There has been a longstanding debate surrounding the dichotomy between the Bachelor of Science (BSc) and the Higher National Diploma (HND) certificates in Nigeria. The dichotomy refers to the differences and disparities between the two higher institution certificates. This issue has its roots in the historical development of the educational system in Nigeria.

The BSc is typically obtained through a university degree programme, while polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of technology award the HND certificate. In the past, there was a perception that BSc holders were more academically inclined and theoretically sound, while HND holders were seen as more practically skilled.

One significant issue contributing to the dichotomy is the difference in entry requirements for BSc and HND programmes. BSc programmes usually have higher entry criteria, requiring candidates to have a certain number of credits in specific subjects, while HND programmes are often more flexible in their entry requirements.

Another factor influencing the dichotomy is the perceived value placed on BSc degrees compared to HND qualifications. Traditionally, BSc holders have been more highly regarded in the job market and have had access to a broader range of opportunities, including in the public sector.

For years, polytechnic graduates who hold the HND certificate have faced discrimination in society compared to university graduates who hold a BSc certificate. This is despite multiple pronouncements at unifying the certificate by the government. The dichotomy is especially pronounced in the public service where the Public Service Rules (PSR) dictate that officers with HND certificates cannot rise above GL14, a clear difference from the GL17 attained by their counterparts with BSc certificates. In the private sector, also, some establishments like the banks often overlook polytechnic graduates in favour of university graduates during recruitment. When they eventually decide on polytechnic graduates, they settle for the ones with OND certificates, not through direct recruitment, but through third-party recruitment, and with lower remuneration.

This development has led to several agitations among stakeholders in the polytechnic sector most of which has failed to yield the desired result of ending the discrimination. They term the discrimination as a great disservice to Nigeria and also as an action capable of making young people lose interest in polytechnic education. In a recent interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, Professor Idris Bugaje, executive secretary of the National Board for Technical Education, the agency that regulates polytechnic education in Nigeria, called on the Federal Government to scrap completely the award of HND in polytechnic if the government would not end the dichotomy between HND and BSc certificates. He noted that the discrimination against HND holders was uncalled for as it prevented holders of the certificate from attaining the highest directorate level in the public service.

The Nigerian government has in the time past tried to address the disparity between BSc and HND qualifications. In 2018, the Federal Government announced the abolition of the dichotomy between HND and BSc holders in the civil service. This was a significant step towards recognizing the equivalence of both qualifications in terms of employment opportunities. In 2021, the 9th National Assembly passed the bill abolishing the age-long dichotomy between BSc and HND holders. The bill titled, A Bill for an Act to Abolish and Prohibit Dichotomy and Discrimination Between BSc and HND in the same Profession, seeks to bring an end to the age-long and consistent discrimination against polytechnic graduates and address other challenges faced by HND holders in the public service. Even though the bill successfully scaled through the assembly, the then-president, Muhammadu Buhari failed to sign it into law.

Despite these efforts, challenges remain in fully bridging the gap between BSc and HND qualifications in Nigeria. Some employers still prefer BSc holders, perpetuating the perception that BSc qualifications are superior to HND qualifications.

To address the challenges associated with the BSc and HND certificates dichotomy in Nigeria, it is essential to continue efforts to promote equality and recognition for both qualifications. Employers should be encouraged to evaluate candidates based on their skills and competencies rather than the type of academic qualification they hold.

Moreover, polytechnics and colleges of technology should strive to enhance the quality of HND programmes to ensure that graduates are adequately prepared for the job market demands. Collaboration between universities and polytechnics can also help bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical skills, creating a more holistic educational experience for students.

Ultimately, the key to bridging the BSc and HND certificates dichotomy in Nigeria is promoting equal opportunities for all graduates, regardless of their educational background. By fostering a more inclusive and merit-based approach to recruitment and career progression, Nigeria can harness the full potential of its diverse pool of talented individuals.

Ejiofor is a Deputy Registrar with Yaba College of Technology, Lagos.