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Factors Affecting Students Choice and Perception

of Urban and Regional Planning in Nigerian Universities


Abstract
The authors examined the factors affecting the choice and the perception
of 107 final year students of Urban and Regional Planning (URP) from six
universities in Nigeria. Analysis revealed that 63.8 percent of the students did
not receive counselling before their enrolment and only 35.8 percent of them
intentionally chose the course on their own while 4.7 percent were influenced by
their parents. Of the 59.4 percent that accidentally got into the course, 16.8
percent had originally chosen Architecture and 12.6 percent Accounting. In spite
of this, the students agreed that URP as a career can guarantee life fulfilment
and 72.8 percent would advise their children to choose the course as a career.
Irrespective of the mode of entry and motive for choosing URP as a carrier 91.2
percent of the trainee planners in their final year in the selected universities did
not see their choice as a mistake and have come to find the course interesting. All
the students agreed that it is not the certificate that makes people successful but
what is important is what people make of themselves with the certificate. They
also agreed that professional planners can be successful but they are concerned
about the negative image the society has about the planners. The study
recommended re-branding of Urban and Regional Planning among others.

Introduction
Physical planning in Nigeria has a long history dating back to the colonial
period where planning education in the country is relatively recent. The colonial
government for instance enacted the Town Improvement Ordinance in 1863 and
established the Lagos Executive Development Board (LEDB) following the outbreak
of bubonic plague in Lagos between 1925 and 1928 (Abiodun, 1985). The Board was
established during this period to clear the slum areas affected by the plague and to
establish housing units in Lagos. However, the bulk of the policy makers and
programme implementers consisted mainly of civil servants.
Local training of professional physical planners could be said to have started
at the Polytechnic, Ibadan in 1972 when the full professional diploma programme in
town planning was specifically designed to admit students for of the 3-year town
planning programme of the polytechnic (Olujinmi, 1999). Hitherto, all Nigerian

professional Town Planners had been receiving their trainings overseas especially in
the U.K. America and Australia. The need for a professional association in Nigeria led
to the formation of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners in 1966. Twenty-two years
later, the Town Planners Registration Council of Nigeria was established under
Decree No. 3 of 1988 with the mandate of determining who are the town planners;
what standards of knowledge and skills are to be attained; registering members and
regulating and controlling the practice of the profession among others.
With so many higher institutions of learning now offering varieties of
environmental courses and this coupled with the competition in the building industry,
this study is set to investigate the level of interest in Urban and Regional Planning as a
discipline by the planners-in- training in selected universities in Nigeria.

Review of Pertinent Literature


In choosing which course to enroll for in the university by students, many
factors come into play. While some students usually have a particular course in mind
and have adequately prepared for it right from their secondary school days, others
wait till their ordinary level results are out. Other students are admitted to read a
particular course but when they fail to meet the minimum requirements for that course
they look for alternative courses.
Extensive studies have been carried out on factors influencing students
choices of careers. In their study on the retail career choice, Soyeon and Goldberry
(undated) identified three broad factors namely: intrinsic, extrinsic and lifestyle. The
intrinsic factors include the nature of the job itself, enjoyment of the job as a whole,
variety of jobs, intellectual stimulation, pleasant work environment and fit of job to
personality.

The extrinsic factors identified by the authors are salary, benefits, job
security/stability and prestige of career field while lifestyle factors include flexibility
of working hours, ability to manage home/family, time for leisure and preferred
geographical location.
In another study by the College of Occupational Therapists (2000), awareness
was found to be a major factor in career choice. The study showed that around a third
of the students made the decision to become occupational therapists while studying in
years 12 and 13 (16%) or after taking A level/higher (15%). Only 5 percent made the
decision before GCE/Scottish equivalent level. The study identified the respondents
friends and family (40%) as the most influential source of career advice. University
prospectus, school career staff, college careers pack and local career services are
other sources.
Pappu (2002) in his study on choice of marketing as a career in Australia
employed the use of Factor analytical Technique to reduce 28 variables to seven
factors that explain 73.78 percent of the variance in his data. The factors are named;
Utility of marketing knowledge in the Business arena, match with other major
exposures to Introductory Marketing Courses and Faculty, Faculty reputation, Job
prospectus, Course variety and Intrinsic Motivation. A similar result was obtained
among Economics major students in Australia. Worthington and Higgs (1997)
employed both regression analysis and binary probit model to examine a number of
variables which include students personality, perception and other physical and
educational characteristics.
These students were asked to assign ordered preferences on a 5 point scale
between 36 opposing adjectives on the basis of their perception of the economics
profession. These items were arrayed along four dimensions of perception, namely:

1.Interest (boring versus interesting, dull versus exciting; 2. Individuality


(Introvert versus extrovert); 3. Structural (structure versus flexibility, routine versus
unpredictable); 4. Precision (accurate versus imprecise, challenging versus easy,
mathematical versus verbal). Eleven factors were extracted, one for interest, two for
individuality, five for precision and three for structure accounting for 56, 67, 59, and
49 percent of cumulative variance within each dimension respectively. The same
authors found that for Banking and Finance, the choice is a function of students
perception of the structure in the Banking and Finance profession, interest in the
finance profession and mode of attendance and, to a lesser extent, gender.
For the purpose of balancing the review, the study carried out on the
engineering discipline by Woolnough Guo et al. (1997) was examined. The authors
carried out parallel studies in six countries of Australia, Canada, China, England,
Japan and Portugal to investigate the influence of different factors on students
decision to choose/not to choose a higher education course in one of the physical
sciences or engineering . Some factors identified related to what goes on in the school
and in the science lessons. Some were external to the school and were related to the
status of science and engineering careers. Other factors were dependent on the
individual students themselves their aptitudes, abilities, home backgrounds and
gender.
In Ghana, a survey of 550 students by Apori et. al. (2003) indicated that biodata and socio-economic background of the students such as education of parents,
communities/towns or cities in which they live, low level of knowledge about the
prospects in choosing agriculture as vocation, terminal nature at agricultural colleges
influenced the decision of students to choose agricultural science. Other factors
included: influence of parents, guardians and peers who accorded agriculture low

recognition compared to pharmacy, law, architecture etc and facilities (man and
materials) for the teaching of agriculture and the mode (pedagogy) use in teaching
agriculture.
With this background, this study is set to study the factors influencing the
choice and perception of Urban and Regional Planning which has received little or no
attention in the literature.

Methodology
This study is part of a comprehensive and long term survey designed to study
the factors influencing the choice of URP course and those factors affecting the
academic performance of URP students. All the Heads of Department of URP in
Universities offering the course have been contact. The response has been slow and
some of the questionnaires returned were not usable and were rejected.
There was no prior information on the number of final year undergraduate
Urban and Regional Planning (URP) students in the various institutions. However,
twenty-five (25) questionnaires were sent to each university across the country. The
returns are as shown in Table 1.
The questionnaires were sent directly to the Heads of URP Department in
these institutions who arranged for their distribution among their final year students
during the 2000/2001 academic session. Returns from these institutions, based on the
actual number of students in the final year (obtained through the questionnaires)
ranged from about 99% for the University of Nigeria (UNN), Enugu Campus, to about
24% for the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ife.

Frequency analysis was employed to explore respondents responses while an


adaptation of Likert linear scale was used to analyse the opinions expressed by the
respondents.
Table 1: Distribution of Questionnaires
No
1
2
3
4
5
6

Institution
Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU)
Federal University of Tech. Yola (FUTY)
University of Nigeria (UNN)
Federal University of Tech. Minna (FUTM)
Ladoke Akintola University of Tech. (LAUTECH)
Ahmadu Bello University (ABU)
Total
Source: Authors Field Work (2001)

Sample size
12 (21.8%)
19 (54.3%)
15 (93.8%)
13 (72.2%)
25 (43.1%)
23 (47.9%)
107 (46.5%)

Population
55
35
16
18
58
48
230

Analysis of Data
Background of students
Male dominance is evident among the planning students with females
accounting for only 21.5 percent (Table 2). The mean age of the students surveyed
was 26 years. Gender-wise, the females with mean age of 25 years were younger than
the males (26 years). LAUTECH (24 years) had the youngest population compared to
OAU with mean age of 27 years.
Also from Table 2, only 35.8 percent of the students interviewed intentionally
chose URP as their life career, 4.7 percent were influenced by their parents while as
much as 59.4 percent got into planning against their wish. Furthermore, 31.4 percent
of the students joined the planning programme through the remedial course (note
OAU and UNN do not run remedial programme) while 55.2 percent and 13.3 percent
came in through University Matriculation Examinations (UME) and Direct Entry
respectively.

Table2: Background of the sampled students.


Variable
Sex
Mode of Entry
Motivation for URP
Future Prospect
Mistake choosing URP?
Find URP interesting?
Which aspect is interesting?

Which aspect do you dislike?

What next after graduation?

Life satisfaction guaranteed in


Planning?

Characteristics
Male
Female
Remedial
UME
Direct Entry
What I always wanted
Wish of my parents
Last Resort
Very Bright
Average
Bleak
Yes
No
Yes
No
Design
Theory
Term Paper
Field Work
Design
Theory
Term Paper
Field Work
Higher Degree in Planning
Join Private Planning Org.
Join Public Planning Org.
Any profitable employment
Go into business
Yes
No

Percentage
78.1%
21.9%
31.4%
55.2%
13.3%
35.8%
4.7%
59.4%
75%
23.1%
1.9%
8.7%
91.2%
94.3%
5.7%
55.3%
20.4%
7.8%
16.5%
29.2%
20.8%
29.2%
20.8%
31.1%
9.4%
33.4%
21.7%
4.7%
80.8%
19.2%

Source: Authors Field Work (2001)

The students whose original course was not URP cited Architecture (16.8%).
Accounting (12.1%), agricultural Economics (5.6%), among others as their choices
(see Appendix 1). In terms of ethnic composition, UNN on the one hand and OAU
and Lautech on the other hand were dominated by Igbo and Yoruba students
respectively. Other institutions were more balanced with no dominant group.
On the overall, Yoruba students constituted 46.7% of the sampled population;
this was followed by Igbo (15.8%), Tiv (3.7%), Igala (3.7%) and Nupe (2.8%).

Students Attitude towards Planning Profession


From Table 2, in spite of the fact that majority of the students were either
forced into the discipline (as most of the students in ABU claimed) or entered into the
discipline as the last resort (what their entry qualifications possessed can fetch them),
75 percent of them saw their future prospects as bright and as much as 91.3 percent
did not see being a planning student as a mistake. Only 3.8 percent of the students
claimed not to find the course interesting. The aspects they did not find interesting
were Design (29.2%), Term Paper (29.2%), Theory (20.8%) and Field Work (20.8%).
Of those who found the course interesting, designing course was their choice
(55.3%) followed by Theoretical courses (20.4%), field Work (16.5%) while only 7.8
percent loved Term Paper writing. On what to do next after graduation, 33.0 percent
of the students planned to work in Public Planning Organisations, 30.8 percent wished
to go for higher studies in URP, 21. 7 percent into any profitable employment while
only 9.4 percent of them wished to join private Planning Organisations.
As many as 80.8 percent of the students agreed that Planning as a career could
guarantee life fulfillment. Among those who claimed otherwise, as shown in Table 3,
54.8 percent of them planned to combine Planning with other jobs while 35.5 percent
planned to obtain additional degrees or certificates in different disciplines and only
9.7 percent planned to abandon planning profession entirely.
On whether the students would choose planning again, 74.7 percent claimed
Yes and almost equal percentage (72.8) would advise their children to choose
planning as a career. As many as 63.8 percent of the students themselves did not
receive counselling before their admission.
Table 3: Students Responses to Attitudinal Questions.

If life satisfaction cannot be


guaranteed in Planning, what
next?
Choose Planning again?
Advise children to take
Planning?
Did you receive counselling?
Participation in URP Students
Association?
Participate in States NITP?
Student NITP Registration?
If unregistered, why?

Abandon Planning
Combine with other jobs
Combine with other
disciplines
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Fully
Partially
No
Fully
Partially
No
Yes
No
No interest
Not introduced
No impact of state Chapter

9.7%
54.8%
35.5%
74.7%
25.3%
72.8%
27.2%
36.2%
63.8%
59.8%
38.5%
7.2%
14.6%
38.5%
46.9%
49.5%
50.5%
13.7%
41.2%
45.1%

While 59.8 percent of the students actively participated in the URP Students
Association activities in their branches, it is only 14.6 percent of them

that

participated fully in their State Chapters of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners
(NITP) activities and about 50% had registered as a student member at the national
level. Those who did not register claimed that their State NITP chapters had not made
impact (45.1%), they had not been introduced into the NITP activities (41.2%) or had
no interest at all (13.7%).

Students Perception of Aspects of Planning Profession


Tables 4 and 5 show the responses of students to the various items designed to
measure the students perception of the planning profession. The mean scores in
column 6 aptly summarises the consensus opinion of the students. The scores were

obtained by assigning weights to the 4 point Likert scale, that is, from strongly
Agree = 4 points to Strongly Disagree = 1 point, then summing the scores for each
item and them dividing by the number of respondents to each item. The mean score
was then grouped as follows to arrive at consensus opinion about each item:
1.0 2.49 = Disagree (D), 2.50 3.49 = Agree (A) and 3.50 4.00 = Strongly Agree
(SA).
When asked about the prospects of their profession vis-avis other professions,
responses to this question indicate that on the whole, the students agreed that their
future prospects are no less brighter than those of other professionals. In three
universities FUT Yola, UNN, and FUT Minna with the mean weighted scores of
greater than 3.5, the students strongly agreed on this point. It has to be pointed out
here that career talks should be intensified in ABU, Zaria with the lowest mean score
of 2.91 (Table 5).
The students also agreed that what one achieves with his certificate depends
on ones drive and initiatives. The consensus of opinion here is Agree with UNN
(3.71) strongly agreeing on this point. It is suggested that the professional Practice
skills of the students should be well developed; so also is their writing skill which is
required in proposal writing. Exposure to computer applications and related fields
such as Remote sensing and Geographical Information System is desirable to give
students wider opportunities outside the traditional planning jobs.
Further observations in Table 5 show that the students believe that planners
can be and are indeed successful in life. Generally students also agreed on this point
(3.29). It is only in FUT Minna where the students strongly agreed. The perception of
the students in Minna may be explained by the fact that most of the professional
planners in the state and at Abuja the Federal Capital are highly placed and
successful materially. Indeed, the first National President

of the Town Planners

Registration Council (TOPREC) was from the state. The implication of this

10

observation is that in order to project the image of the profession among the trainee
planners and the public in general, the practitioners should conduct themselves in a
noble manner and take their rightful positions in the scheme of things.
Table 4: Measure of Perception of Students from individual Universities
Opinion

OAU

FUTY

UNN

FUTM

LAUTECH

ABU

Future prospect of URP


students is not duller than in
other professions
What one achieves with his
certificate depends on ones
drive and initiatives
There are many successful
Planners out there
Planning is creative but not
lucrative
Planning may not be
lucrative but Planners impact
is felt
Planners are feared rather
than being respected
Planners should practice
aspects of other professions
Other professionals should
be allowed to prepare
layouts
Planning students should be
made to acquire M. Sc.
before graduation
Induction ceremony should
be performed before
graduation

3.08A

3.53SSA

3.85SA

3.69SA

3.32A

2.91A

3.33A

3.32A

3.71SA

3.08A

3.28A

3.43A

3.25A

3.39A

3.36A

3.58SA

3.28A

3.04A

3.08A

3.26A

2.79A

3.00A

2.96A

3.09A

3.00A

3.06A

2.93A

3.15A

2.92A

2.74A

3.08A

2.79\a

2.71A

2.85A

3.04A

2.83A

3.08A

3.06A

3.57A

2.77A

3.38A

2.96A

1.33D

1.32D

1.43D

1.23D

1.68D

1.26D

2.25A

3.26A

3.00A

3.46A

2.12A

3.48A

2.92A

3.``A

3.00A

3.62SA

3.12A

3.04A

Source: Authors Field Work (2001)


(Strongly Disagree (SD), Disagree (D), Agree (A) and Strongly Agree (SA).
Moreover, students should be encouraged to attend the Nigerian Institute of
Town Planners annual conferences which provide avenue for interaction with the
professionals.

Table 5: Perception of Students on their Prospects


Opinion

SA

DA

SD

Mean

Interpretation

11

Future prospect of URP students


is not duller than in other
professions
What one achieves with his
certificate depends on ones
drive and initiatives
There are many successful
Planners out there
Planning is creative but not
lucrative
Planning may not be lucrative
but Planners impact is felt
Planners are feared rather than
being respected
Planners should practice aspects
of other professions
Other professionals should be
allowed to prepare layouts
Planning students should be
made to acquire M. Sc. before
graduation
Induction ceremony should be
performed before graduation

50.5%

35.2

13.3

1.0

3.35

Agreed

53.8

32.1

10.4

3.8

3.36

Agreed

43.3

43.3

12.5

1.0

3.29

Agreed

37.7

35.8

18.9

7.5

3.04

Agreed

30.5

41.0

21.0

7.6

2.94

Agreed

19.8

54.7

19.8

5.7

2.89

Agreed

41.0

36.2

17.1

5.7

3.12

Agreed

4.7

5.7

14.2

75.5

1.40

Agreed

41.5

25.5

16.0

17.0

2.92

Agreed

44.3

32.1

15.1

8.5

3.12

Agreed

Source: Authors Field Work (2001)


To this assertion that planning may be creative but not lucrative, the opinion of
the students (3.04) suggests that they agreed as shown in Table 5. However, over 85
percent of the students already agreed that what one makes out of his certificate
(profession) depends on one s drive and initiatives. However, it is important for
Planning educators to open the eyes of their trainees to other possible lucrative
planning activities by educating them and involving them in consultancy activities the
staff may be engaged in.
The students agreed that planners influence is felt in the society. This means
that the students believed that the Planners impact on the society and the environment
is felt by the public though the influence may be perceived positively or negatively.
In many parts of the country, the function of Town Planning is synonymous
with marking buildings with big red letter X, and the Town Planners are seen as
people who go about disturbing workers on construction sites with their
12

contravention, stop work and demolition notices. In some places the Planner is
regarded as the policeman especially where the Planners are very active. Though
the students on the whole appeared to agree with the assertion (2.89) the strongest
support for the assertion was the South West of Nigeria (Table 5) where OAU (Ife)
and LAUTECH (Ogbomosho) had weighted scores of over 3.0. The Planners in this
zone should strive harder to create better image of planning by promoting activities
that will prevent planning problem rather than promoting bulldozer approach to
solving planning problems.
On how to survive, about 90 percent of the students opposed the idea of others
encroaching on planning and indeed the consensus opinion was Disagree (1.40).
while the students would want to be delving into other professions, they would not
want others to venture into their own discipline. However, as much as 77 percent of
the students favoured the opinion that planners should be delving into the territories of
other allied professions thus swinging the consensus opinion to Agree (3.12). This
may result from the observation that other professionals such as the Land Surveyors
and Architects do prepare layouts, site plans and site analysis which are traditionally
the preserves of the Town planners. Instead of encroaching on the field of other
professionals, trainee planners should be exposed to the widening opportunities which
training in Urban and Regional Planning offers. More Planners should engage in
project Management and Environmental Impact Assessment and other consultancy
services.
On whether planning students should be made to acquire M.Sc, degree before
graduation. Planning students, as shown by this survey favoured graduating with
Masters degree instead of Bachelors degree. Their decision might have been
influenced by the Architecture progamme which usually is a straight course

13

terminating at Masters Level as is the practice at FUT Minna and ABU. The URP
students in these two universities strongly agreed on this matter. Another possible
reason could be that after their one year compulsory national service, many graduates
do not readily find suitable employment and therefore would prefer to go back to
school. It has been reported by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that only
10,000 of over 100,000 graduates produced by Nigerian higher institutions every year
find jobs in the formal sector of the economy (The Punch, Feb. 15, 2002, p. 3).
Induction ceremony entails making graduating students in the professional
disciplines take professional oath thereby formally welcoming them into the
profession. This is currently the practice in the Architecture profession. About 76
percent of the students surveyed accented to this suggestion and Minna students who
had witnessed the first ever induction ceremony in the country for the Architecture
students in the university strongly agreed with this idea (3.62). This ceremony has the
potential of endearing the profession to the students and make the profession more
psychologically appealing and therefore should be introduced.
Summary
In summary, irrespective of the mode of entry and motive of choosing URP as
a career, trainee planners in their final year in the selected universities did not see their
choice as a mistake and have come to find the course interesting. All the students
agreed that it is not the certificate that makes people successful but what is important
is what people make of themselves with the certificate. They also agreed that
professional planners can be successful in the society but are not encouraged by the
negative mental map that the public has about the planner. The society dreads the
town planners and see the planner as police or demolishers

14

Most of the observations reported above accord with those reported elsewhere.
Mugonzibwa et. al. (2000) observed in Tanzania that image of a profession (good
experiences from the work of professionals, professionals who are caring and helpful
to respondents and professionals who command high respect in the community) was
perceived as an important factor in career choice by 88 percent of the respondents.
Work/profession characteristics factor was ranked second and course characteristics
third.

Recommendations
This age is characterized by globalization, commercialization, privatization,
computerization and democratisation. For todays planner to survive and find
relevance, he must be trained or retrained to become a total man someone who is
able to cope, fit in or adapt to the changing world. This can be achieved through:
1.

Dynamic curriculum development: Planning curriculum should constantly be

updated and periodically revised to reflect modern trends. Professional practice course
should be enriched to engender self employment and instil self confidence and
competence in fresh graduates.
a. New and lucrative courses such as computer applications, Data Base
Management system (DBMS), Information and Communication Technology
(ICT), Geographic Information system (GIS) and Remote Sensing should be
introduced.
b. New concepts and paradigms such as Public-Private Partnership in Urban
Environment (PPPUE), Urban Basic Services (UBS), Sustainable Urban
Mobility (SUB), Participatory Planning, Computer Aided Design (CAD),
Computer Aided Statistics (CAS), Environmental Information Management

15

System

(EMIS),

Environmental

Planning

and

Management

(EPM),

Virtual/Electronic library, Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS), Knowledge


Management, Project Management (PM), Build-operate and Transfer (BOT),
Build-Own and Operate (BOO), Bottom-Up approach, Sustainable City
Project (SCP), City Consultation, Good Urban Governance (GUG) etc should
now begin to find their ways into planning syllabus and into planners day-today vocabulary. These will place town planners in position to even get jobs
with the United Nations Agencies and other international organizations.
2. Image Making and Image Laundering: Town planning must be branded (Oso
2005) and sold to the public through aggressive but innovative public relations.
3.

Finally, awareness about the profession should be taken to the secondary

school, remedial or pre-degree levels in order to popularise the course.

Appendix 1: Actual Distribution of the Original Intended Courses of


Respondents
Course
Accounting
Agruc.Econs
Architecture
Banking
Building
Business Administration
Computer
Economics
Estate Management
Engineering
Geography
Geology
International Relations
Law
Marketing
Medicine

No of times cited
6
1
18
1
1
3
1
5
2
5
1
3
1
1
1
4

16

Pharmacy
Political Science
Quantity Surveying
Not Applicable
No Response
Total

1
1
3
34
14
107

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