Nigeria’s tertiary institutions can only admit 26 per cent of applicants due to limited vacancies, Daily Trust findings have shown.
Official figures show that over 10 million students sought admission into higher institutions of learning in six years (2010 to 2015) but only 2,674,485 were admitted.
These figures covered only students who sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) every year according to data obtained from the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) websites and that of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
About 74 percent of those that failed to secure admission were forced to wait for another year to be joined by others that are finishing secondary schools.
The examination body organises computer-based entrance exams where applicants, who obtained credits in at least five relevant O-level subjects, are tested based on their preferred course of study.
The examinations are conducted by West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and the local National Examinations Council (NECO).
To be successful, candidates must have at least five credits including in Mathematics and English Language. They are also required to meet cut off marks usually set by JAMB.
There is high competition for available slots in the 40 federal universities, 44 state-owned universities, 66 polytechnics, 85 colleges of education and 25 mono-technics spread across the 36 states of the country and Abuja, the federal capital.
Nigeria, with a population of over 180 million has only 290 tertiary institutions, while the United States with a population of 318 million, has over 5,000 higher education institutions.
Some applicants from well-to-do families travel abroad for undergraduate studies, but the majority of Nigerians stay back because of the exorbitant cost.
In 2010, for instance, only 423,531 gained admission out of the 1.5 million that applied. The number of applicants rose to 1.64 million in 2011 but the number of admissions, however, dropped to 417,341.
In 2012, the number of applicants was 1.63 million but those who gained placements were 477,176. The application numbers climbed to 1.92 million in 2013, with only 463,395 succeeding in getting slots.
For 2014, the number of applicants dropped to 1.79 million, but only 437,707 were offered admissions.
The admission figures, however, rose to 485,338 in 2015 when 1.61 million students applied.
Analysis of the data based on the state of origin of applicants revealed that Imo State had the highest number of applicants, followed by Delta state, for the six-year period under review.
On the other hand, Sokoto and Zamfara states had the lowest matriculation applications, according to the official data.
Gender analysis of the data shows that 17 states in the southern part of the country had a higher female to male applications and admission ratio than the 19 states in the north.
This was attributed to culture as well as the violent campaigns launched by Boko Haram, the anti-western education terrorist group that attacked schools, killed and abducted school children in northeast Nigeria.
Imo and Anambra states from the southeast had more of their female students admitted into higher institutions than male students, during the period under review.
In 2015, for instance, Imo enrolled 15,501 female students into tertiary institutions compared to 13,382 male students.
More female students from Enugu State got admission than their male counterparts between 2012 and 2015; followed by Abia State in 2013 and 2015.
Akwa Ibom, Ekiti, Delta, Edo, Lagos and Ogun and other states in the southwest and southeast had a female admission rate of between 40 and 50 percent, according to a study by the Africa Check.
For the northern state of Jigawa, only 1,193 of the 6,479 students enrolled in 2015 were female, a rate of 18.4 percent, the study said.
There were also low female admission rates in other northern states of Kano, Gombe, Katsina, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.
Further analysis of the university applications and intake for 2014 shows that of the 172,028, comprising 126,158 male and 45,870 female applicants from the northwest, only 43,390 gained admissions. Of these successful applicants, only 11,065 were female while the remaining 33,328 were male.
For the insurgency ravaged northeast, out of the 100,606 applicants (68,670 male and 31,736 female), only 24, 518 got admission; comprising 17,730 male and 6,788 female.
In north central, 221,860 (134,936 male and 86,924 female) applied for university courses, 50,004 were admitted, of which 30, 871 male and 19,133 female.
In southeast, 378,616 (182,799 men and 195,817 women) wrote the university matriculation exams, but 80,614 got admissions, with 40,383 men and 40,231 female.
The number of applicants from the southwest was 352,735, consisting 189,950 men and 162,785 women. But only 50,388 men and 42,257 women, totalling 92,645 eventually gained admission.
For the oil-rich south-south, 272,012 (145,620 male and 12,392 female) sat for the matriculation exams, but only 59,691 got placements at the universities, comprising 33,011 male and 26,680 female.
In 2013, only 83,931, comprising 57,415 male and 26,516 female students applied to study at the universities, but only 27,677 (19,273 male and 8,404 female applicants) gained admission.
For the northwest, 152,777 applied (111,953 male and 40,224 females), admissions were offered to 44,672, which comprised 32,378 male and 12,294 female applicants.
In north central, of the 218,706 applicants, (comprising 34,153 male and 84,553 female), only 52,885 gained admission to universities; 32,854 were male and the remaining 20,031 were female.
In comparison, 192,731 male and 212,830 female students applied. But only 43,861 male applicants and 46,824 female applicants, totalling 90,685 succeeded in gaining admissions.
From the south-south, 296,351 applied consisting 158,830 male and 137,521 female; but only 66,335 were successful. Of this number, 36,569 were male and the remaining 29,766 were female.
There were 368,647 (199,093 male and 169,554 female) applicants from the southwest, but only 85,763 gained admission to various universities in 2013. Of this figure, 46,415 were male, while 39,348 were female.
Tertiary education in Nigeria is bedevilled by decades-long lack of funding, poor infrastructure and manpower, as well as persistent strikes by the workers’ unions demanding for better conditions of service, research funds and academic environment.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) since last week embarked upon indefinite strike demanding Federal Government to implement series of agreements they reached earlier.