DESPITE STRIKES, FALLEN STANDARDS…67 Varsities Produce 6,464 First Class Graduates In 3 Years


Amidst claims of inadequate funding, infrastructure deficit, shortage of academic staff, incessant strikes, poor research work, weak or poor administration, brain drain, recently escalated by the Japa syndrome and, lately, insecurity, Nigerian universities have continued to churn our first class graduates in large numbers.

The trend is a marked departure from the old order where only very few and the very best in the country’s Ivory Towers made this category of degrees in various disciplines.

In fact, most of the several strikes embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) were linked to the deplorable state of the Ivory Towers, which the union claimed were not suitable to produce world class graduates.

It is against this backdrop that concerns are raised in some quarters why the universities have continued to churn out this class of graduates.

LEADERSHIP investigation revealed that 67 of the nation’s 272 universities, which held either their single or combined convocations between March 2023 and March 2024, produced a total of 6,464 first class graduates.

These figures were obtained from the convocation addresses of the vice chancellors and other authorised officials of the universities covered by the findings.

A breakdown of the figures showed that federal universities topped the ladder with 3,736, or 57.79 percent, first class graduates followed by those owned by the states, which accounted for 1,458, or 22.55 percent, while private universities came a distant third with 1,270 , or 19.64 percent, of the total number of first class graduates produced during the period under review.

Overall, 23 federal universities produced 3,736 first class graduates while 18 state universities graduated 1,458, and 26 private universities accounted for 1,270.

LEADERSHIP investigation also indicated that the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) in Kwara State topped the federal universities with 450 first class graduates, University of Lagos (UNILAG) came next with 340, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) in Bauchi State had 337, University of Ibadan (UI), 314; University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), 288; Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) in Ondo State, 195; FUT, Minna 187; Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (ABU), 182; Bayero University, Kano (BUK) 180; University of Benin (UNIBEN), 178, and Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife in Osun State, 158.

In the state universities’ category, the top five are Lagos State University (LASU), 282; Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State (OOU), 198; Kwara State University, Malete (KWASU) 183, and Gombe State University, 116.

For the private universities, Covenant University, Ota in Ogun State, led with 283 first class graduates, Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD) in Ekiti State came second with 141; Fountain University, Osogbo in Osun State, 89; Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State, 82, and Landmark University, Omu-Aran, Kwara State, 68.

Statistics assessed by LEADERSHIP revealed that three universities in Abuja produced 152 first class graduates from 8,144 graduates. 

In its 2023 convocation, the University of Abuja graduated 7,128 undergraduates, of which 40 bagged first class degrees, Nile University of Nigeria had 619 undergraduates and 84 made first class while Veritas University, Bwari, graduated 397 students with 28 making first class.

At Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi (ATBU), 337 students received first class honours at its combined convocation held in February 2024.

In Kano State, there are 10 universities but data were only available for Bayero University, Kano (BUK), which awarded degrees to 11,284 students in 18 faculties at its 38th convocation in March 2024, with 180 receiving first class honours.

In Katsina State, two universities: Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University (UMYU) and the Federal University, Dutsin-ma (FUDMA) UDMA had their 7th and 8th combined convocations in November 2023, where about 112 students graduated with first class from a total of 4,365 graduates.

Gombe State plays host to Gombe State University (GSU), Gombe State University of Science and Technology, Kumo; Federal University, Kashere (FUK) and North Eastern University, Gombe.

Only GSU held its convocation within the period under review where the university graduated 5,326 students in four combined sessions, with 116 bagging first class honours.

The Modibbo Adama University (MAU), Yola, awarded first class degrees to 63 graduates in 2023 from a total of 4,638 students. Adamawa State University, Mubi, at its 14th convocation awarded 23 students first class degrees from a total of 2,59 graduating students.

In Jigawa State, there are four universities but only the Federal University, Dutse, conducted its convocation on February 21, 2024. Out of  a total of 2,872 students, 74 were awarded first class.

In Niger State, there are three public and private universities: Federal University of Technology (FUT), Minna; Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai (IBBUL), and Abdulkadir Kure University (AKU), Minna

The private universities are Newgate University, Minna; Edusoko University, Bida, and El Amin University, Minna

While IBBUL and FUT conducted their convocation ceremonies in May last year and January this year respectively, AKU and the three private universities are new.

IBBU, Lapai, at its 4th combined convocation announced that 37 had first class honours from 6,154 graduates

In FUT, Minna 187 graduating students bagged first class degrees from 7,312 students in its combined 2021/2022 and 2022/2023 sessions.

Kaduna State has only one federal university, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria; Kaduna State University and one private university, Greenfield University.

ABU held its 43rd convocation on January 27, 2024, with 18,623 graduates excluding postgraduate students.

Among the graduates, a total of 182 students made first class and 3,902 with second class upper division.

The vice chancellor of the Federal University, Wukari, Prof. Jude Sammani Rabo had on Saturday, March 16, 2024 disclosed that the institution graduated 120 first-class students from a total of 3,031 candidates.

Al-Hikmah University is a private university based in Ilorin, Kwara State.

During its 13th convocation on December 10, 2023, the university produced 26 first class graduates.

Kwara State University, Malete, produced 16,315 graduates for the 10th and 11th combined convocation for the 2021/2022 and 2022/2023 academic sessions.

There were 183 first-class graduates for the combined convocation ceremony held on December 16, 2023.

The University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) owned by the federal government produced a total of 450 first class graduates during its convocation on October 20, 2023.

Landmark University, a private university based in Omu-Aran in Irepodun local government area of Kwara State held its 10th convocation on October 13, 2023 and produced 68 first-class graduates

In Kogi State, there are five universities which include a Federal University, three state-owned universities and a private university.

In 2023, the Federal University, Lokoja (FUL), Kogi State, graduated 61 first-class students from 2,511 graduates at a combined convocation ceremony.

Similarly, Salem University, Lokoja, graduated 962 students at its 6th combined convocation, with 58 bagging first class honours.

Benue State (BSU), which is owned by the state government, produced a total number of 23,060 graduates who were conferred with degrees, postgraduate diplomas, masters’ degrees and PhD degrees at its 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st combined convocations ceremonies in 2023. Sixty-three of them bagged first class degrees.

The Federal University of Lafia and Nasarawa State University (NSUK) produced 83 first class students during their separate convocations held in May 2023 and February, 2024 respectively.

The data showed that FuLafia graduated 50 first class students in February 2024 while NSUK produced 33 with first class honours during its 7th convocation ceremony held on May 27, 2023.

In Ondo State, the state has one federal University, Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), and three state universities – Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Olusegun Agagu University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa and University of Medical Sciences, Ondo.

FUTA produced 195 first class honours out of 3,491 graduates, while AAUA graduated 5, 249, with 42 bagging first class degrees.

Also, at the convocation ceremony of the Achievers University, Owo, 37 made first class, while 62 got the same grade at Olusegun Agagu University out of 1,202 that were conferred with first degrees.

At the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo, 19 students made first class as the school graduated 528 students from the undergraduate programmes.

The National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) in all its 108 study centres across the country had its 12th convocation on March 25, 2023 where 21,281 undergraduates graduated, among whom 22 had first class degrees.

At University of Lagos (UNILAG) convocation on January 16, 2024, 10,578 students received their first degrees, with 340 coming out as first class graduates.

In June 2023, 282 students graduated at the Lagos State University (LASU) with first class degrees during the 2021, 2022 convocations of over 10,000 students.

Caleb University, Imota, Lagos, on Saturday, February 3, 2024, held its 13th convocation, where a total of 1,209 students graduated, with 60 bagging first class degrees.

In Ogun State, LEADERSHIP investigation revealed that the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) held two convocation ceremonies between March 2023 and March 2024, churning out a total of 240 graduates with first class degrees.

At the state-owned Olabisi Onabanjo University, Agu-Iwoye (OOU), a total of 174 graduates bagged first class degrees at the combined 40th convocation ceremony held on Wednesday, January 31, 2024, for the 2021/2022 and 2022/2023 academic sessions.

Also, at the Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), also owned by the state, 113 students made the first class grade at the institution’s combined 13th, 14th, and 15th convocations held on Tuesday, November 2023, which covered three academic sessions: 2020/2021, 2021/2022, and 2022/2023.

In the part of the private universities, the 7th Day Adventist owned university; Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo churned out 136 students in the first class category at the institution’s 21st convocation ceremony held in July, 2023 till date.

For the Bells University of Technology, Otta, Ogun State, a total of 37 students bagged the first class degrees at the institution’s 15th convocation ceremony held on Saturday, 4th November, 2023.

At Chrisland University, Ajebo Road, Abeokuta, 10 students graduated with first class degrees at the institution’s 5th convocation ceremony held in November 2023 which produced 91 graduates.

At another faith-based university, Covenant University, Ota, a total of 283 students graduated with first class honours at the institution’s 18th convocation ceremony held on September 29, 2023 for the 2022/2023 academic session.

At Crawford University, Igbesa, Ogun State, 36 students made first class during the faith-based university’s 15th convocation in November, 2023.

Mountain Top University (MTU), another faith-based university, produced 36 first class graduates during its convocation ceremony held on Thursday, 21st December, 2023.

In December 2023, Coal City University (CCU), Enugu held a combined convocation of four academic sessions spanning 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Thirty-three of the 502 graduates made first class.

In November 2023, 288 students of the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) bagged first class degrees at the 51st convocation of the university.

The Godfrey Okoye University, Ugwuomu, also held a convocation ceremony within the period under review and 12 graduates achieved first class honours.

Rivers State University produced 58 first class honours from 6,326 graduates during the period under review.

The University of Port Harcourt, which held its 34th convocation in February 2024, produced a total of 105 first class graduates.

The Madonna University, which is a private faith-based university located in Elele, Rivers State, produced a total of 38 first class graduates.

During the 11th convocation ceremony of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, last November, 121 of the graduating 8,369 students came out with first class.

In November 2023, at its 48th convocation, the University of Benin (UNIBEN) conferred 178 of the graduates with first class honours.

At the Igbinedion University, Okada, 13 students bagged first class at its 12th convocation in November 2023, and at the 19th convocation of Benson Idahosa University, 52 had first class, and 181 bagged second class, upper division.

At the 5th convocation of the institution, 12 graduating students of the Edo State University, Uzairue, bagged first class honours in the institution in the 2022/2023 academic session.

At Delta State University (DELSU), during its convocation on April 29, 2023, , 58 graduates emerged with first class in the first degree category, out of a total of 4,855 graduating students.

Checks by LEADERSHIP revealed that between March 2023 and March, 2024, precisely on November 1, 2023, the University of Uyo (UNIUYO) had a combined 26th, 27th and 28th convocation ceremonies, covering graduates drawn from the 2017/2018, 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 academic sessions.

Of the 11,795 undergraduate students who graduated from the various Faculties of Engineering, Science and Technology, Medicine, Education, Law, Humanities and others, 136 first class graduates were churned out of the institution during the period under review.

Imo State boasts of two federal universities, three state and two private universities. Between 2023 and now, a total of 150 first class graduates have emerged.

The Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) during its 34th/35th convocation in December 2023 produced 120 first class graduates.

The Imo State University, Owerri, in February 2023 produced 30 first class graduates.


Experts Attribute Trend To Students’ Access To Technology, Parents’ Commitment

LEADERSHIP investigation showed that attainment of first-class degrees in Nigeria has become increasingly prevalent as compared to some years back, sparking discussions among experts on the underlying causes.

Experts, including lecturers, have attributed the trend to the rise of new technology tools and the capital-driven structure of private universities.

Among the key factors under scrutiny, technological advancement, socioeconomic status and capital gains stood out as the leading contributors.

In an interview with LEADERSHIP, the chairperson of the University of Abuja branch of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. Sylvanus Ugoh, said the improvement in technology is a plus for students.

According to him, some years back, students didn’t have access to reading materials the way they have now.

“During my time in the University, you have the British library as the best place you can consult. There was nothing like browsing. You were limited to a particular library in a particular location at any point in time.

“But right now, students can sit in one place and go round the world looking for materials. That is a plus.”

He, however, pointed out that private universities in the country are churning out more first class students than the public ones.

 “If you do your research well, you will discover that the major number of those in the first class come from private universities and that raises the question: why?”

According to him, socioeconomic status is another factor that has contributed to the emergence of more first class degrees.

“Some years back, I don’t know how many parents could help their children to study in the university, but now, because many of the parents are graduates, they know what it means to sponsor them,” Ugoh said.

But an academic research consultant from the University of Abuja, Mr.  Humphrey Ukeaja, thinks that private universities are mostly experiencing a remarkable rise in the attainment of first-class degrees due to their capital-driven nature, where strategic investments play a pivotal role in academic outcomes.

According to him, there is a lower rate of issuing top degrees in public institutions because of the rigorous nature of lecturers and students study-life balance.

“I wish to state that for most private universities, it is like a venture. It is capital-driven and for you to maintain the retention of students you have to make their sponsors happy because that is how you increase profit.

“It is a win-win for both universities and parents of the students in the universities. So, there is nothing strange about it. It is mostly driven by the fact that these are private institutions that at times are in need of retaining students and they have to take out strategies of giving out good grades to students to make their parents happy. Although, at times they will justify it by saying the students are brilliant.

“So, for me, it is profit driven, and it is an obvious fact; but notwithstanding, just to balance it, also that there can be a few bright students within the private universities but the strategy of giving them first class is deliberate.

“Also on the first question, there is also a competition between private universities on who can keep the most students, so the more you push out first class, people would say ‘this school is good, let my child go there’. So, the rest after that is nobody’s business.”

Speaking on the negative impact of undeserving graduates coming out with first class, he said it will have a massive implication to the social economic development of Nigeria.

“Because you don’t have a fully productive individual in a setting, that is why you see employers complaining about employees or potential employees not having the requisite skills,” he said.

Ukeaja further said online tools, digital libraries and the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are contributing to the trend, even as he urged institutions to deploy global standard tools that can check plagiarism.

“But notwithstanding, technology is meant to be a blessing. Sometimes people manipulate it to bring out attributes of a curse, so it’s good to have these tools, but to use the tools properly in an academic manner, and not using it in a way that promotes plagiarism. All institutions should deploy tools to use in checking the abuse of these technologies that students plagiarise to get first class.

“The online tools are supposed to be like an aid in helping you get resources and you properly referencing them, and using your initiative to digest and translate that.

“But there is an abuse of it, and there is a need for institutions to up their game in looking at global best professional tools to slash the abuse of these tools.

“If we have an inflation of first class students, there is no problem, but when you have those that cannot defend it, who are just placeholders and are not capable, then it’s worrisome,” he concluded.




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