The Quality Of Nigerian Tertiary Institutions Graduates: Perception Of Employers

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Background to the study

A major problem in Nigeria today is the unemployment of tertiary graduates. There are thousands of students that graduate every year from various tertiary institutions with good/honorary degrees; yet without employment. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) (2010), unemployment in Nigeria is running at around 19.7 percent on average… and almost half of 15-24 year olds living in urban areas are jobless. The secondary-school graduates was said to consist of the principal fraction of the unemployed, accounting for nearly 35% to 50%; 40% for age group within 20 to 24years and 31% for 15 to 19 years.  As imperfect as this statistics may be, it’s still does not tell a good story.

At a seminar with the theme: Youth, Employment Creation and Shared Growth in Africa held at the just concluded African Development Bank (AfDB’s) annual meetings in Lisbon, Portugal, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, noted that most of the things students are thought in schools today is quite different from what is needed in the labour market.

The rate of development in Nigeria has been on a very slow pace because of this. This slow development has been as a result of the low rate of production. And the low rate of production has been adduced to the incompetence of recent tertiary graduates. Questions have arisen as to why the case is like this. Some adduced reasons were that:

There are three major challenges currently facing the education sector in the country which apparently are the reason for the poor performance of the sub-sector. These challenges include: incessant lecturers strike resulting in massive brain drain, lack of teaching facilities in schools and poor funding.

–        there are not enough vacancies to match the large number of graduates

–        graduates’ specialization do not correspond with organizational needs in Nigeria

–        the graduates are technically incompetent/of low quality.  The author further emphasised that the president stressed the need for universities to focus attention to courses that could make graduates, creators of jobs rather than joining the pool of unemployed youths in the labour market, saying “We now need graduates who are problem-solvers and job creators, and whose characters will be enviable and unimpeachable at all times.” This study is basically concerned with the last adduced reason.

It is said that employers complain that these graduates are poorly prepared for work. They believe that academic standard has fallen over the past decades and that their degrees are no longer a guarantee of communication skills or technical competence. The essence of this project therefore is to determine if these tertiary graduates are meeting the expectations of their employers or not.

According to Andrew (2000) a large mismatch appears to exist between university output and labor market demand.

Their findings showed that the employment prospects of recent graduates have recently deteriorated. This is due to the weak Nigerian economy, the policy environment and inadequate level of skilled human resources, especially the quality of the tertiary trained portion of the workforce. The claim is that employers are not satisfied with the quality of graduates produced by the tertiary institutions and that they always have to retrain them before they become useful to their companies. So this project sets out to determine if the quality of tertiary graduates is as low as claimed or high. This deteriorating quality perception is supported by results from empirical research.

There is a reported a lower rating on the “reputation” of first generation Nigerian university graduates. They expressed a belief that the quality of university education has fallen. Studies by several researchers show that those who graduated in the 1980s gave more favorable ratings to questions regarding availability of study resources than those who graduated in the 1990s. This goes to show that study materials are lacking for the recent generation of graduates.

Many scholars have found that graduates of Nigerian universities rated supervised practical work and quality of academic advice received as very poor.

A casual interview of graduates in engineering, management and the sciences show that only few find most of the theories they learn in schools applicable in their daily work. In particular, graduates rated the practical aspects of their education very poorly. If this is so, it means the school syllabus is obsolete.

The present Nigeria graduate is a direct product of our society, a reflection of the decay and a mirror image of the loss of morals and values. These findings illustrate the wide gap that exists between what is taught in the universities and what the world of work requires. Stakeholders believe that it is the responsibility of our educational system to provide graduates with the background and skills necessary to be successful in their chosen fields of endeavor.

For this reason, when employers recruit graduates, they look for graduates from institutions with curricula that use new technology and emphasize current practices. One of the means to this end is a serious academic research orientation among the academic staffs in Nigerian institutions of higher learning. It is also a known fact that Nigerian public institutions have high enrolments without enough qualified instructors.

Although most employers are unhappy with the quality of graduates Nigerian tertiary institutions have turned out in recent times. They are well aware of the causes. Many employers are quick to state that the quality of these graduates is simply a reflection of the quality of academic staff, learning resources (libraries, laboratories, etc.) and funding limitations. A solution to the problems of staff quality is critical to any improvement in the quality of university graduates. The decline of staff quality is reflected in high rates of “brain drain,” the declining numbers of professors and assistant professors within the university system and their falling levels of post-graduate preparation. Andrew, et al. (2000) views the financial stability of the universities as tied to the fiscal fortunes of the state.

In the last two decades the federal budget has not been stable. It is tied closely to oil revenues, which have been unstable. The consequences of unstable funding are reflected in poorly-equipped laboratories, out-dated libraries, poorly- remunerated staff, crumbling academic facilities, and low research output. And these are the things that will build the quality of the graduates, positively or negatively.

Statement of Problem

The quality of tertiary institutions’ graduates has been called to question severally by politicians, educational stakeholders and employers of labour (who also are the end users of the graduates’ services).  There are reports that federal government would soon establish a special mechanism to rate each university in the country based on the quality of their products, particularly in terms of the quality of their graduates and outputs.

Experts in the educational sub-sector have blamed the high dependence of the industrial sector on low technical expertise and high rate of unemployment bedeviling the nation’s economy on the inability of Nigeria’s polytechnics and other tertiary institutions to produce the much-required technical manpower in the sub-sector sector. The complaint is that graduates performances are of low quality due to their low technical competence and therefore they don’t measure up with employer’s expectations.

Many therefore see an urgent need for institutions to be more active to their responsibilities in terms of reaching out to industries that will meet their requirements so that graduates from the nation’s universities and polytechnics will be efficiently utilized by the industrial sector.

In the light of the fore going, experts have advocated a total overhauling of Nigeria’s education system. According to them, if success must be achieved in this regards, it must undertake some major tasks like acquiring and adapting global knowledge and creating knowledge locally. All these point to quality. Similarly, by investing in human capital to boost capacity to absorb and use knowledge and by investing in technologies to facilitate both acquisition and the absorption of knowledge.

There is need to find out what factors make up this quality and either affirm or negate the complaint. Their quality depends largely on the type of training given to them. If they are poorly trained, they will be of low quality but if given adequate training, they will be of high quality.

Research Questions

In order to effectively carry out this research, the questions below were raised by the researcher:

  1. What is the perception of the quality of tertiary graduates by employers of labour in Warri, Delta State?
  2. Is there any difference between observed graduates skills and employers expectation in Warri, Delta State?
  3. Is there any difference between the observed graduates skills and employers expectation for male and female graduates in Warri, Delta State?
  4. Is there any difference in the perception of employers of the quality of graduates trained in part-time and full-time programmes in Warri, Delta State?
  5. Is there any difference between private and public employers’ observed and expected perception of the quality of tertiary graduates by employers of labour in Warri, Delta State?


Research questions I was answered while the following hypotheses were raised to guide research questions II –V study by the researcher:

  1. There is no significant difference between employers’ observed and expected frequency of opinion of graduates’ skills and in Warri, Delta State.
  2.  There is no significant difference between the observed graduates skills and employers expectation for male and female graduates in Warri, Delta State.
  3.         There is no significant difference in the perception of employers of the quality of graduates trained in part-time and full-time programmes in Warri, Delta State.
  4. There is no significant difference between private and public employers’ observed and expected perception of the quality of tertiary graduates in Warri, Delta State.

Purpose of Study

The objective of this project is to ascertain if tertiary graduates are performing well (of high quality) or really poorly prepared for the field of work (of low quality) as claimed. This can only be done through the employers of these graduates. There is need to see how employers rate their attitudes, initiative, innovation, behavior and total performance on the job. In ascertaining this, the focus will be on:

  1.  Determining the quality of graduates and its effect on their performance
  2. Determining if graduates’ quality meet employers expectations.
  3. Determining if tertiary trainings corresponds with organizational needs and employers expectations.
  4. Improving productivity and development in the country.

Significance of the Study

The importance of this study cannot be overemphasized, seeing that it has so much to do with the graduates who will determine the rate of development of the country.  Since Harbison (1973) said they are the ones who constitute the ultimate basis for the wealth of the nation.

This study is therefore concerned with determining the quality of tertiary graduates. This can be determined by the perceptions of their employers which will help to decide if the given training is adequate or not.  After all, it is the users of a product that can tell whether it is good or not. So the employers of these graduates who are the users, are in a better position to tell whether they are adequately trained or not. If they are of low quality, we will be able to determine why this is so from their responses and proffer ways of improving them.

The findings of this research will help to determine how correct it is to say that tertiary graduates are either of low or high quality. If low, findings will help to determine areas where they are low and put the institutions at alert.

Whether the quality is high or low, findings from the suggested ways of improvement from the employers will definitely yield novel information that will help the tertiary institutions determine ways of improving the academic/practical quality of the institutions.

Furthermore, findings here will help to determine how to improve the on-coming graduates. This improvement will lead to increase in the rate of employment and production, which will further lead to the development of the country. It follows therefore that this study will be of help to the under graduate students, graduated students, employers, tertiary institutions and the country at large.


Some assumptions are believed to answer the “whys” of graduates’ low employment rate and the slow development of the country. They are:

  • That tertiary graduates are not competent in their areas of specialization because they are poorly trained and of low quality
  • That these employers are not satisfied with the quality of graduates produced by the tertiary institutions and that they always have to retrain them before they become useful to their companies.
  • It is assumed that graduates’ skills don’t meet employers’ expectations on the job.
  • That graduates are trained in areas that are not relevant to organizational needs.

Scope and Delimitation of Study

The issue of unemployment of tertiary graduates spans through the whole states in Nigeria. And reasons have been based on their quality. This study centers on all tertiary graduates that have been employed, to determine their quality. The Warri axis of the Delta state region has been used for this study, to find out the perception of employers concerning these tertiary graduates. The study is delimited to Udu LGA, Warri South LGA and Uvwie LGA as these are the major areas of employment in Warri. The study covers all fields of work that are employers of tertiary graduates.

The use of Warri for this study is to give an insight to employers’ rating of tertiary graduates in Nigeria. Their perception will be used to determine whether the quality of these graduates is high or low. And if it is low, determine how to improve on it.

Definition of Terms:

The following terms were used in the study and were explained as used in the study to enhance understanding of the readers.

Quality: is the measuring of graduates’ outputs against inputs to determine effectiveness and efficiency. It also referred to the performance Level. It is also used in this study to mean readiness for work.

High quality: refers to graduates who are technically competent in their areas of specialization and are performing well with high level of performance on the job.

Low quality: refers to graduates who are incompetent and whose performance are below par on the job.

Tertiary graduates: refer to those who have completed the normal years of training for their undertaken course in polytechnics, universities and colleges of education respectively; and were awarded certificates to that effect; including graduates of other forms of education higher than the secondary.

Unemployment: refers to the absence of jobs to those who are suitable and qualified for it.

Educational standards: pre-determined minimum requirements for the operation of educational activities as contained in educational policies and programmes.

Place of training: refers to the location where the graduate acquired his/her training which could be in a rural or urban area.

Mode of training: implies the acquisition of training through a part-time or a full-time programme of any tertiary institution.

Urban tertiary institutions: tertiary schools located in places very proximate or within the state capitals of the host states.

Rural tertiary institutions: tertiary schools located in places other than the state capitals of the host states.

The Quality Of Nigerian Tertiary Institutions Graduates: Perception Of Employers

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