Nigerian Higher Education Catchment Policy: Exclusions and the Absent Presence of Ethnicity

Agbaire, Jennifer Jomafuvwe and Dunne, Máiréad (2023). Nigerian Higher Education Catchment Policy: Exclusions and the Absent Presence of Ethnicity. Higher Education Policy [Early Access].

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41307-023-00324-1

Abstract

This paper undertakes an analysis of Nigeria’s quota-based policy for equitable higher education (HE) access with reference to the catchment criterion. HE access demand in Nigeria has far outweighed supply. With a large and diverse population and a growing HE sector, the policy sets out a range of overlapping eligibility criteria as integral to the layered processes of university application. In this paper, we examine the catchment criterion and discuss its work in achieving the national policy aims of equitable access. Drawing on the accounts of applicants, students and lecturers in focus groups and in-depth interviews, we explore how the criterion contributes to tensions around HE access. We point to the ways that depictions of a catchment population revivify historic and perhaps mythical settlement patterns that do not reflect the ethnic heterogeneity among regional residents in current times. On the one hand, the labels of ‘region’, ‘state’ or ‘catchment area’ homogenise distinct ethnic groups and on the other, their operation within the policy for equitable access produces profound levels of stratification, discrimination and exclusion. This leads us to conclude by proposing policy reform that more explicitly recognises the intra-national ethnic multiplicity and diversity as a means to addressing equitable access.

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