Transcript collection appears different overseas compared to what obtains in some Nigerian universities. For example, Griffith University, Australia, noted that the delivery time for a digital academic transcript after the request was 30 minutes. This implies that a graduate can receive their transcript within 30 minutes of submission.

Also, transcripts request that would be delivered via domestic regular mail takes five working days; two working days for domestic express mail and up to 15 working days for overseas mail, and five working days for overseas express mail via courier services.

Also, students of the University of Oxford, upon graduation receive a paper copy of their final transcript at their listed home address. However, graduates can also order transcripts when needed for a visa or job application.

A postgraduate student at the Florida State University, United States of America, Samuel Ajayi, said that getting his transcript from his alma mater; the University of Ibadan, was time-consuming and laborious, adding that he moved from one department and office to another to search for his file.

He added that there were many cases of missing files and unofficial payments to fast-track the process while some applications were left unattended.

Comparing his present experience in the US, Ajayi said, “In the US, one does not need to go anywhere. I just checked my unofficial transcript on my phone and it is accessible. I don’t need to pay for it and I can print it out at any time. But in Nigeria, one gets to pay for the unofficial transcript and it takes time for one to get it.

“However, here at FSU, for the official transcript, a fee of $10 is required for the e-copy and it would be delivered to the recipients anywhere in the world. $30 is charged for the official hard copy of one’s transcript and if it is outside the country, it is $55.”

On his part, a Nigerian Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of British Columbia, Canada, Olumiyiwa Igbalajobi, stated that the application for his undergraduate transcript from his alma mater in Nigeria was a herculean task, noting that he “had to approach a high court in my state back then to certify one of my copies which I eventually used for master’s and Ph.D. applications.”

However, Igbalajobi stated that getting his transcripts while studying abroad was fast and reliable.

He said, “It was really fast and effective. For instance, while in my master’s program at the Daejeon University, South Korea, I had access to my transcripts at the end of every semester. The process is easy because it is automated. With about $1, one can approach a machine dedicated to such and print out one’s academic documents including transcripts without delay.”

Igbalajobi urged authorities in Nigerian universities to completely “overhaul the system. First, digitisation of the entire system is important if we want to address corruption and lags from staff in charge of the manual processes. Applications should be made online as evident in some universities in Nigeria which would help in fast-tracking the processes. It’s not good for applicants to lose sleep and scholarship opportunities due to this bottleneck.”

On her part, a Canada Research Chair in Persuasive Technology and Computer Science Professor at Dalhousie University, Canada, Rita Orji, stated that transcript processing in North American universities was on average faster than that in Nigerian universities, stating that the fully automated process accounted for the seamlessness.

She said, “In North America generally, there is 100 percent automation, when a student graduates his/her record is already in the school database, at any point the student needs his/her transcript. After making the necessary payment and meeting the authorization required, the transcript is generated automatically.”

She urged administrators of Nigerian universities to automate the process to ensure quick transcript processing for graduates.

Orji added, “Remove the intervention of humans, automate the process end-to-end. The human factor in the loop delays processing time during peak periods and also creates ground for corruption. A solution to the problem starts with the commitment to do the right thing and consult the right people to get the job done. We shouldn’t ignore those who will never want this system to be automated due to what they are benefiting from the inefficient system and be strict to ensure such people adhere to the automation process. I am confident the skills and professionals needed to automate this process are in abundance in Nigeria. There should just be a will to get it done.”

Digitize the process, experts urge institutions

The National Universities Commission noted that as of 2021, Nigeria has 99 private universities, 49 federal universities, and 54 state universities making a total of 202 universities.

Describing the challenges of transcript processing as a nightmare, the Project Manager, SEAMFIX, a digital transcript processing platform, Chike Okafoeze, identified endless waits, multiple follows and delayed delivery to the receiving institutions as factors responsible for the situation, adding that the resultant effect was lost opportunities and terminated career pursuits among others.

Okafoeze said, “Although transcripts are often the most important record used for a graduate’s career ambition or requirement for further studies, many universities have still not got the processing right. The foremost reason for this transcript mess stems from the undigitised process. In this age of digital transformation, it is shocking to think that most universities in Nigeria still manually process transcripts. Some even still keep their graduates’ transcripts in paper formats and store them in folders that take up space in some back office. So when graduates need their transcripts, an administrator would have to go into the office and rummage through stacks of folders to get the transcript that may even be ruined by then.

“At the heart of the refusal to automate the system is the money the staff extorts from alumni during visits to request transcripts. If you digitize and automate, the staff members lose this source of revenue. If you digitize and make it easy, fast, and simple; the staff members do not see a way to make it look difficult to milk the alumni. They don’t want anything that will take away their interaction with alumni. Again, some institutions fear that their data will run into the wrong hands with digitization.”

To save graduates from trauma linked to transcript processing, Okafoeze called for a secure digital database and immediate automation of graduates’ transcripts to ensure easy and fast processing.

He stated, “There is the delivery process, unreliable postal service or loss of documents in transit that the universities would have to get right to ensure fast delivery of transcripts to the receiving institutions. In essence, to ensure effective processing and submission of their graduates’ transcripts, Nigerian universities would need to turn to robust transcript digitization and processing solutions. Some digital platforms automate transcript requests and processing for graduates of many Nigerian universities at the click of a button, powering real-time verification to help to receive institutions prove the authenticity of the transcripts as well as timely and effective transcript delivery such as itranscript.”

Commenting on the situation, a Professor of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at the Babcock University, Ilisan-Remo, Ogun State, Oludele Awodele, advised university authorities to invest in full digitization of academic processes.

He also emphasized the importance of a good management information system in ensuring the timely delivery of academic records.