The University of Sierra Leone says his decision to conduct a “screening test” was made, following an engagement with the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education. USL announced in October that anyone wishing to enroll in a degree for the 2022/23 year will be screened to ensure fairness and equality in the admissions process and to meet international standards.
The university’s director of media, alumni and international relations, Dr Tonya Musa, in an interview with Radio Democracy, said it was the highest number of applications received in recent years. The Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM) received over 8,000 applications, as did Fourah Bay College.
He said that the high number of applications received this year did not surprise them because the results of WASSCE were excellent. With 63% success in English and 90% success in Mathematics, many students met the requirements.
However, this year’s outstanding results have raised eyebrows. Excellence, which according to the Minister of Basic and Upper Secondary Education is the result of the government’s huge investment in the sector, has been linked to an attempt to score political goals. Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad questioned the credibility of the results. Writer and media personality, Davies Cole said “Whatever it is, it confuses us“, when he saw the results. Joel Abdulai Kallon, data analyst and co-founder of Chozen Generation, also questioned the accuracy of the results in a blog “Interrogating David Sengeh’s Education Data.”
“While at first glance there is a seductive temptation to get carried away and simply applaud the meteoric leaps in learning outcomes, it is also nearly impossible to ignore the unmistakable framing of political correctness and the delusions about the return of quality education because of the FQSE that characterizes this year’s announcement and indeed many similar releases of education data by the minister,” Kallon said.
The University says the results are excellent, but to select the most deserving students for the limited number of places, entrance exams will start the first week of November at IPAM and FBC in Freetown and in the provinces. Dr Musa said the test will cover course content that candidates should have mastered in high school.
He added that the IPAM exams will test candidates’ math, English and reasoning skills, while FBC candidates will be tested on English language and “faculty specifics”. “The test will be multiple-choice and will be graded in lecture. The other constituent institution, the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) had conducted its own reviews,” he said.
Applicants who do not achieve a minimum of 50% percent will not be accepted, whether or not they have met the WASSCE academic requirements. Candidates with excellent scores on this test may be waived from their interviews by their faculties. These changes only affect those moving from SSS to college, undergraduate degree holders enrolling in a second degree are excluded from this review.
Asked how the university plans to expand its space to accommodate the growing number of applicants, he said the university’s long-term plan is to mobilize resources for growth. This will include recruiting more speakers and constructing more buildings to accommodate the growing number of applicants.
Along the same lines, the university has created extramural programs that extend branches to the provinces. They have also introduced e-learning for postgraduate courses, all aimed at decongesting Freetown campuses. Dr. Musa said that in the next academic year, some of the university’s diploma and certificate programs will take place in the provinces.