People who graduated from certain schools often wish that their business with their alma mater ends with throwing up graduation caps into the air. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Pursing postgraduate education and job search both have a way of sending one back there. And for some, trying to get a transcript will have them reliving the hell they suffered as undergraduates. Many graduates from Nigerian universities go through a lot of difficulty to get a transcript. Some people I know who otherwise have good morals resorted to forging transcripts to avoid the frustration and delay that characterize application for transcripts in Nigeria. But processing a transcript application shouldn’t be a hassle. Here are some suggestions, based on what some premium universities are already doing, on how higher institutions can cut their costs and process transcript applications more efficiently.
1. Digitize Students’ Records
As obvious as it is that digitizing students’ records is the first step towards ensuring that graduates obtain their transcripts hassle-free, many Nigerian universities still keep their students’ records on paper, sometimes in loose sheets, which occasionally get lost or misplaced while in the care of a careless civil servant. In Imo State University for example, a former student couldn’t get his transcript because his file was missing.
Besides being less prone to damage and loss, digitized records can be more easily searched for specific contents than records on paper. The difference between having records in digital form or on hard copy is demonstrated by my experience with different land registries as a young attorney in Eastern Nigeria . In Abia State, because registrations and titles to land have been digitized, it took only minutes or at most a couple of hours to apply for and get the result of a title search. In Imo State however, because they still have their records on paper (as at three years ago), the staff had to look through piles of dusty files that have turned brown due to age. The effect was that conducting a title search in Imo State took days and thus several trips to Owerri, and was much more expensive and inconvenient. Needless to say that the additional cost, financial and otherwise, was invariably transferred to clients.
2. Have Relevant Information Online
While writing this article, of the several Nigerian universities’ websites I visited, I found only two universities which have information on how to apply for a transcript with them. Nigerian Law School does too. It bothered me that though many of the universities had alumni sections, they had no information on how to obtain a transcript. If a school is not committed to the welfare of their graduates, what will motivate such graduates to go back to them to attend a fundraising event or to give back to the school? It is embarrassing that one can get more information on how to get a transcript from Nigerian universities on chatrooms like Nairaland than from the universities’ websites. These schools unwittingly leave it to others to define who they are. I know of a university in Nigeria which when you google, the first pages that come up are loaded with disparaging comments from their disgruntled students. I do hope that schools like that one get their IT departments to use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to improve their online reputation or they may soon be out of business.
Although it is ideal that students be given the opportunity to order and pay for their transcripts online, I will come to that later, it is unlikely that all Nigerian universities can afford to do that at this time. What is attainable however is Nigerian universities putting up information on their websites informing prospective applicants of how much they charge to send a transcript to each country, the average processing time, a sample of the application form and details of what documents an applicant needs to attach if applicable. For one school I tried to reach however, (their website was more useful than most in this regard), they had an email address available for transcript inquiries on their website. When I sent them an email, they replied that I must send someone to the school to apply for my transcript if I couldn’t come myself. A subsequent email to them inquiring about the cost of the transcript and what documents my proxy will need for the application was not replied. I tried calling the number listed on their website for the Exams and Records department but it was not functional. The one listed for the Registrar went through. When I inquired how much the fee for the transcript was, he said that I must send someone. I pointed out to him that there was no information online of what was required for transcript application to which he said something along the lines of: ‘If you were a student here, you should know that we DON’T do anything online, you must come down here’. When I reasoned that I should at least know what to give to the person making the application on my behalf, he said: ‘He will let you know whatever information you need when he comes here’ after which he hung up the phone. I sensed a reprimand n his voice when he stated that I should have known that they don’t do things online. And this is 21st century!
I guess that, like is obtainable in most Nigerian universities, the school expects applicants to make several trips to the school; the first to make inquiries, the second to come with what is required for the application, and then several more trips that will invariably involve: ‘tipping’ the Exams and Records staff who will locate the file, giving lunch money or money for ‘malt’ to the one who will type out the transcript, and finally coming with some money in a brown envelope to ‘appreciate’ the big oga or madam who has the very important job of sealing the transcript. It is Nigeria after all where public servants expect the people they are meant to serve to ‘tip’ them for doing the very job they are employed to do.
3. Make Provision for Mail or Online Application
Automating transactions help reduce corruption, corruption which is the bane of development in Nigeria. If Nigerian Universities make provision for students to order their transcripts online or at least apply for them by mail, electronic or otherwise, it will reduce the incidence of corrupt civil servants asking for money from already struggling and unemployed graduates. In other words, if graduates can apply for their transcripts without having to be physically present in schools, there will be no opportunity for civil servants to ask them for extra fees that never make it to the school coffers. It will also make it easier for Nigerians in diaspora to apply for their transcripts without having to bother anyone to go to their almae matres on their behalf. Again my experience when I tried to get a certificate of good standing from the Supreme Court of Nigeria for submission to another jurisdiction illustrates this point.
When I applied for the certificate, I couldn’t visit Abuja so my only option was to look at the Supreme Court of Nigeria’s website to see what information I could find on how to make the application. I had braced for the worst knowing how nonfunctional most Nigerian government websites are and how dated their last updates could be. Although I didn’t get any information on how to get a certificate of good standing from the Supreme Court’s website, after series of emails to contacts I found on the website, I got a reply from no other than the Registrar of the Supreme Court himself. Perhaps because I got through to him directly, in less than ten days, I got an email from the IT department telling me my certificate of good standing was ready for pick up. I didn’t spend a dime in the whole application process. I didn’t have any one do a legwork for me. I simply sent my application letter via email with a copy of my call to bar certificate attached. (To read my experience in detail, see here). I believe the only reason I had this pleasant experience was that I didn’t have to deal with several civil servants who are good at creating artificial bureaucracy that only gets lifted when they are tipped. The story would have been different if I had walked into the Supreme Court to make the application. Till today, I look back to the whole experience and assure myself that Nigeria can be better, that we know how to cut through the bureaucracy and give decent service to Nigerian citizens.
Regrettably, my experience with the Supreme Court is uncommon in Nigeria. The situation is even more hopeless for Nigerians in diaspora. Except they have a reliable relative or friend to make their application and do the follow-up for them, they are forced to go back to Nigeria for their transcripts. I know someone whose job prospects in the United States was delayed for years because it took two years to get her transcript from a Nigerian university. While researching for this article, I read of a man in the United States who had someone doing the application for him in Nigeria. Once the university employees learnt that he was in the United States, they kept on demanding money and telling stories to delay his application.
I understand that Nigerian universities may be wary of processing transcript applications made by mail because of the prevalence of fraud in Nigeria. I appreciate that that may require a way to verify the identity of applicants. In my opinion, the issue can be easily addressed by requiring people applying for transcripts to attach a copy of their degree certificates. That way, someone who has no business requesting for it cannot apply successfully as they will not have the certificate to prove their identity.
Moreover I know a very hardworking Nigerian lady in her early thirties who have two successful online businesses. For one of her stores which carries wholesale products, individual transactions run into hundreds of thousands of Naira. If a young woman, an individual, is able to manage such a huge business with all the risk involved, there is no reason Nigerian university should hesitate to use efficient means to serve their graduates. A university ought to be a beacon of light and take the lead in bringing great ideas and innovations in its community.
4. Reduce the Fees
If the suggestions above are followed, it will lead to a reduction in human labor required to process a transcript and so cut cost for universities. When the savings are transferred to applicants and transcript fees are reduced, more graduates will apply for their transcripts and resist the temptation to forge them. The following example shows that reduced cost naturally comes with efficiency. A young Nigerian needed transcripts from two universities, Imo State University (IMSU) and Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU). He spent N30,000 plus tip to apply for his transcript in IMSU and after months, he still hadn’t got it because the school had lost his file – apparently they still keep their records on paper. However, he got the one from NAU for only N10,000, with no tips, within two weeks. In the United States, because most of the records are digitized, students get their transcripts for as little as $3(N480).
A Stellar Example from University of Nigeria Nsukka
I was thrilled when in the course of writing this blog I discovered that the University of Nigeria, Nsukka has already introduced I-Transcript Service. A publication on their website reads in part:
“The introduction of the service is to ease the burden of students who often have to travel from within and outside the country for the sole purpose of getting a transcript of their academic records for graduate records or employment.
This (I-Transcript Service) will enable alumni /alumnae of the university all over the world to apply for their transcripts from the comfort of their homes and conclude transcript request online and in real time. It would also improve efficiency in transcript processing, enabling transcript to be generated, printed, endorsed and dispatched via a courier company within 24 hours”.
It is accessible on the university website alumni.unn.edu.ng/itranscript. Users are expected to fill a form with their names, matriculation number as well as email address. They can provide details of the institution to which they want the university to send the transcript’
The website went on to state that the i-transcript service was borne out of the on-going work on digitizing academic records in the institution. The first part of the exercise was the digitization of records of the last 30 years up to 1980. The school has digitized records of students’ academic work for the last 20 years. In the second phase, the university would compile records up to its inception in 1960.
It was good to know that the university has identified the problem and, like a premium university it is, has taken the lead in proffering a solution.
EXT-NG (Electronic Transcript Exchange and Certificate Verification System for Nigeria)
My research also shows that Covenant University has a similar system but carries it out through EXT-NG. EXT-NG it appears is a one stop shop for all Nigerian universities for efficient transcript issuance. Its website shows that it partners with National Universities Commission and NBTE.
On its website, EXT-NG articulated the difficulty faced by Nigerians in diaspora seeking to get their transcripts as follows: ‘Aside from the official fee to be paid to the school, facilitators within the school system would also need to be paid or “greased”. Moreover, friends and relatives who spent their time going back and forth must also be compensated. Transcript (and postage) that ordinarily should cost no more than N10,000 for example, may end up costing the requester upward of N40,000. You can’t even quantify the cost of time spent, along with the stress and other incalculable resources. And indeed, there is no guarantee that the requested documents will arrive, or arrive in a timely fashion to its required destination’.
EXT-NG’s website further shows how efficient their service is which includes: providing Convenient 24/7 Access so that graduates can make their applications from the comfort of their homes; making it possible for applicants to track their transcripts once it is sent; instantaneous delivery so that official transcripts can now be sent and received anywhere in the world (for participating institutions) within seconds.
While the EXT-NG is a welcome development and may fill a void many universities created, it is doubtful they can be of any use to students whose almae matres have yet to digitize their records.
I understand that there are some unique challenges universities may face in implementing these suggestions which, as an outsider, I may not be aware of. I hope that this article at least starts the conversation.
Finally, while the focus of this bog was on universities, the recommendations made can be applied in all government and private establishments for increased efficiency. I have showcased the success some universities have had in this regard in the I hope that others who desire to provide quality service to their students will consult them for ideas on how to get it right.
I am sure that if transcript processing becomes efficient in Nigeria, we will have first-rate schools able to compete favorably with other global institutions. We will also have more confident and happier graduates. However, I cannot guarantee wealthier Exams and Records staff.
Have an experience you will love to share? Got more ideas on how to improve the system? Tell us in the comments section. You never know who will be reading it. And if you love this post, please share. Let’s be the change we want!