Higher Education and the Labor Market : A Study of University Access and Graduate Employment Opportunities in Nigera

Abstract: This study examines problems of access to university education and graduate employment opportunities in Nigeria. Specifically, the study investigates issues of equality of opportunity in university education, quotas in admissions, geographical dispersion of higher educational institutions, student finance, university resources, student characteristics, university output, and the transition of graduates to the labor market. The research design of the study incorporates historiography and cross-sectional perspective with more in-depth case studies of two universities. The case studies have been selected based on specific geopolitical, historical, economic, and cultural factors in the country.The findings suggest that in order to curb the general problems of university expansion, the availability of the following list of relative indices are important in making admissions decisions: ratio of acceptances to applications, student/academic staff ratio, rate of drop-out, number of graduates in relation to manpower demand by field of specialization, availability of teaching and research equipment, unit cost per student, and the proportion of accepted applicants from the different ethnic groups.The results show that access to higher education, particularly in Business Administration, is highly restrictive and elitist. The socio-economic background of the sampled respondents by parental occupation and education shows that 83 percent come from the high-income groups. The study also found gender, age, and regional gaps in university education, and this has implications for student recruitment, assistance, geographical spread of university facilities, and job opportunities.With regard to the relevance of university education to employment, more than 70 percent of the graduates indicated that they did not have the training that employers would have liked them to have had. About 65 percent of the employers reported that good academic performance bears no direct relationship to satisfactory job performance. The findings suggest that governments and institutions might consider the integration of manpower planning with educational planning. In Nigeria, manpower planning has not been effective due to lack of a comprehensive employment strategy and, consequently, graduate supply has always outstripped labor market needs. The results show that various means could be used to assist the transition from education to work. Newspaper advertisement and family contacts were considered important sources of obtaining first employment.