The federal government recently scrapped the Award of Higher National Diploma (HND) Certificates by Polytechnics. The decision, which was taken at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, brings an end to the previously existing dichotomy between University and Polytechnic education in Nigeria.
Good enough, FEC did not get rid of the HND Award without making a comprehensive reform of Nigeria’s tertiary education system. In effect, the award is now limited to only students who are currently admitted for the HND programmes. All the programmes currently being run by polytechnics that are not technology-based are also to be scrapped. This new rule entails that Subject to the ratification of the Universities’ Councils, the Polytechnics will be turned to campuses of the proximate universities, while the Vice Chancellors of those universities are to appoint provosts for the polytechnics.
To flag off the new policy, the two famous polytechnics, Yaba College of Technology and Kaduna Polytechnic, will henceforth be called City University of Technology, Yaba and City University of Technology, Kaduna. The polytechnics will now be limited to award of the National Diploma (ND), even as students willing to further their education will be awarded the Bachelor of Technology (B. Tech) by the proximate university.
FEC also approved that two Executive bills be submitted to the National Assembly for enactment that would give legal teeth to these approvals. The first bill will legalise the setting up of the two city universities, while the second bill will approve the preparation and consolidation of all federal polytechnics and colleges of education as campuses of proximate universities.
While one may argue that Polytechnic education is akin to ensuring technological development of a nation, there is no doubt that its standards have fallen way beyond those of the Universities. Besides, the argument that general education standards have fallen abysmally across the nation only tends to strengthen the need for government to do whatever is necessary to address this collapse.
The worry that the new Policy could hinder the quality of technical education in Nigeria is addressed by the view that if policies on technical education are adopted, the linking of polytechnic and University education would help in providing efficient manpower for the nation’s industries.
It is also expected that the policy would consequently reduce dependence on foreign expertise for industrial development, while promoting local innovations and innovators. In our view, this is a step in the right direction, given the fact that admissions into Polytechnics had dwindled since 2010 as a result of government nonchalance towards improving and enhancing technical education at the college and Polytechnic levels.
It is also commendable that the new policy requires the limitation of the Award of HND to only students currently admitted for the programmes, while all programmes which are not technologically based and which account for about 70 per cent of the current programmes being run in Nigerian Polytechnic are to be scrapped.
From available records, Nigeria has over 112 Polytechnics, including federal, states and private owned Polytechnics. The breakdown shows that federal government has 27, states 41 and the remaining 44 Polytechnics belong to private individuals across Nigeria.
The worry by many is that existing universities may not be able to cater for the population of existing Polytechnics which have been viewed as the last hope of the average student who in the past lacked the connection and wherewithal to gain admission into universities.
This argument is however deflated by the fact that Nigeria, with a total of one 153 Universities catering for an average population of 150 million students, should be able to tackle the needs of students who will be adopted from the polytechnics.
A breakdown of the universities in Nigeria shows a record of 40 federal Universities, 44 state universities and 74 private universities spread across the entire federation, bringing the total number to 153. When added to the 200 Universities being currently processed by the National University Commission (NUC), brings the total Universities to 353, it makes it very efficient to tackle the existing gap of Universities currently operating in Nigeria.
While the new policy is a welcome development towards addressing the falling standard of Polytechnic education, it will serve as the first step towards addressing the wide gap that had been created through the disparity between the two levels of tertiary education in the country.
The society must stop looking at students who opt for polytechnic education as those that cannot make it into the universities, considering that many were qualified but lacked the opportunity to gain admission into the university.
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