The population of Nigeria is 140 million according to the last 2006 census. Only 75 Universities are available to cater to this population with one University for 1,866,000 people. The inability of the available Universities in Nigeria to cope with the high demand for University education has put much pressure on University admissions. In order to satisfy some interests the Government of Nigeria adopted such admission policies as the quota system, catchment areas, backwardness factor, and discriminatory fees. Following the observed fall in the standards of University education in Nigeria it is speculated that the admission policies are responsible for the situation. To confirm this an opinion survey involving 384 respondents sampled from eight (8) Universities in the South-South zone of Nigeria was conducted. An instrument known as 'Admission Policies and Effect on University Education Quality (APEUEQ)' was used for gathering data after validation. The correlation coefficient reliability of the instrument was found to be 0.73. The chi-square data analysis method was applied. The finding showed that all the parameters of interest have contributed to the reduction of the quality of University education in Nigeria. The paper recommended a complete review of the admission policies and the establishment of more universities to meet the increasing demand for university education.
Nigerian youths, in particular, and the adult population in general, attach much premium on University education. Most people in Nigeria who have the potential for University education show desperation in their efforts to gain admissions into the highly limited available spaces. This obsession and preference for University education as against other forms of higher education such as Colleges of Education, Polytechnics and Monotechnics which also offer degree programmes has placed enormous pressure on the placement and management of Universities in Nigeria. Consequently, standards are often negatively affected.
No law in Nigeria makes university education compulsory. The National Policy on Education (2004, p. 36) lists the goals of tertiary education which includes University education thus: To,
(a) Contribute to national development through high level relevant manpower training;
(b) Develop and inculcate proper values for the survival of the individual and society.
(c) Develop the intellectual capability of individuals to understand and appreciate their local and external environments;
(d) Acquire both physical and intellectual skills which will enable individuals to be self-reliant and useful members of the society.
(e) Promote and encourage scholarship and community service
(f) Forge and cement national unity; and
(g) Promote national and international understanding and interaction.
The National Policy on Education (1981, p. 22) specifically states that the above goals will be pursued by the Universities through:
(iii) The dissemination of existing and new information;
(iv) The pursuit of service to the community; and
(v) Be a storehouse of knowledge.
Ajayi (1988) and Wokocha and Okujagu (1999) have respectively tried to place Universities above other tertiary institutions. However, such views do not provide reasons for the preference of University education by many Nigerians to other tertiary institutions. In the view of Ajayi (1988):
A University is a storehouse of retrievable knowledge and has functions which include authorship and publication of standard texts, self-sustenance, creation of a model community in efficiency, probity and tolerance, honest and enlightened commentary on public affairs in order to impartially educate and to inform.
In their own view about a University, Wokocha and Okujagu ( 1999, p. 120) state thus:
A University is different from other academic institutions because its preoccupation is not only in the diffusion of knowledge but in its extension. …