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HND/BSC Dichotomy: Controversy deepens as NUC warns NBTE against top-up programme

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The controversy surrounding the dichotomy between the certificates awarded by the Nigerian polytechnics and universities deepened at the weekend as the National Universities Commission (NUC) declared its opposition to the one-year top-up programme introduced to bridge the gap.

The National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), the regulatory body for polytechnics, introduced the one-year top-up programme in partnership with some foreign universities to convert the Higher National Diploma (HND) certificates to degree certificates.

NBTE announced the introduction of the top-up programme with two foreign universities in August. By September, it said more than 30,000 HND graduates had registered for the conversion programme.

But the NUC said in a statement at the weekend that the programme lies outside the mandate of NBTE.

The statement signed by the commission’s acting Executive Secretary, Chris Maiyaki, said the powers to lay down minimum academic standards and accredit universities and their programmes lies with NUC.

NUC, therefore, said NBTE should focus on its core mandate and desist from introduction programmes such as the top-up.

The statement also warned the public that NUC “is not a party to and, indeed, disallows the so-called top-up scheme, being concocted by NBTE.”

“Both the NUC Establishment Law (CAP N81, LFN, 2004) and its Operational Law: Education (National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions) Act, CAP E3 LFN, 2004) vest in the Commission the powers to superintend and regulate university education in Nigeria, lay down minimum academic standards in the nation’s universities and other degree-awarding institutions, and accredit their programmes,” part of the statement reads.

“In the light of the above, the advice of the NUC is that NBTE should focus on its core mandate and desist from introducing programmes that are outside its jurisdiction, and not supported by any law in Nigeria,”

‘NBTE doesn’t award degree certificates’


But the Executive Secretary of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Idris Bugaje, a professor, told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview in September, that his organisation doesn’t award bachelor’s degrees or act as a degree-awarding institution.

Instead, he said the board only plays the role of negotiating favourable terms and fees with the universities and linking the HND graduates with them.

He noted that the Permanent Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education, Andrew Adejoh, and NUC had written NBTE asking if it has become a degree–awwarding institution. He said NBTE replied saying it doesn’t award degrees.

He said: “He (the permanent secretary) wrote us a letter saying you are now becoming a degree awarding agency. I said no. The degrees are being awarded by those foreign universities. We’re only facilitating by giving our curriculum for credit mapping. We replied to him and he instructed the NUC to also write. So they wrote to us and we explained to them that we are not awarding degrees because we know that NBTE has no powers to award degrees.

“Those foreign universities are degree-awarding universities. We only facilitated it for our own children, the HND holders. We are very proud of our HND holders. And we arranged to give them all the necessary support so that they can excel.

“NBTE has the mandate to facilitate top-up as it is regarded as a post-HND programme. NBTE is not responsible for Top-up curricula rather the awarding universities are responsible, and the top-up degree is awarded by the Senate of those foreign universities. NBTE only facilitates access for those interested, to ensure only credible universities are involved,” he added.

Why we introduced programme —NBTE

Mr Bugaje said NBTE introduced the top-up programme when all of its efforts to end the discrimination against polytechnic graduates failed.

For two years, Mr Bugaje said NBTE wrote letters to the authorities concerned, hoping to address the existing dichotomy and get respite for HND graduates but none of the efforts materialised.

He said although the board did not directly approach any Nigerian university, he said it wrote the Ministry of Education and NUC, both of whom he said appeared to be reluctant to key into the initiative.

“We have written letters and sent reminders. We even drafted curricula and we sent it to the ministry but it has not seen the light of the day,” he said.

“None of our letters was replied to for two years. I came in (as the Executive Secretary) with that Agenda in 2021.”

Mr Bugaje said NBTE decided on the top-up programme approach after researching what is obtainable in other countries of the world.

He said: “NBTE therefore looked at the best global practice. We have discovered what is happening in Ghana, South Africa, the European Union and Eastern Europe. What we discovered is that the best option for Nigeria is to get them a one-year top-up. One year top-up will allow them to acquire a BSc…That is the purpose; to allow them to progress because all efforts to bring sanity to the system had failed.”

“A PGD is not the best for HND holders because anytime they go to do the PGD, at the end of their Masters and PhD, they will still come back to ask them where their first degree is. So, the first degree has become a yardstick for progression in academia.”


There is clear discrimination between polytechnic graduates who hold HND certificates and university graduates who hold Bachelor’s degrees in Nigeria, despite multiple pronouncements unifying them by the government.

The dichotomy is especially pronounced in Nigeria’s public service where the Public Service Rules dictate that officers with HND certificates cannot rise above Grade Level (GL) 14 or become directors in the civil service, a clear difference from the GL17 attainable by their counterparts who graduated from universities with Bachelor’s degrees.

At the beginning of their career, HND graduates are placed at Grade Level (GL) 07 while Bachelor’s degree holders start their careers at GL08.

This development has led to several agitations, especially among holders of the HND and stakeholders in the polytechnic sector, all of which have failed to yield the desired result of ending discrimination.

In 2021, the National Assembly passed a bill seeking to end the dichotomy which is entrenched in Nigerian Public Service Rules but former President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure to assent to the bill means the discrimination continued.


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