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Academic, career and personal needs of Nigerian university students.

The academic, career and personal needs of students of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma-Nigeria were surveyed. A total of 920 undergraduates participated in this study. The results of the study revealed that irrespective of students' residential status, gender, age and relationship status, the students ranked time-management as the most pressing counseling need. This was followed in this order: drug concerns, family problems, career needs, relationship problems, finance, sexual harassment, academic ability, personality types, anxiety/depression, differential treatment and serf-evaluation. The results further indicated among others that female students were more in need of financial counseling than their male counterparts. Single students had more assertive/communication needs than their married colleagues. In addition, the study also revealed that students residing on the campus had more counseling needs on how to foster and sustain a stable relationship than those not residing on the campus. In view of these, counseling interventions for implementation that are geared towards helping students meet with their needs were further provided.


Over the years, the importance of periodically assessing the identifiable needs of students before undertaking, designing and delivering effective counseling services and programs is well established (Bishop, Bauer & Becker, 1998; Gallagher, 1992; Morrill, Oetting, & Hurst, 1974, as cited in Gallagher, Golin & Kelleher, 1992). Despite the availability of counseling centers in few universities in Nigeria, majority of their students do not avail themselves of the services of these counseling centers. Even where the counseling centers exist, most of these centers provide services for students without even attempting to assess the needs of the students targeted for these services (Aluede, Uadia, Aluede & Igbineweka, 2002; Tawari, 1986).

The needs of university students vary from academic, social to psychological. These needs are dynamic in nature; as they may shift with changes in age, experience, socioeconomic status, gender, ethnicity and social trends (Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 1998). Hence, the need for an accurate and a regular assessment of college student needs (Gallagher, Golin, & Kelleher, 1992). An accurate and perpetual assessment of these changing needs is crucial to the development of effective student service programs. Therefore, needs assessment is particularly important in the light of the increasing diversity of students, their changing personal and career needs, and the heightened accountability demands that confront student services (Friedlander, 1978, cited in Barrow, Cox, Sepich & Spivak, 1989).

Gallagher, Christofidis, Gill, and Graham-Weaver (1996) and Roark, (1993) found that there is an increase in the severity of student concerns. Research has also identified an increase in the unique needs of students in the following areas: drug abuse, alcohol use, eating, weight problems, sexual assault and harassment, violence and AIDS (Bertocci, Hirsch, Sommer, & Williams, 1992). Although, questions about the efficacy of needs assessment studies in predicting the actual use of counseling centers by students has been raised, Gallagher et al., (1992) found that these studies continue to be the most efficient way of identifying student concerns. Therefore, the needs of the students have to be identified prior to designing or modifying counseling data from different sources, including students, faculty and administrators. Moreover, counseling center data are very important in identifying the actual services provided by the staff, problem areas, and differences between actual and stated priorities (Bishop, 1991).

Areas students seek help include: overcoming their procrastination; public speaking anxiety; improvement in their study skills; career uncertainty; self-confidence problems; lack of motivation; fear of failure; depression; lack of purpose in life; anxiety and nervousness (Gallagher, 1992). Other areas include: expressed concerns about love relationship and physical health problems--alcohol use; weight; eating problems; AIDS and drug use; academic and school related problems--improving concentration; study skills; time management; overcoming fear about taking examinations; meeting academic and career needs; and serious psychological concerns--suicidal/homicidal thoughts; depression; sadness and mood changes; anxieties and phobias (Bertocci, Hirsch, Sommer & Williams, 1992). In all of these concerns, Carney and Savitz (1980, as cited in Gallagher, Golin & Kelleher, 1992) report that managing finances and career planning were the pragmatic areas students perceived to be in their greatest need for assistance. Fear (lack of sell-confidence, lack of assertiveness, anxiety about test taking skills, worries about getting a job) seems to be a common theme in many of the highly ranked concerns of students (Gallagher, Golin & Kelleher, 1992).

Guneri, Aydin and Skovholt (2003) in their study to assess and compare the counseling needs of several subgroups of students at large urban university (Middle East Technical University) in Turkey, on one hand and also to investigate the perspectives of the counseling staff about counseling needs of the staff about counseling needs of the students and counseling services model which was put in practice in 1997, found that "managing my time (60%)" was rated highest in the list of students needs. This was followed by "identifying and planning goals for my life" and concentrating on my studies" (53%), "ending a relationship" (51%), "getting a job alter school" and "dealing with death of someone" (50%), "anxiety about speaking", in front of a group", "getting better grades (46%), "completing assignments on time" (45%), my financial situation", my misuse of food" (41%), "behaving more assertively", "coping with stress, anxiety and fear", and "improving my memory" (40%), while " getting a clear picture of who I am, came a distant last (35%).

The problem of time management among students may be responsible for the increasing incidents of student unrest in Nigerian universities. Aluede (2001), Aluede, Jimoh, Aguinede and Omoregie (2005) and Nwokwule (1992) remarked that academic stress among students, which is largely brought about my mounting examination fears and academic pressures is a significant factor in most incidents of student unrest in Nigerian universities. That may be the reason why incidents of student unrest usually take place in the months of February, March, May or June. This is the period when either the first semester examination takes place or the second semester examinations are fast approaching. Students having been ill prepared during the semester often agitate for an alteration in the academic calendar that would shift the official scheduling of examinations. In Spain, Arco, Fernandez, Heilborn and Lopez's (2005) study of the profile of students attending university of Granada, revealed that students rated academic needs--getting easily distracted, need to improve their study skills, problem of time management and problem of test taking anxiety--as the area desiring significant attention.

Guneri et al. (2003) also found that gender differences in counseling needs of students exist. Male students were found to express a significantly greater concern for family issues, while female students were more concerned about serf-control and personal issues. Women had greater needs than did men in the vocational, social, academic and moral issues (Tahhan & Eitah, 2002), and emotional issues (Gallagher, Golin & Kelleher, 1992). However, male students tend to have higher needs in the area of personal needs than their female counterparts (Tahhan & Eitah, 2002). In areas in which both men and women had a need, in all cases, the women had greater needs than did the men (Harris, Jr. & Anttonen, 1986; Gallagher, 1992; Gallagher, Golin & Kelleher, 1992). Guneri et al (2003) also found that in areas of low priority needs, women tend to have greater needs than those of men. Major problems (e.g., drugs, alcohol, discrimination) perceived as important by university staff, were not seen as needs by the students.

Galagher, John and Keller (1992) and Nicholas (1995, 1997, 2002) noted that student needs are high and surveys on students' needs have multiple benefits. These benefits include their usefulness in developing large and small group programs focused on the expressed student needs especially for students who are reluctant to seek individual counseling. Counselors may claim an appropriate share of university resources should the expressed needs of students be shown to be high or on the increase; training of student counselors could be improved by local research on counseling needs and it is an efficient method of identifying student concerns (Nicholas, 2002). Nicholas (1995) noted that counseling and administrative personnel could use these surveys to improve services delivered to students or launch new initiatives to address unmet student needs.

The aim of this present study was to assess the personal, academic and career needs of undergraduate students at the Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma Edo state, Nigeria; and the implications of the assessment for psychological counseling and services. In view of this therefore, we postulated that there would be a significant difference between the needs of married students and single students, and between on-campus and off-campus students. We also predicted that females would have greater need for psychological services than males. Lastly, we hypothesized that females will have a greater need of assessment in areas of personal needs, while males will have higher needs in areas of academics and careers.

Method of Study


Copies of the questionnaire were mailed to a randomly selected sample of 1000 fulltime undergraduate students at the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Nigeria of the 2003/2004 academic session. At the time of retrieving copies of the questionnaire, 920 of them were returned and used for analysis. The respondents completed the questionnaires during the mid- semester break of the second semester so as not to interfere with their regular school work. Of the sampled 920 students, 553 of them were male students (M = 21.06, SD = 2.4), and the remaining 367 were female students (M = 20.62, SD = 2.1).


The instrument used in this study is the modified version of Guneri, Aydin and Skovholt's (2003) version of the Student Needs Assessment Survey (SNAS) employed in their study among a large university in Turkey. This Turkish version of the Student Needs Assessment Survey comprised of 70 items measured on a 5- point Liken scale response format ranging from "not a concern" to "very much a concern". Taking cognizance of cultural idiosyncrasies in the instrument, current researchers further modified the Guneri et al's (2003) version of SNAS. The present version came up with 71 items sub-divided under the following: finance, time-management, career, academic ability, personality type, drug concerns, family assertiveness/ communication, relationship, self-evaluation, anxiety, depression, differential treatment and sexual harassment. The Likert type response format ranging from "not a concern" to "very much a concern" was also adopted.

This version of SNAS was content validated by three professors of Counselling, Social Work and Higher Education who have worked with students for a long time in Nigerian universities. While the reliability of the instrument was further ascertained through the split-half method, which yielded a correlation coefficient of .81


The researchers with the help of their three research assistants personally distributed copies of the questionnaire during the last class before the mid-semester break of the first semester. Because of the lengthy nature of the questionnaire, the participants were impressed upon to fill the questionnaire during their mid-semester break. They were also called upon to return copies of the completed questionnaire to their course lecturers of the class that the questionnaire was earlier distributed. The rationale for this action was to ensure that they had enough time to respond; and this provision we considered would not interfere with their normal school work.


The present study descriptively sought to determine the most sought after counselling needs of Ambrose Alli University students. The students irrespective of their residential status, gender, age and relationship status, ranked time management (13.00%) as the most sought after counselling need; followed by drug concerns (12.90%), family problems (12.7%), career needs (11.50%), relationship problems (11.20%), finance (8.30%), sexual harassment (7.40%), academic ability (5.80%), personality types (5.60%), anxiety/depression (0.90%), differential treatment (0.30%), and lastly self-evaluation (0.20%).

The independent t-test was conducted to verify the level of differences that exist between the parameters of gender, relationship status and residential status across the various dimensions of counseling needs of university students. The results obtained indicated that significant difference only existed in the financial counselling needs of males and females (t = 2.03, df=918, P< 0.05). The means suggest that female students are in more need of counselling on how to manage their finances than the male students. Irrespective of gender, the students seemed to have equal needs in other identified areas: time management, career, academic ability, drug concerns, family problems, assertiveness/communication, relationship problems, self-evaluation, anxiety and depression.

Results obtained on the relationship status (single/married) indicated that there were significant differences in counselling needs on finance (t = 3.66, df = 918, P< 0.05), assertiveness/communication (t = 5.73, df = 918, P < 0.05), and self-evaluation (t = 3.30, df = 918, P < 0.05). Inspection of the means indicated that married students had more financial counselling needs than single students. In addition, single students had more assertive/communication needs than married students. Married students were found to have more relationship counselling needs than the single students; while the single students had more self-evaluation counselling needs that married students.

On the counselling needs of campus resident students and non-campus resident students, the results indicated no significant difference on the financial counselling needs. Furthermore, residential status had a significant influence on time management (t = 7.77, df = 918, P< 0.05). Similarly, non-campus resident students had more drug counselling needs than campus resident students (t = 3. 20, df = 918, P< 0.05). In addition, students residing on campus bad more assertiveness/ communication skills counselling needs than non-campus resident students (t = 9.36, df = 918, P < 0.05). Students residing on campus had more counselling needs on how to foster and sustain a stable relationship than students not residing on campus.(t = 3.14. df = 918, P < 0.05).In addition, MANOVA indicated that there was an interactive effect of gender, relationship status and residential status on the counselling needs of students.


One of the findings of this study indicates that the respondents rated time-management as their most pressing counselling need. This is not surprising going by the fact that majority of students in Nigerian tertiary institutions these days spend the greatest portion of their time in extra-curricular activities, such as, student politics, campus occult activities, and several small-scale entrepreneurships--profit making enterprises, including using motor bikes to pick passengers. Such that majority of students these days have little or no time for their studies--to even complete class assignments or attend to take home assignments. This has led them to, most of the time, demand for either an extension of the school's academic calendar or an alteration of the academic calendar. When not obliged with this recurring demand, they take to rather violent means to force school authorities to oblige them. Thus, school authorities are usually left with no option than to close down or adjust the school calendar by a shift in examination timetable. This finding is consistent with that of Guneri et al (2003), which found that "managing my time (60%)" was rated highest in the list of students needs. In the same vein, Arco et al. (2005) in their study, reported that students rated academic needs--need to improve their study skills, time-management and problem of test taking anxiety--higher than other counseling needs. Similarly, students' rating of time management as the most significant need of all their counseling needs in this study is also consistent with the views of Aluede (2001), Aluede et al (2005) and Nwokwule (1992) that most students these days in Nigeria are not able to manage their time, which has led to the incessant incidents of student unrest in Nigerian universities.

Adelekan, Ndom and Imouokhome (1996) identified higher levels of drug use to be associated with parental use, family background, parental conflict, single parentage, family disorganization, and social class and peer group. Findings like this form the basis for the appreciation of the problems faced by students with regards to drugs. They live in a society where parents, peers and other psychological variables encourage them to get involved in the use of drugs. There is therefore little or no surprise that drug concerns was rated the second most significant counseling needs of the students. This may be due to the wide speculation that the incessant and violent activities of campus occult groups, often leading to the death of their counterparts is most of the time a function of illicit drug use. Many of these students acting under the influence of drugs most times derive pleasure in the killings of members of opposing campus occult groups in the university.

Female students were found to be more in need of counseling, especially in the area of finances than their male counterparts. This finding is expected because careful observation of students on campuses would reveal that female students are prone to spending their finances at the beginning of each semester on acquiring more dresses and cosmetics, especially to make them look decent and in other cases attractive. Hence, before the mid-semester break, many female students complain about the slim resources at their disposal to continue their studies. Thus, most times reasonable segment of the female students are left with no other options than to engage in indecent activities, such as prostitution, to get money to continue with their very exorbitant life styles on campus. While other female students who may not be able to engage in such indecent activities, more than ever desire professional assistance to remedy the problem of not being able to properly manage their finances throughout the semester. Generally, this finding is somehow consistent with that of Carney and Savitz (1980, as cited in Gallagher, Golin & Kelleher, 1992) that managing finances and career planning were the pragmatic areas that students perceived to be in their greatest need for assistance.

Implications for Practice

The results of this study have very significant implications for the counselling profession across cultures and countries of the world. For instance, the major finding of this study when compared with similar works, such as those conducted by Guneri et al. (2003) in Turkey, and Arco et al. (2005)in Spain, in spite of the cultural differences, have common findings. These studies to a very great extent revealed that academic counselling need--in the form of time management, especially the need to improve their study habits and test taking anxiety--was rated by the student as the most significant area they desire counselling. Therefore, even across cultures, there is the great need to suggest counselling advocacies that would be helpful to students in the management of their time. One surest way that counsellors can greatly assist students cultivate good study habits and better manage their time, is to consider introducing their students to the Virginia Tech, Division of Student Affairs' study skills self-help strategies. The program recommended having students spend at least 30 hours a week outside the classes on their studies. One way of accomplishing this is by having students reduce the amount of time they send on extracurricular activities (The Division of Student Affairs, Virginia Tech, 2000).

Another strategy that can also be effective in assisting students manage their time, is to have students study at their best time, whether that is in the morning, afternoon or early evening. This will enable them complete their assignments. In addition, it has been asserted that the most successful system for students is to develop a schedule that would include the following: Plan enough time for study; study at the same time everyday; make use of the free hours during the school day; plan study periods to follow class periods; space study habits plan for weekly review; leave some unscheduled time for flexibility; and allot time for planned recreation, campus, church, and even student union activities, etc (Cook Counseling Center, Virginia Tech, 2000).

Given that students rated drug concern as the second most significant counseling need, calls for an urgent attention, as it is obvious or can be related to other unwarranted behaviour in schools, like violent actions by the students, maiming and killings. There are reasons to believe that before such unwholesome activities are embarked upon, such students are laced with illicit drugs. There is therefore an urgent need for counselling and enlightenment, as this will help the students in fighting off cues, situations and other variables that abound within and around them. Therefore, as ways of helping students overcome this problem, there is need for a drug-counselling unit to be established within the counseling centers in each university with qualified staff to take charge of these centers. The counseling staff would have to enlighten the students on the dangers of drug abuse by regularly conducting seminars and workshops, and distributing educational materials on the dangers inherent in the use of illicit drugs. Third, students should be encouraged to report at the drug counseling centers if they need help.

Financial concern, in the form of proper management of finances was also an area that students desired counseling. Female students were reported to be more in need of this counseling than their male counterparts. Counselors are hereby called upon to assist their students with identification of possible avenues they can seek financial assistance and this can be done by helping students mobilize relevant agencies and voluntary organizations outside the university community to institute financial aids programs/ benefits that would in the long run help the female students who are not able to manage their resources till the end of any semester. Counsellors can successfully achieve this goal by the following: provide information concerning financial assistance or identifying information sources in the larger society for the students; render financial advice to the students; offer recommendations for national, state and community actions that emphasize empowering college students financially; provide information regarding scholarship, bursaries, students loans and other sponsorship opportunities; assist students and parents to understand the procedures for applying for financial assistance particularly at the higher education level; and provide encouragement, reassurance and support to both students and parents (Aluede & Ikechukwu, 2001/2002; Aluede & Ikechukwu, 2003)


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Oyaziwo Aluede, Ph.D., Henry Imhonde, M.Sc., and Agatha Eguavoen, Ph.D., Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma-Nigeria.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Oyaziwo Aluede at
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Author:Eguavoen, Agatha
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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