University access and 'comparative disadvantage' in Nigeria: a reflection on the criticality of equity for sustainable development

Agbaire, Jennifer (2018). University access and 'comparative disadvantage' in Nigeria: a reflection on the criticality of equity for sustainable development. International Journal of Higher Education and Sustainability, 2(1) pp. 64–79.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1504/IJHES.2018.092407

Abstract

Notwithstanding the revamped attention to equity in higher education the world over, it is pertinent to realistically address several foundational issues if equitable access to higher education for sustainable development is indeed envisaged. What is the understanding of ‘equal’ in the context of everyday African society and how has this affected access policy implementation? What roles have existing higher education access practices played in achieving the inclusion of marginalised groups? Could policy definitions of ‘disadvantage’, ‘under-representation’ and ‘vulnerability’ have been misplaced, flawed, or outdated? What should new equity reforms be targeted at, or more problematic, how should they be targeted? These profound questions provoke the thinking in this paper using the lingering crisis of university admission in Nigeria as a case study within the context of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs). The paper critically reflects on the country’s ‘merit-driven’ application system and ambiguous quota admissions policy to illustrate the possibility of persistent exclusion and heightened inequalities should the status quo remain. It ultimately calls for the need to contextually rethink equity policies and practices towards the achievement of the SDGs.

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