This study on “towards university education: perception of secondary school leavers towards university education – vol. I” was conducted to assess the perception of university admission seekers towards university education. The study is descriptive in design. A univariate questionnaire was administered online to elicit university applicants’ perception. The result indicated that while some students have formulated a level of perception towards university education, others have no idea what to think about the university. It was therefore, recommended that universities should reach out to students especially in ways of career day events. This will help students formulate positive perception towards university education.

Michael Oghenenyoreme Julius

Michael Oghenenyoreme Julius

Vocational Business Educator, Admissions and UTME Nigeria


From childhood to maturation, various factors shape our view of the world around. Within the secondary school environment, the understanding of school leavers pertaining the composition of their future educational endeavours can also be affected by multifarious components. These components help secondary school students/leavers formulate perception about what university education is all about. If this perception is positive, the likelihood that a student will actually apply to a university for studies, be admitted, study and complete a programme will be high. The opposite applies if the perception is negative.

University education here refers to all programmes of studies accredited for tertiary institutions under which classes are held for learners. The FGN (2013) ably stated that university education amongst others, is meant to develop the individual into a morally sound, patriotic and effective citizen; total integration of the individual into the immediate community, the Nigerian society and the world; provision of equal access to qualitative educational opportunities for all citizens at all levels of education, within and outside the formal school system; inculcation of national consciousness, values and national unity; and development of appropriate skills, mental, physical and social abilities and competencies to empower the individual to live in and contribute positively to the society (FGN, 2013).

Consequent upon the above, secondary school leavers continue to formulate perception concerning what university education really is. This paper therefore, is a survey of students’ perception towards university education.

Problem Statement

This study sought to address the variety of perception students have towards university education. Many students have poor perception towards university education. While university education is a step towards a lifelong career development, many students see it from other perspective – even just attending provided one is called a graduate. This is inimical to the philosophy of education as outlined by the Federal government of Nigeria as stated in the National Policy on Education (2004, 2013). Hence, there is need to expose the various perception of university admission seekers for a better understanding and reorientation of students’ perception of university education

Objective of the Study

The primary objective of this study is to elicit and assess the perception of university admission seekers. These perception were also used to determine how their future endeavours may be affected.

A Review of Perceptors and Non-Perceptors

Amongst university education seekers, some students have well defined perception about university education, while others do not. Those with a form of perception are known as preceptors in this study while those without a definite opinion are referred to as non-perceptors.

The Perceptors

Right from senior secondary school days, many secondary school students already have a form of idea about university education. While some of these perception are well perceived, others may be ill-perceived. Alexitch (1994) was of the view that most students who go to university for the first time are not prepared to meet the standard and requirements of the university community and that their perception are far away from the aims and objectives of a university. The result is that many new students find it is difficult to adjust to university life.

The Non-Perceptors

While many students have definite opinions regarding the composition and attainment of university education, others tend to be lost concerning the subject matter. Many students tend to be unperturbed concerning university education. They want to formulate all the needed ideas while in the university community and would not want to be coerced into any endeavour to inquire into their future academic life. Most of these students do not even have a choice programme of their own but would accept any programme chosen for them by their peers, parents, brothers, sisters and any other person they so deem fit to accept counsel from. This is exemplified in the career choice dependence theory discussed below.

Theoretical Underpinning

Theory of Career Choice Dependence

This paper is hinged on the theory on career choice dependence. The theory assumes that students are often indecisive in their career endeavours and thus would wait on persons they regard as “trustees” to make choice for them. These trustees according to the model are often peers, parents and other societal actors whom the student feels is qualified to aid them make a choice. However, whether these trustees are certified to give such vocational guidance is outside the purview of this study. This theory is important in the understanding of students’ perception towards university education because when students do not have the proper perception, their dependence becomes unavoidable. When students are dependent, they can become very vulnerable to ill choices made for them by unqualified vocational tutors.


This study on “towards university education: perception of secondary school leavers towards university education in Nigeria” is descriptive in nature. A univariate questionnaire was administered online via Facebook pages/groups and WhatsApp groups of students seeking admission in the 2019/2020 academic session. Total responses were 58 from WhatsApp and 11 from Facebook totaling 69 retrieved responses. The responses were basically reviewed from which findings were made.

Conceptual Framework


Source: Data Survey, 2019

The information above represents the chain of activities that can occur as a result of students’ level of perception towards university education. The framework indicates that when a perception is positive, there are high chances of career growth. However, when the perception is negative, it may lead to career adjustments. This is same with students who do not have any form of perception.

Discussion of Students’ Perception towards University Education

Numerous reasons have been expounded why secondary school students seek for university education. Some of these opinions strengthen the need for a proper vocational guidance amongst youths of secondary school age. For the students with better perception, they want to acquire university education to get the right type of knowledge and to be civilized. Students believe this will result in a brighter future. The increment of knowledge base was also fingered as a basic part of students’ perception. Education increases knowledge needed for participation in societal affairs, either in jobs, business, politics, religion, etc. To properly fit in, many students want to increase their knowledge in their respective fields to ensure that they excel later in life.

Most students want to be exposed to life and to understand the environment within. This is perhaps one of the most salient and sound perception nurtured by university admission seekers as an understanding of the local environment may lead to a better awareness of the type of programme to study in the university. Other students also want to improve their leadership capacity, hence, they thought a university degree can go a long way in shaping their understanding and acquisition of leadership skills. Students perceive that having adequate knowledge and being enlightened as a result of university education forestalls intimidation in society.

From another point of view, students had thought that university education creates opportunity in the area of employment. This may be a wrong perception since university education does not in itself provides jobs but makes one adequately qualify for a job. It is with this qualification that one seeks for job openings. Many students wish to attend university education to achieve their aims and objectives in life. This is very important as university education is the only way to unlock proper career pursuit in life.

Academic interest is another perception nurtured towards university education amongst secondary school students. As students grow, they develop interest in various endeavours and do all they can to attain their interest. Students who already have interest towards university education are more likely to engage in seeking for admission into a university.

Other students have thought about their future career and developed positive opinion towards university education. This is a way of pursuing and attaining lifelong dreams. For some others, the love for social life is paramount and would do anything to attain university education. Yet, others want an in-depth study in their area of study and would want to study further.

Some secondary school leavers believe that the industry needs personnel to fill their required job openings thus, they want to have all necessary certification to be qualify for industry requirements – hence, their drive to be educated and informed. This, they believe will enable them to attain set goals and objectives.

Secondary school leavers have also expressed the perception that university education forestall inferiority complex. As those who had been to the university begin to put on airs, puffed up and think others have not been there before. The burden and pressure of university students’ attitude is often borne by those who really had not been to the university before. The pressure is even worse when those who had been there before come back with a changed lifestyle. Some even change their friends and will no longer talk to old friends. This makes many secondary school leavers feel inferior to their counterparts who must have gained admission into a university.

In line with the National Policy on Education, many secondary school leavers nurture the perception that university education makes one to be useful to one’s immediate and remote environment. This in their view makes family and friends proud as university education is somehow worshipped within some rural African sub region. Many secondary school leavers nurture the dream of being a graduate and the attainment of a university admission is a step in the right direction.

A very stunning and emotional finding from the survey also indicated that some students want to go to the university because there is no single graduate in their family. This perception is borne out of the idea that throughout some families, there is no single graduate. Even within some extended families, there is none to count on as a graduate, hence, some students take it upon themselves with overwhelming support from family members to ensure that there is at least a graduate in the family.

An Assessment of Students’ Perception

From the discussion of students’ perception of university education, it can be agreed that many students have a negative understanding of university education. For one thing, university education is not meant to provide jobs, rather, it is meant to train skilled manpower who will be useful to society. Upon being trained, the onus to seek for jobs then lies with the students. This understanding is very key for students to grow in their chosen endeavours in the future. In his paper on “Is University Education Really a Scam?”, Michael (2019) held that many students thought that upon graduating, jobs would not be a difficult task as though the degree in itself seeks for jobs for the holders. The author maintained that it is the wrong perception about university degrees and its attendant supposed benefit that made many graduates unable to use their certification. If we depend solely on jobs, what about business? In fact, the jobs we so seek are business outfit of others. You wanted to work in Shell, it is some persons’ business. You want to work in the banks, these are enterprises belonging to people too. So, students must learn to use their university skills to delve into business to minimize the number of job seekers in Nigeria.

In his paper on “…tripartite taxonomy of career choice relevance”, Michael (2018) held that students should endeavour to place their prospective programme of study on a scale of measurement before taking decisions. Michael dichotomized career relevance into three broad categories – business, employability and social relevance. The major impression here is that aside employability relevance, some programmes have no business relevance, neither are they useful to the social world. Hence, students must choose programmes that have more than one dimensional usefulness. A programme that have both employability and business relevance can be adjudged to be very good for students.


Secondary school leavers’ perception of university education can vary from positive to negative. It can also vary between preceptors and non-perceptors. The above means that some students can formulate opinions that are well articulated that can place them in the right path in life, while others have negative ideas; views expressed under rose-colored sunglasses that are myopic and untenable. For the preceptors, these are the students that have been able to formulate an idea towards university education, irrespective of the positive and negative implications of their perceptions. However, for the non-perceptors, these are students who just go to a university to study because it has become virtually a norm and no particular interest nor opinion on ground.

It is therefore, concluded that positive perception influences career in a better way in the future and is often free from career adjustments. Meanwhile, negative perception towards university education may create complications and need for career adjustments. Students need to understand these issues before gaining admission into the university.


Consequent upon the above, the following recommendations are put forward:

  1. Universities should strive to conduct programmes like career day events that elicit positive university perception from secondary school leavers. This will increase the number/level of university attainment in the long run.
  2. Career guidance counsellors should come in to assist in the bid to aid secondary school students yearn for university education
  3. Parents should always ensure their first child goes to the university. This alone is a yardstick for the siblings to wish to become university students and graduates too.
  4. Students should not go to the university blindfolded. They should study and learn of their respective universities to enable them prepare to future adjustments when needed.
  5. Students aspiring to go to the university must do so out of tangible and well thought out reasons and not just because their mates are going.


Alexitch, L. R. (1994). Undergraduate student expectations and perceptions of a university education in the 1990s. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Windsor.

FGN, (2013). National Policy on Education. Lagos: NERDC.

Michael, O. J. (2018). Theory of career choice dependence: A prime approach. Retrieved September, 2019 from https://admissionsandutme.com/2018/03/26/theory-of-career-choice-dependence-a-prime-approach/

Michael, O. J. (2018). Is University Education Really A Scam? Retrieved September, 2019 from https://admissionsandutme.com/2019/06/25/is-university-education-really-a-scam/

Michael, O. J. (2018). Michael Jules’ Tripartite Taxonomy of Career Choice Relevance: A Dichotomization of Career Path Usefulness. Retrieved September, 2019 from https://admissionsandutme.com/2018/10/09/673/

About the Author

Michael Oghenenyoreme Julius is an M.Ed. student in the Department of Vocational and Technology Education, Niger Delta University. He holds a B.Ed. in Business Education (Accounting) and M.Ed. in view in Marketing Education. He hopes to complete his doctoral degree as soon as possible to join the league of qualified educators revamping the quality of tertiary education in Nigeria.

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