In May, more than a million students will write matriculation exams to gain access to tertiary institutions across Nigeria.
Competition will be stiff as only 28% of the applicants between 2010 and 2015 were eventually admitted.
How Nigeria’s matriculation exam works
Nigeria has 84 public universities (40 federal universities and 44 state-owned ones), 85 education colleges, 66 polytechnics and 25 monotechnics across its 36 states. (Note: Click on each link to find a list of approved institutions.)
To gain access to these institutions, hopeful students need to sit for a matriculation exam organised annually by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board. The board is statutorily empowered to conduct tertiary entrance exams. (Note: Some private universities do not require this exam.)
The exam is computer-based and the subjects tested are determined by the prospective student’s preferred course of study. Applicants are expected to have obtained passing credits in at least five relevant O-level subjects.
Students that are admitted to institutions based on this exam may only start studying months later, however. That is due to the country’s unharmonised academic calendar. (Note: For this reason, 2016 admission figures are not yet available.)
2015 saw highest admission rate
The number of matriculation applications was lowest in 2010 (1,513,940 applications), followed by 2016 (1,598,330 applications).
On average, tertiary institutions only admitted about a quarter of those who applied between 2010 and 2015.
The lowest admission rate was recorded in 2013, at 24%, while 2015 saw the highest admission rate of 30%. This translated into 463,395 and 485,338 students respectively.
Which state had the most applicants?
Pursuing education is one of the biggest reasons why Nigerians move from rural to urban areas. A 2013 study limited to Ogun state reported that majority of migrants moved to "continue their education rather than in search of employment”.
Apart from merit, admission concessions are given to students from certain catchment areas and 23 states considered educationally less developed.
Throughout 2010 to 2016, the highest number of applications came from students from Imo state, followed by Delta state, except in 2016. During this period, the Federal Capital Territory, Zamfara and Sokoto occupied the bottom three spots. (Note: The state only reflect the state of origin of the candidates and not where they reside or study.)
In 4 states more women than men admitted in 2015
States in the southern part of Nigeria had a higher female to male admission ratios that those in the northern region.
Each year from 2010 to 2015, more female students from Imo and Anambra states were admitted to tertiary institutions than their male counterparts. For example, 15,501 female students from Imo state made it through in 2015 versus 13,382 male students.
Enugu state also had more women than men enrol from 2012 to 2015, with Abia achieving the same in 2013 and 2015. In 2015, Akwa Ibom, Ekiti, Delta, Edo, Lagos and Ogun state and other states in the south-west and south-east had a female admission rate of between 40% and 50%.
In contrast, only 1,193 of the 6,479 students enrolled from Jigawa state in 2015 were female, a rate of 18.4%. Low female admission rates were also seen in other northern states like Kano, Gombe, Katsina, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.
No room for foreigners
Since 2010, no foreign student has been admitted into Nigeria’s public institutions despite continued applications.
The year 2015 marked the highest number of foreign students applying, at about 48,000. The next year foreign applications dropped sharply to 525.
Admission to specific courses also varied by state. About 23% of students from Edo state (south-south) admitted in 2015 gained entry to social science courses.
In Imo state, 20% of the students from that state were admitted to education-related courses. And Ondo state had more students admitted into core sciences (20%) than other courses.
More students were admitted to degree programmes at universities than polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education.
For example, 12,737 of the 22,112 students (57.6%) from Kano state who matriculated in 2015 were accepted to study for a university degree, while Borno recorded a rate of 49.3%.
This trend points to the preference for a university degree, which is seen by some as superior to a higher national diploma from a polytechnic. In 2016, the government unveiled plans to end the perceived difference in value between the two academic qualifications.
Note: The data used in this factsheet limited to test-based admissions by JAMB and do not account for admissions conducted without the official test conducted by the matriculation board.