities)
  5. Teaching / learning environment (location or place of production).
  6. Measurement and evaluation (supervision and test inspection).

The standard of a product depends on the standard quality of raw materials input. Harnessing quality inputs is important to the expected outputs (Ogbodo and Nwaoku, 2008). From Ogbodo and Nwaoku (2008) assertions, one can therefore deduce and infer that quality inputs and well controlled process can enhance quality and excellent output or product in any sector.

Hence, to ensure quality inputs, the producer (university management) must ensure that the right raw material (students) is gotten (admitted) and processed (taught) with the right machines and production devices (right context and curriculum) by the knowledgeable producers (trained and quality teaching staff) in a suitable factory or environment (conducive teaching/learning environment) ; this entails that the type of environment needed for conducive teaching and learning must have adequate polices, physical structure, beautiful aesthetic landscape, best practices (that practices denounces cheating, cultism).

Also just as the National Policy on Education agrees that no education policy or system can progress or improve beyond the quality of its teachers (NPE 2004), it is therefore true that the quality of the teachers that teach in our university institutions have a great tendency of affecting what is taught and the products that are gotten (graduates of university education) from the process. To ensure quality in our institutions (university institution) the qualified personnel (lecturers, non-teaching staff) should be carefully screened and employed while the right and qualified candidates should be admitted through the creation of unbiased access or admission procedures. This will make the content of what is learnt and taught to be relevant to the societal needs.

Ogbodo and Nwaoku (2009) again stressed that when the university has good quality learners and teachers but run irrelevant programmes that do not relate to the needs of the society nor with the ‘specifications’ of the stakeholders and consumers then quality in this context suffers.

This is true indeed because most African universities are currently suffering from global relevance since they are less recognized because of poor ranking that could be attributed to poor facilities, low funding, lack of access, poor infrastructure, unqualified teaching staff and irrelevant curriculum or context.

Issues and Challenges Regarding Access to University Education

Academic Staff Inadequacies

A major factor to achieving the mission and vision of any university system is the
lecturer. According to Okebukola, (2008), UNESCO has noted that there is a plethora of evidence suggesting that teacher quantity, quality and motivation exert noteworthy effects on a host of school variables. He went further to outline the school variables to include enrolment, participation and achievements of pupils (university students in our case).


Quota System

Since the Federal Government of Nigeria introduced the quota system in the universities, access issues has become worse instead of better but the Federal Character Commission still describes it as an access managing scheme that aids in minimizing the entry requirement of states. It allots 45% merit for the student’s enrolment, 20% for less developed educated, 25% for catchment areas and 10% for prudence of vice-chancellor (Ukiwo, Education, horizontal inequalities and ethnic relations in Nigeria, 2007). Quota system is highly disadvantageous in the case that if a student from north who even scored less would get the enrolment instead of the student of south who even scored 300 from 400. Similar is the case with Kwara region. Universities are losing the bright and more qualified students just because of this quota system and it also has the huge impact on university’s efficiency (Akpan & Undie, 2007).


  1. Training, Development and Retention of Skilled Workforce.

To avoid inefficiencies in the university system while resolving the challenge of access, it is imperative for the government and other stakeholders in the university system to train and impart both the teaching staff and the non-teaching staff with best practices ethics. While training the non-teaching staff of the universities on how best to carryout administrative/ clerical functions effectively, the teachers being the major players/actors that affect the institution’s mission, vision, and the performance towards the implementation of a system’s policy, must be empowered with the best contemporary skills to enable him or her work and discharge the pedagogical duties effectively.  

  1. Making the Establishment of Distance Learning Programs a Sacrosanct.

While making distance learning programmes vital issues, the Federal Ministry of Education as a matter of urgency should direct all the universities of Nigeria to implement and use the e-learning technique in their institutes, which will provide the accessing opportunity to the students to get education from the universities easily. This way (mandating all Federal universities to embrace distance learning programmes) will help the students to access the universities easily and acquire their education; students who found it difficult to get admission into the physical/normal mode of learning can as well get admission into an e-learning programme mode of learning into the public universities.

  1. Restructuring of Education Trust Fund Support

The Education Trust Fund (ETF) is established to provide the funds to the universities for the production of journals and the books and for a gradual/continued sponsorship/development of research in the universities. Such financial assistance should be well directed to the establishment of e-learning centres and manufacturing of the online education resources. Greater number of the students who don’t get enrolled in the universities would surely get education from this medium. E-learning would provide the platform to the students who desire university education to learn and develop their capabilities, skills and knowledge.

  1. Acceptance and Practice of Good Management Principles

It is needless for university authorities and higher education authorities (the Government) to engage in the gathering of educational funds by themselves and initiating every project at the expense of taxpayer. The educational institutions with the backing of the government can deploy project management principles and form public private partnership, where government will be offering some concessions to the participants to attract their cooperation. Through this method proper funds/finance management shall be guaranteed for the growth and progress of the universities in Nigeria.

  1. Adoption and Execution of a Financial Waste Management System in Nigeria Universities

Quality educational programme (teaching and learning) can help make the achievement of financial effectiveness and efficiency to become realizable where the federal universities (state owned universities) in Nigeria will be careful and meticulous in the selection of their selected programme in order to control their finances and curb the waste. To be effective, universities should desist from funding their budget on irrelevant and unessential programmes which doesn’t yield expected and desirable results or make a difference. University’s wasted finances should be ploughed back or utilized for the expansion of university facilities to accommodate more students/candidates who have the intention of enrolling in such state owned educational establishments thereby making access into universities possible for many who yearns for it. When universities are made to run an effective financial system, there is an assurance of managing/advancing in e-learning which is highly imperative for the success of a university program. The more facilities acquired, the more advancement in distance learning programme is made possible and certain.

Also, the reckless increment in school fees perpetrated by the authorities of some state owned universities are highly outrageous and exorbitant, and therefore calls for urgent and objective address by the government and all educational stake holders.

  1. Training, Adoption and Utilization of ICT Skills:

ICT and its like such as e-learning, enables university teachers and non-teaching staff to communicate, teach, evaluate and maintain records more effectively than the traditional method or pattern of recording and imparting of knowledge. It also helps in reduction of dependencies on various factors like physical presence thereby repairing the breach in a way that teachers and students must not meet physically in persons in order for learning to take place and students’ academic records to be properly recorded and documented. Nigerian University System can increase ICT as a teaching medium and in this way majority of the lecturers will teach through ICT because it creates a new system of online teaching that opens a way for the students/learners to have easy access to the University. These techniques when applied will enable large number of students to get education from their homes even in an affordable and less costly cost. Through this, admissions and quota systems will no longer be a problematic issue for the students in Nigerian universities.

Nigeria as an education interesting country can achieve greater access to university education especially in the federal universities, if areas of in efficiencies are well managed with the available and conserved resources. This can only be possible when these available and conserved resources are properly channelled towards expanding the existing facilities to accommodate an increased number of students in Nigerian universities. Access into Nigerian universities (especially the federal universities) shall cease to be a problem when Open and Distance Learning (ODL) is effectively embraced and implemented in our universities: through this, a larger number can have access to university education.








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