Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The HND, Bachelor's Degree Controversy: An Impediment to the Industrial Growth of the Nation and the Way Out

There is no doubt that the industrial growth of any nation depends on the level of the educational advancement and development of its middle level manpower. There are many polytechnic students with the Higher National Diploma (HND). Their presence in any economy ensures its growth and development and by implication its national development. The consequence of its absence in any nation is lack of development or slow national development. This is exactly the case and problem with Nigeria. Even though Nigeria has many polytechnics that produce these middle level manpower, its economy has refused to grow. This is attributed to the disparity and controversy between the HND and Bachelors degree, which resulted in many students opting for the university education, which is purely academic and theoretical as against polytechnic education which is practical and pragmatic. The idea is that with bachelors’ degree they will acquire better jobs and earn more salary. This tragedy has resulted in the mass exodus of students from the polytechnic to the university thereby creating a vacuum hard to be filled, in the nation's labour market, all due to disparity and controversy surrounding the HND and Bachelors degree. This has done more harm than good to the economic development and educational advancement of this nation. It has generated also a lot of controversy than progress in the educational system.

For a long time, this controversy has been a thorn on the flesh of Nigeria's educational system. It is high time a lasting solution is given to the hydra-headed problem. Elsewhere there may be a big gap and difference between the polytechnic education and that of the university. But here in Nigeria the differences are not conspicuous. These little differences therefore, should not be the reason for the disparity between the two systems. It should also not be a reason for the disparity or controversy between the HND and Bachelors degree.

In the first place, it is important to note that the two systems are not the same and can never be the same. One is also not an alternative to the other. Polytechnic education is purely a techno-scientific education. This is in contrast to that of the university that is predominantly academic. The meaning of this is that while polytechnic education concentrates on technical cum scientific education and at the same time providing the nation and economy with the much needed and indispensable middle level manpower, the university concentrates on academic work and research. The result of their academic and research work is exactly what the polytechnic cadre puts into a practical form. For instance, an Electronics/Electrical Engineering graduate from the university can sit down on a table and plan how a given building can be wired. He is not expected to do the wiring himself. The wiring, which is a practical aspect, is now the responsibility of the polytechnic Electronic/Electrical Engineering graduate.

The argument here is that while polytechnic education is more of practical, that of the university is theoretical. Polytechnic education is, for instance, 60 per cent practical and 40 percent theoretical while that of the university is vice versa. This little explanation is a pure pointer to the fact that both educational systems are not the same or is one an alternative to the other. Therefore, a student who is opting for the polytechnic education should bear in mind that he is opting for a practical- oriented education. He can only switch to the university if he wants to go academic or theoretical. In a nutshell, one does not enter a polytechnic as a last resort. It is a different educational system with its own mission, vision and, of course, a clear objective.

Having seen their peculiar attributes, one will now ask why the disparity or controversy between the HND and the Bachelors degree? This is a result of ignorance of those in government and public sector. The stakeholders in our educational system are to be blamed too. There is no basis for the disparity between the honours if the points are examined critically and objectively.

One needs four credits to gain admission into a Nigerian polytechnic against five required for the university system. The margin, frankly speaking, is not much and should not warrant the controversy. In fact, majority of the students in the polytechnics gained admission with more than five credits. The writer gained admission into the famous Mass Communications Department of the Oko Polytechnic with eight distinctions. Similar to the above point is the fact that polytechnic education lasts for five years while that of the university lasts for four years. One should have thought that the extra one year in the polytechnic would have made up for their supposed four credits on admission. In addition to that, one takes three subjects in the Polytechnic/Colleges of Education Examination to gain admission into the polytechnic while the University Matriculation Examination requires only one, which is not even a big margin.

In terms of teaching staff, that of the polytechnic is as good as that of the university. The least qualification one needs for employment in the university, which is Bachelors degree, is also what is required in the polytechnic. This is also the case with the Doctorate degree, which is the highest qualification in both systems. The professorial title is just a title, which many Chief Lecturers in the polytechnics are qualified to be given. This is also the case with their standards of education. They are just the same. In fact, it has been proved time without number that some courses in the polytechnic are by far superior to that of their university counterparts. Accountancy is one of such courses and statistics of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) shows that HND graduates of the polytechnics pass their ICAN examinations more than their university counterparts. Mass Communication is also another and likewise the Engineering courses.

Today the polytechnic graduates are competing favourably with their university counterparts in the labour market. This is also a pointer to the fact that university education in Nigeria has no strong and effective regulation unlike their polytechnic counterparts. No polytechnic can venture or dare to do any course in Nigeria today without getting a go-ahead accreditation, temporary accreditation and permanent accreditation respectively from the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), which is now being called the National Polytechnic Commission. This permanent accreditation is even subject to review every four years. Any polytechnic that violates this guideline receives a sledgehammer immediately from the Commission. The Commission is very serious, rigid and strict on this. This is the reason polytechnic education is undiluted, qualitative and competes favourably with the university system. The alacrity, speed and manner in which some university, some of which are not up to the polytechnic level, churn out graduates in courses it is clear beyond doubt that they are not qualified to do leaves much to be desired about their universal status and puts their standard, credibility and regulation to great question. Even the manner the new ones spring up day-by-day is an urgent matter of concern.

These and many others are the reason a full and final stop should be put on the controversy and disparity existing between the HND and Bachelors degree. As a way out, the Federal Government should as a matter of urgency upgrade the level of HND to that of the Bachelors degree and also make it a criminal offence for anyone, especially those in the labour market, to discriminate in giving employment to the graduates. It is an undiluted truism that no nation can do without the polytechnic graduates because of their contributions and indispensability in any economy, especially ours, which is a developing economy. Bearing this in mind, the Federal Government should also, as a matter of urgency, upgrade the polytechnics to the level of the university. They can still retain the name Polytechnics, Colleges of Technology or be referred to as Polytechnic University. For instance, we can then have Moshood Abiola Polytechnic University Abeokuta, The Polytechnic University Calabar, Federal Polytechnic University, Oko, and Yaba College of Technology etc. The Federal Universities of Technology should also be placed under this status.

In terms of admission, one should be admitted as it was before with the minimum of 4 credits. He will then do his Ordinary National Diploma (OND). He must do his four-month Industrial Training (IT) in the first year and one year IT after the OND. Then he will come back for his

Higher National Diploma (HND) after which he will go for one year National Youth Service Corps programme and then come back for his Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) if he wants to change discipline, then Masters and Philosophy degree.

These polytechnic universities should be following strictly the curriculum of the polytechnic education as it is today. They should, on no condition, award conventional degrees. They should be restricted only to the technical degrees like HND, M.Tech, etc. They should also award honourary degrees and professorial title to deserving persons. For the sake of professional, undiluted and pure polytechnic education, the National Polytechnic Commission should be charged with the responsibility of their regulation and not the National University Commission. For the start and as an experiment, 12 polytechnics should be converted thus and monitored for at least 6-year period. Their performance will eventually lead to the full conversion of others. Two should come from each of the 6 geo-political zones existing presently in the country. This is to avoid cry of marginalisation from any quarter. The above argument and suggestion if taken by the government and implemented will truly turn around the polytechnic education in Nigeria. It will also make the HND and Bachelors degree controversy die a natural death, having seen that the neglect and relegation to the background of the HND is a joke carried too far by our university counterparts. This is, sincerely speaking, the best solution.


  1. The original of this article has the same title and was first published by the Vanguard Newspapers of Nigeria on Thursday July 17, 2003.

  2. why do we have to start afresh at the university with our HND

  3. i hold an HND and had 6credits with 3 distinctions.i did not think i was a dullard when i went to agric school i just did not know what i was doing.looking back i would have gone back to start at the university some thing that still runs through my mind. the discrimination is really bad.some of my friends went back to start all over and some like me chose to do a masters and even a PHD but no one lets us forget that we started out with an HND.even the government and parastatals advertising for federal govt scholarships exclude HND graduates.HND graduates dont even want their kids going through such pain. There are brilliant ones like u out there.perhaps to gain respect a compilation of the great achievers with HND should be documented for the world to see that we r not dullards!

  4. The Gospel According To Chukwunwikezarramu Okumephuna:
    The HND, Bachelor's Degree Controversy: An Impediment to the Industrial Growth of the Nation and the Way Out

    Why is it that Nigeria university undergraduates/ postgraduates are not integrating well into the labour market? Students entered university with the expectation that their education would lead to a job. Little did they know that the road to employment would take much longer than expected (often ending up at a college or polytechnic to get job-ready) and cost a great deal more (to both the student and to the taxpayer), most of it probably borrowed – is this the system we want to expand? Our training must be designed through partnership with employers: engagement with
    industry must deep across our diverse array of programs, ranging from involvement in curriculum design to internships, work experience, coop, to applied research projects that are our students conduct for companies Polytechnic education is one critical solution, but Nigerian needs more post-secondary institutions offering this kind of learning..Will the politics in Nigeria education help some of us nail on the cross because of our strong .There is no critical thinking on the write up,no 21st century common sense, but colonial mentality thinking.They should go and learn what Germany ,Britain and Canada have done to their Polytechnic education.This is old stuff in the modern 21st century thinking.