The State of Higher Education in Nigeria

Paschal Erhabor
5th year Medical Student (2016) – University of Benin.
Beneficiary of COIMF Higher Education Scholarship in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.


Nigeria has such system of higher education that offers equal opportunity to all and sundry irrespective of the particular field of study or one’s area of interest. It is such that anyone can study in any part of the country according to choice so that, no particular institution is meant for particular people or ethnic group, or social class. We can therefore better appreciate Nigeria’s system of education under the following thematic headings: Options for higher education in Nigeria, How to earn admission? And challenges of the education system.

Options for Higher Education in Nigeria

The federal government and the state governments of Nigeria were previously the only bodies licensed to operate scholar universities. Recently, licenses have been granted to individuals, corporate bodies and religious bodies to establish private universities in the country. There are over 40 federal, 44 state and 68 privately operated Universities in Nigeria as of the time of this document. Additionally, there are over 109 polytechnics (federal, state and private) and 82 Colleges of Education across the country (22 federal, 46 state and 14 private). This number is increasing on daily basis given the fast growing population and greater need for education of all citizens. The Nigeria’s system of education enjoys the structure that occasions candidates the freedom to make choices between the various categories of higher education, such as universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. The Nigeria’s educational structure is an open system that allows a free navigation through the available alternatives of higher education so that, no one is restrained to particular category of institution of higher learning.

How to Earn Admission

I would quickly remark that the process of earning admission in higher education in Nigeria as slated by her statutory system of education is systematic and procedural, and also strictly based on merit such that no one who falls below the requirement is given admission. The three categories of higher institution in Nigeria aforementioned operate a similar system on the procedures of offering admission to candidates. The procedure is such that the candidate would first acquire a complete and valid senior secondary school certificate (SSCE) from any entity or agency recognized and approved by government, such as National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB), West African Examination Council (WAEC), General Certificate Examination (GCE) or National Examination Council (NECO). The senior secondary certificate must include Mathematics and English Language, and three or four other subjects according to the candidate’s area of interest. This makes the candidate eligible to sit for yet another examination called Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). Concerning
the UTME, there is a minimum score a candidate must acquire as determined by particular institution. Any score below the minimum cut-off mark, disqualifies the candidate. For example, the minimum score for some universities is 200, while for some, it is 180 of the total possible score
(400). Of note is the compulsory English Language and any other three subjects relevant to one’s desired course of study. Having acquired the required score in UTME, candidates either for universities, polytechnics or colleges are made to sit for yet another examination known as Post-UTME. Again, the different higher institutions independently determine the pass mark for their candidates. Any candidate who meets up with the required score (average of UTME and Post UTME) automatically
gains admission into the institution he/she has chosen. However, last year’s admission took a modified dimension as Post UTME was apparently not conducted and admission was based on UTME+/-SSCE. This dynamic reality makes it obvious for every examination to be remote from being trivialized. To further increase the chances of candidates gaining admission, the standard of earning admission, especially for applicants from Educationally Less Developed States (ELDS) is lowered to encourage literacy in these states. The idea of catchment area is equally considered in the admission processes. It is a system in which members of the particular state and surrounding states where the institution especially if federal owned is established are given higher opportunities to gain admission into the institution at a reduced standard. All these are meant to increase the level of literacy in Nigeria.

Challenges of the Educational System

Nigeria’s educational system has been remarkable in terms of offering candidates options for higher education and maintaining a uniform process of gaining admission based on merit. However, such system is not without internal problems which inhibit students’ chances of continuing even after gaining admission officially. An obvious reason why some people never dreamt of going for higher education is the high tuition
fee coupled with the huge sum of money students are expected to pay as acceptance and registration fee after being admitted. In such situation, students who do not have viable sponsors are at a great disadvantage. Even with viable sponsors, some students are quite dubious as they provide fake results only to be discovered at screening. In this case, he does not only lose but denies another with genuine result an admission.
It might interest you to know that school hostels and classrooms are given little or no attention in terms of maintenance so that, students learn in an unconducive and uncomfortable environment. There is no doubt that maximum learning cannot be achieved under such difficult atmosphere. And most pitiably, some of these schools suffer poor power and water supply. More so, students also face certain different internal challenges in that certain administrative policies deal dangerous blows on them. For this reason, students would have to learn through hard ways. Some lecturers
victimize and extort students by imposing handouts on them for their selfish reasons.
We must note at this juncture that all the challenges that could be outlined have their foundation on bad government and bad economy. The nonchalant attitude and the indifference of government towards institutions of higher learning have been a thorn in the flesh of Nigeria’s standard of education. Lecturers are not paid and so, they resort to all forms of dubious strategies to make both ends meet. Students who would have channeled their little resources towards good feeding, buying of good books and accessing sources of scholarly materials end up offering all they have to appease
some lecturers who threaten them with failure. This being the case, one would quickly question the quality of graduates from Nigeria’s institutions of higher learning.


It is excellently good to have an educational system that opens its doors for all to come and learn, and to run a system that operates a standard procedure of admission. However, the paramountcy of the internal structures which is germane to the quality of the end product of such an excellent system of education must not be ignored if quality learning is to be a sure-fire. Therefore, government and the authorities of tertiary institutions should make concerted assiduous efforts towards revamping, especially the internal structures of the various institutions of higher learning. The cost and the
atmosphere of learning, payment of lecturers and the activities of workers in tertiary institutions should be the subject matter of any revolutionary approach to sanitizing Nigeria’s institutions of higher learning. Then, we can look forward to having better graduates from Nigerian