Human Rights

Nigeria: On the Scrapping of Degree/HND Dichotomy

In a recent statement in Abuja, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, declared that the long-standing argument over the removal of the dichotomy between university graduates and holders of Higher National Diplomas (HND) would soon be resolved. Announcing the official position of government, the minister said plans had since been concluded to abolish the dichotomy that existed between the two educational qualifications. The policy announcement is awaiting the decision of the National Council on Establishments (NCE) and the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

It would be recalled that HND holders working in the nation’s public sector had long ago filed a motion before the National Industrial Court in Abuja, challenging their discrimination in career progression. The list of defendants in the suit included the National Council on Establishments and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF). The claimants asked the court to make an order directing the defendants to implement the directives of government’s White Paper on the report of the Presidential Committee on the Consolidation of Emoluments in the Public Sector. Discrimination in career progression, which puts HND holders at disadvantage, has been the bone of contention in the matter.

Existing rules in the civil service do not provide for a HND holder to rise beyond Grade Level (GL)14 as against university graduates whose promotions extend up to GL 17, the peak of career in the public service. The argument over this dichotomy has lingered for long, probably because fundamental questions between the two educational qualifications have neither been clearly resolved nor put in proper context.

A Higher National Diploma (HND) and a university degree are two separate academic programmes established for different purposes with different entry requirements and distinct curriculum contents. HND is not a university degree. They seek to achieve different objectives.

This, thus, suggests that products of the two programmes would be far from having the same learning experiences and skills.

It is similarly in recognition of the uniqueness of the HND and degree progammes that admission requirements into a degree programme are higher than the entry qualifications into HND programmes. This is in terms of the number and quality of credits required to be obtained by candidates in their Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE).

While degree programmes run for four academic sessions or five in the case of engineering, pharmacy, medicine and veterinary medicine, all HND courses in polytechnics run for a period of two academic sessions only. If these are some of the peculiar provisions that differentiate degree from HND, the removal of dichotomy would mean making one an equivalent to the other. If this is thought behind the removal of dichotomy, government would need to harmonize the curriculum contents, admission requirements, and period of study of the two institutions (universities and polytechnics) that produce the two qualifications.

In the interest of professionalism, we advise government that this is not the kind of dichotomy it should seek to remove. While the curriculum of HND programmes is fundamentally designed to produce middle level technical manpower required by industries, university degree programmes, which are more theoretical and research-oriented, have been planned to provide guiding principles for most of the functions of a HND holder.

We call on government to make clear its final position on this matter. What the removal of dichotomy entails must be clearly defined. We strongly advise government to restrict the removal of the dichotomy to issues of career progression and not the structure of the academic programmes; otherwise, the cardinal purpose for which polytechnics were established would risk being compromised.

Source: Daily Trust