UNILAG’s harvest of first class degrees
When on Friday October 3, 2014, a 400-Level law student of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Ms. Damilare Babajide, was rewarded with a new car alongside other unannounced mouthwatering perks for being the winner of the 2014 Miss UNILAG pageant, many gave organisers of the pageant thumbs up.
But the reward for success in that beauty pageant was many times better than what was given out to another female student, Miss Zainab Olaitan, who towered above other contenders by winning the university’s debate on September 10, same year.
Miss Olaitan, a 200 level student of Political Science, who emerged victorious from a very rigorous academic debate was handed a laptop computer with the sum of N100, 000 by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Rahamon Bello. The year before, the winner of the same debate, Ms. Mary Adegunloye, only went home with a cash prize of N50, 000 and a laptop computer.
Shortly after Miss Babajide was presented with her car by the Director of Student Affairs (DSA), the social media was abuzz as students and others heavily criticised the disparity in gifts, stressing that it was tantamount to placing beauty over scholarship.
In fact, some students on campus claimed that the disparity in the value of gifts to winners of academic competitions, in comparison with that carted home by beauty queens was capable of lowering the morale of students.
But the scenario playing out of the institution seems to suggest that serious minded students are still burning the midnight oil and getting rewarded for their efforts.
This, watchers of the development say is reflected in the number of graduates ending their undergraduate studies in the First Class Division.
Most students that gain admission into universities dream of graduating with first class degrees, but in most cases, even some that have the potential to do so are never disciplined enough to realise their potentials, as the class of degree a student earns is largely a function of self-application. A first class degree is earned when a student scores Cumulative Grade Point Average, (CGPA) of 4.50 and above upon graduation.
However, in the last five years, UNILAG has produced about 500 first class graduates, despite claims in many quarters that the standard of education in the country has either fallen or is falling.
Speaking in January, 2010 at a media briefing ahead of the 2009/2010 academic session, then vice chancellor of the institution, the late Prof Adetokunbo Sofoluwe informed that a total 89 student graduated with first class in 2008; 103 in 2009 and 87 students in 2010.
On that occasion he added, “It is important, therefore, at this juncture, to state that we are determined to continue our tradition of producing quality first class brains that can compete favourably with their equals in any part of the world.”
A hundred and eighteen students completed their studies in the First Class Division in the 2010/2011 with Josiah Akhigbe, a Mechanical Engineering student, amassing a Grade Point Average of 4.98 out of 5.00, the highest in the institution’s history.
At the 2012/2013 convocation ceremony held at the Multi-Purpose Hall of the university, Ibukunoluwa Samuel Aina, 25, was listed among the 89 graduating students that finished in First Class Division. He had a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.71.
According to the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Rahamon Bello. That session 1,293 of the graduating students finished in Second Class Division, while 2,261 obtained Second Class Upper Division. Also, 752 had third class Honours, while 513 graduated with pass degrees.
For the first time in the history of the school, two female students beat their male counterparts to top two spots on the graduation’s list
Ibok Favour Asuquo, who studied accounting and Gabtony Flora Nkeiru from Psychology, led an overall total of 91 graduating students who finished in the First Class Division. Miss Asuquo finished with a cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 4.89 and Miss Gabtony with 4.88 points.
In last week’s graduation ceremony, 125 graduating students finished with first class degrees. Top on the list was 21-year old Akinpelumi Korede of the Department of Chemical Engineering, with Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 4.96 as the best graduating student of the university.
Commenting on the gradual rise of first class degree holders in the country, Vice Chancellor, Joseph Ayo Babalola University (JABU) Osun State, Prof Sola Fajana said, there was nothing unusual about the increase in the number of first class graduates in Nigerian universities.
”The Nigerian University System (NUS) is regulated by the National Universities Commission (NUC) through instruments such as Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS). The resource verification and accreditation processes are very intricate and supervised with a deep sense of responsibility and integrity. The external examination system ensures that standards are kept very high nationally and internationally. If a first class graduate is pronounced in the NUS, you can be assured that the graduate is indeed a first class material.
“If the number has increased in recent times, it is reflective of increases and advances in knowledge, which is contemporarily facilitated by information and communication technology. Other than the existence of some students who use technology for catching fun, there are is an increasing number of serious-minded students who deploy information communication technology to achieve excellent results.
“Furthermore, the total number of graduates produced has been increasing over time, especially since the 1980s. Consequently, the proportional increase in the number of first class students probably reflects the increase in the number of graduates produced, compared with the figures of the 1960s up to the 1970s.”
He added that, “Contemporary university students are more in the demographic category labelled millennial children, whereas their teachers are more of the generation next or the baby boomers. Aided by recent advances in ICT, the undergraduate millennials sometimes know more than their teachers. This accounts for the seeming ease with which excellent degree classifications are now achieved. There are occasions when the external examiner review students’ grades upwards, over and above what the internal examiners (the teacher) had awarded. This is compliant with academic traditions in credible universities all over the world. Given the efficacy of the external examination system, we have every reason to accept this trend of increase in first class degree classifications as a healthy development. Nevertheless, the quality of external examination may be suspect in some cases. We need to watch out for this.
The vice chancellor, who doubted if it was easier to make a first class degree in Nigeria than elsewhere said, “On the contrary, making high degree classifications is much tougher in Nigeria than elsewhere. Most of our graduates with second-class classification go abroad to compete very favourably by beating students from other countries, to come tops among their colleagues. Nigerian students are indeed the toast of several university teachers abroad.”
Asked if there was reason for concerns as some people still fear that grade inflation could be going on in some Nigerian schools, Fajana said, “There is nothing like grade inflation. Such fears are unfounded. With the credible and efficient regulatory role of the NUC, in federal, state and private universities, grade inflation would be very rare in the NUS. But like I mentioned previously, the quality of the external examination system need to be watched.
Vice chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Prof. Olusola Oyewole, agrees with Fajana that contemporary Nigerian students were smarter than their counterparts of yesteryears. “They have more educational resources to consume via the Internet. So, the advent of Information Communication technology has immensely contributed to the rise of first class graduates. To that extent, where students are serious with their studies, it is easier to make a first class today than it was in the past.
“The methods of assessment are also more liberal today than they were in the past. With this, it is very easy for serious-minded students to score higher grades.”
On alleged grades inflation, Oyewole said, “The issue of grade inflation, if at all it exists, is not on a large scale as being bandied in the society. Be it sell of grades or the so-called ‘sex for grades,’ it is not as rampant as spoken about. However, making a first class is no tea party because the student has to consistently score high marks, all-session, all-year round and in all courses. It would take only a genius to acquire grades across board through these means.”
On whether the present standard of education in the country supports the present flow of first class graduates, he said, “I am not sure the talk about falling standard of education is correct. There is improvement in learning systems, which are becoming more learner centerd as against teacher-centred. This gives room for serious students to not only explore and research widely, but also go ahead to unearth deeper insights on any particular topic on their own, during their spare time, So, I do not subscribe to the notion of falling standard of education.”
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