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By NBF News
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EDUCATION Minister, Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufai, yesterday identified the need to expand access to university education by Nigerians as one of the reasons that informed the recent decision to establish six new universities in each of the six geo-political zones in the country.

Rufai, who addressed the media in her office, also disclosed the locations of the proposed universities.

For the North-Central, the university will be located in Nasarawa State; North East, Taraba; North West, Jigawa; South East, Ebonyi; South-South, Bayelsa State and in the South-West, Ekiti.

The minister said in establishing the universities the government was mindful of the imperative of balancing access to quality higher education in the country.

She said the six new universities would be conceptually distinct from the current conventional and specialised universities, as their programmes would be 'focused and shall seek to address the peculiar challenges of the zones in which they are located.

'As they grow and mature, it is also envisaged that their research activities shall be similarly focused. Furthermore, a healthy balance will be struck between expenditure on core academic activities on the one hand and overhead on the other, such that they will become cost-effective right from take-off with emphasis on the promotion of teaching, learning and research.'

According to the minister, admission to tertiary institutions in the country particularly universities had become a nightmare for many prospective candidates, as the number of candidates who apply yearly through the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) is by far beyond existing vacancies.

For instance, she said over 1.3 million candidates applied for admission into universities nationwide in 2009. However, out of the figure, only 205,170 candidates, representing about 16 per cent applicants were admitted, leaving over 1.1 million candidates, representing about 84 per cent without admission.

Rufai said the figure was a broad representation of many admission years in the past and 'from all indications, the situation is becoming more intractable. Universities are yearly inundated by applicants out of which a small proportion finds vacancies. For instance, some 39,000 candidates selected Bayero University Kano (BUK) as their university of first choice in the JAMB placement examination this year.

'Out of the figure, the university has only a carrying capacity of 5,000 candidates, representing only about 13 per cent of applicants, leaving about 34,000 or 87 per cent applicants stranded.'

The minister added: 'For a nation committed to actualising our national vision of becoming one of the top economies in the year 2020, this crisis of admission must be confronted head on.'