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Perceived Dichotomy between Degree and HND holders in Nigeria
The Nigerian Civil Service as a Case Study

By Okoli Hyginus Nnaemeka







Contacts: 08034538331,,

 INTRODUCTION: Dichotomy exists when two or more bodies try to distinguish themselves from one another and fail to recognise one another as partners for goal attainment, when they are meant to be so. Exactly this has existed in a tug of war between Higher National Diploma (HND) holders and first Degree holders (Bachelor of Science, B.Sc.) in Nigeria, not only that it impedes development but have cause delay in national development. Abdulkadir (2014) made the following statement.

 “I don’t think there should be any competition between the HND/BSC holders because each one is unique; each one has been designed by the educational system to perform certain roles in our economy”

It is important to note that despite the fact that the HND holders are relegated to the background as claimed by Habila (2012) and others the nation bears the brunt or the consequences arising from this disparity. Lawan (2006), identified that so many HND holders have contributed very meaningfully to the development of Nigeria but the discrimination that is put on them places some kind of disadvantage not only on the holders but on the country as well.

The continued misconception that the university degree is somewhat better, more prestigious and generally more acceptable than the polytechnic diploma has become a concern to government, employers, employees and academicians today. Holders of both certificates battle for supremacy in the labour market and each side always provides reasons why they believe their certificates are better. Interestingly, the reasons for the so-called ‘supremacy’ stem from the same prejudices that make the two groups seemingly different. Consultancy and Research Department (CRD), (2013).

Despite the contribution of technology in the meaningful and economic development of which polytechnic is the basis; yet its products are discriminated in favour of their University counterpart. The ceiling and all forms of dichotomy, discrimination and stagnation in career progression between Higher National Diploma (HND) and First Degree holders have eaten deep into the fabrics of Nigeria’s labour market.

It is not surprising that HND holders in Nigeria are not at par with B.Sc.  or B.A. holders in most Ministries and parastatals, especially at job progression where HND holders are placed on the ceiling of salary grade level 13 while their University counterpart can go as high as to the peak.

Disparity may happen when people are treated unfairly because they are seen as being different from others (Deitch and Farooq, 2003).  Disparity can also be seen as a variable of discrimination in which case one is treated with superiority over the other. It is also evident that Nigeria’s Universities do not accept HND as one of the entry qualifications into Master’s Degree, unless it is backed up by Post Graduate Diploma (PGD), while First Degree is accepted for direct entry to study Second Degree programmes.  Similarly, an HND holder cannot not rise up to the level of Permanent Secretary in most Ministries until his/her qualification is supported by Post Graduate Diploma.

Also, there has been the misperception by employers of labour that HND is for those who fail to do well in school as a result they prefer employing First Degree holders to HND holders.  This non recognition of this skilled labour in this country will bring the nation on its knees as the importance of polytechnic system of education cannot be overemphasized as such they deserve a place of priority.

Ordinarily, CRD (2013) in its contextual analysis identified the area of this dichotomous existence thus; the tenure of a degree course can be around 3-6 years based on the geographical location, the length of the program and the selected course of study, while one can complete a diploma within 1-2 years. A degree is also generally conferred to a person by an accredited or recognized university whereas a diploma can be conferred to a person by any private educational or vocational institution or polytechnic. The focus and aims of both the degree course and diploma course are different.  According to the research institute, a degree course emphasizes significance on academics. The curriculum is so structured that the person undergoing the course is provided with an overview of several subjects in addition to the original subject the individual is interested in, exploring further for both career and academic interests.  In stating the problem of this study, therefore, it is upon these backdrops that the study set to identify the implication of this tug of war among HND and Degree holders on national development.


Having established ground concerning this study, the student has the following objectives to actualise in this study.

  • To identify the existing areas of dichotomy between HND and Degree holders.
  • To find out the effect of this dichotomy among HND and Degree holders.
  • To investigate the implication of this dichotomy
  • To suggest or recommend measures that will help in resolving this discrimination.


HND HOLDER:  According to Habila (2012), Nigerian HND (Higher National Diploma) is a five years academic study with practical, 2 years of ND with project report submitted – one year practical (placement) then two years HND with thesis. Polytechnics are designed to produce middle-level manpower, which is National Diploma and high-level technical manpower (HND); and the high-level technical manpower is equivalent to the high-level managerial manpower (Bachelor’s Degree) produced by the Universities. Oxford Advance Learners’ Dictionary in the 5th edition defines HND as an academic qualification which is equivalent to BSc or B.A. This means HND is equal to Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts.  HND in Nigeria is a five years academic study with practical, two years of National Diploma with project report submitted – one year practical (placement) then two years HND with thesis.

According to Inwang (2000), Higher National Diploma is best described as a two-year full-time or three-year part-time course which once completed can lead to entry to study Post Graduate Diploma.  HND courses are vocational in nature as they prepare you for careers in specific areas of industry. The uniqueness of HND profession is that special technical field that can empower the holder to stand out as an entrepreneur are treated there.

DEGREE HOLDER: according to Encyclopaedia Britannica (2007) in its historical pace made the following assertion concerning Bachelor Degree Holder thus: The Bachelor’s Degree is also known as “Baccalaureate” in many countries.  The word baccalaureate is a distorted version of German word “Bakkalaureus.”  The Bachelor’s degree was first awarded in Germany, but was later abolished.  The degree resurfaced in 1820, however, as part of a change in the higher education system.  A Bachelor’s degree is an undergraduate academic degree.  The name “Bachelor” was given to the degree because of the English word “Bachelor”, meaning “Young apprentice” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2007).

According to CRD (2013) in its research, the tenure of a degree course can be around 3-6 years based on the geographical location, the length of the program and the selected course of study. Habila (2012) in his work identified that Bachelor’s degree is usually conferred at the completion of a four/five year programme of study.  Bachelor’s Degrees usually represent the completion of course requirements in a major field of study and frequently in minor field as well.  Bachelor’s degrees are awarded in the liberal arts and sciences, education, business, and other disciplines.  The Bachelor’s degree may be a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree, depending on the major course of study completed by the student.  For example, Chemistry major would receive a B.Sc. degree, whereas a History major would receive a B.A. degree. A Bachelor’s degree is a benchmark of academic attainment.  Courses with the award of B.A., BSc. B.Eng., LLB, etc are all first degrees, and many are offered on a full time or part time basis.  A full time degree normally requires study for a period of between four and five years depending on the university in question (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2007).


In a bid to show their pain over the discrimination that have been melted against them, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) left classes and engaged in industrial actions that lasted for 10 months in the year 2014. According to Sunday (2014), Academic activities in Nigeria public polytechnics have been paralyzed for the past 10 months which is over one academic year due to the strike action embarked upon by ASUP and the slow pace of action in resolving it by the education ministry. The demands of ASUP union are deemed genuine and rightful as this is a timely intervention to the educational disaster waiting to rock the Nigeria education system. Many authors have made effort to identify the dichotomy between the holders of HND and Degree. Therefore the following disparities are obtainable among them in Nigeria.

Figure 1


Area of dichotomy








Mode of entry

Through ND cert.

Strictly through Jamb






Placement in the civil service and its ceiling

Level 6 -13

Level 7- permanent secretary


Knowledge acquisition

Practical based

Theoretical based


Field of engineering




Content of study

Narrower in scope

Broader in scope


Market choice

Less preferred

More preferred

(Source Abdulkadir 2014, Habila (2012) CRD 2013 and modified by the writer)

The broad definition of polytechnic according to Farooq (2010) “is an institution that teaches both academic and vocational subjects, with focus on applied education for work and root concentrated on engineering and applied science.  Polytechnic education is a system of education introduced by the government that emphasizes the need to acquire practical training and technological know-how.  Universities on the other hand, are said to be institutions designed to produce graduates or products of theoretical understanding and competence.  Universities are theoretically-based.


It is important to know that most industries in Nigeria today are hiding under this undue discrimination to utilize and under remunerate labour from the polytechnic field by employing them more and paying them pittance. (CRD 2013). Banks are guilty of this offence, because most banks employ more of HND holders even an ND holders to do the work of a degree holders, then the question is, if then these set of people can do the work of a degree holders properly why then the dichotomy?

Habila (2012), identified the following effects as a result of the background in which the HND holders have been relegated in the labour market.

•         Loss of confidence:  Individuals who possess self-confidence feel they can meet the challenges that confront them.  They have a sense of mastery over the types of problems they might encounter.  Employees are described as having self confidence because they seek out and complete demanding tasks.

•         Loss of reputation and ego:  Employees want the esteem of others and they want to be regarded as useful, competent and important.   Employees also desire self-esteem

•         And need a good self-image.  In the workplace increased responsibility, high status and reward for contributions satisfy these needs.

•         Low rate of turnover/productivity:  The highest motivation level involves employees striving to actualise their full potential, or become more than what they are capable of being.  They seek to attain self-fulfilment.  In workplaces employees satisfy this need by being creative and accepting challenging assignments.  On the other hand, if they are placed on inferiority complex, their capabilities to the productivity of the organisation are handicapped.

•         Demeaning of staff morale and productivity:  Moral is the mental, emotional and spiritual state of a person.  It is the spirit of the body, the spirit of an organisation or collective body.  It is the consciousness of the organisation that allows the people within it to identify with and feel as being part of the organisation.  On the contrary, when the spirit or morale of an employee is not boosted by giving him a sense of belonging, he feels isolated and cannot put in his best towards the achievement of the organisation’s goal (Fox, 2009).


This misperception by employers of labour  even the government that HND is for those who fail to do well in school as a result they prefer employing First Degree holders to HND holders impedes development.  This non recognition of this skilled labour in this country will bring the nation on its knees as the importance of polytechnic system of education cannot be overemphasized as such they deserve a place of priority. Therefore, the following implications are identifiable.

  • Under utilization of labour : it important to understand that as a result of this tug of war between HND holders and Degree holders in the labour market, that labour are not effectively and efficiently utilized. The issue is that most of the HND holders because of their non recognition through equal promotion, placement, remuneration and other infringe benefits may tend to avoid work and play truancy, this situation is highly noticed in the public sector, by this they are been underutilized and it has a multiplier negative effect on national development.
  • Frequent industrial action: These dichotomies that exist among degree and HND holders have resulted in undue industrial action by ASUP and ASUU in a bid to secure a surpassing autonomy. It is also noted while that a nation faced with frequent industrial actions from its education sector will continue to be retrogressive in its development. Also the actions of the academic staff of these institutions contribute in production of half baked man, those who cannot compete favorably with their peers in the world market.
  • Increased unemployment: the preference of Degree holder to HND holder has contributed to the problem of unemployment in the system. This is one the reasons why Nigeria is called an unemployed economy today, i.e an economic system which cannot utilize its manpower effectively. Since most notable industries and government parastatals preferred those that graduated from University, the implication been that thousands that graduate from Polytechnics and colleges are left roaming around the streets and constituting unrest, kidnapping, armed robbing and other social ills which are inimical to national development. Abdulkadir (2010) noted meanwhile, the situation as observed has posed some dangers on organisations and Nigeria as a whole such as unemployment for polytechnics graduates which has caused some of them to engage in all kinds of vices such as assassination, kidnapping, armed robbery, money ritual among others.
  • Over population of our universities: since University Degree is preferred to HND, the implication is that it has caused over flooding of students in the universities. CRD (2013) in its research came to the following conclusion that the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) the body responsible for admission into Universities into one body with a singular exam, there is increased pressure on Universities and Polytechnics and even the rapidly emerging private universities and polytechnics cannot keep up with the demand for placement. Over 1.5 million students write JAMB examinations each year, while 1.6 million students write WAEC examinations each year. Sadly, preponderance of these students would rather attend a university than a polytechnic as evidenced by the research, putting more pressure on the already highly pressured university system.

Indeed, these dichotomies that exist among HND and Degree Holders in Nigeria have led to unnecessary concoction in our education system, most universities because of their preference have introduced some polytechnic courses in order to retain autonomy example the creation of CEDR in national university is a serious defeat to the reason of creating polytechnics and vocational colleges.


It has been observed that the current perceptions of a difference in the quality of certificates obtained from a University versus a Polytechnic are highly psychological and not a reflection of the ‘purported difference’ in the quality of the university degree or polytechnic diploma holders. Due to the difference in focus, there has to be a distinct difference in the curriculum, teaching style and course content, and the decision on which certificate is better should be derived from individual career aspirations.

The society is made of strata and sub strata and should work interrelate to achieve societal objectives. The issue of upgrading polytechnics to degree awarding institution may not likely solve this problem, neglecting them totally through discrimination is what bad also.


The issue of dichotomy between HND and Degree holders in Nigeria demand an urgent government intervention, the reason for my statement is that the issue is a labour related matter and as such involves the government in two ways as a third party between the employer and the employee and also as the highest employer of labour. Therefore this paper call for

  • There should decrease in socio- psychological disorientation among the holders. There is no basis to compare a degree to HND. They were meant to service difference segment of the labour market and as such there should be no contest for superiority. This can be achieved through government programmes and policies.
  • Application of merit and principle of work efficiency. It will be of a great improvement to our education if Nigerians, I mean employers of labour can based employment, promotion and the likes on-the-job performance than paper certificate. Performance and productivity instead of certificate should be the watch word.
  • Government legislation like equal opportunities for all graduates will go along way salvaging this situation.
  • Finally government should implement the white paper agreement reached with ASUP through this means heals this national sickness in our educational sector which is inimical to development.


Abdulkadir, S. (2014) HND/B.SC Dichotomy, Staggering Technology Development in Nigeria. Retrieved from

Deitch and Hammed (2010). The Disparity between HND and BSc in Nigeria. Internet.

Encyclopaedia Britannica (2007).  Academic Degrees and their Abbreviations

Farooq, K. in Weekly Trust (2010).  Parity of Esteem between Polytechnics

and University.

Guest Writer (2008), SOS to the Late President and Commander In Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua:  University Degree and HND    disparity in Nigeria Civil Service.

National Policy on Education (2004).Federal Government of Nigeria.


Oyedeji (1993), Educational Evaluation. Internet.

NATEAGM (2009).  The removal of Undue Dichotomy and Ceiling Attainable by HND holders in Public Service.



Sunday, J. S. (2014), ASUP STRIKE CLOCKS ONE YEAR-NIGERIA IS EDUCATIONALLY DISADVANTAGED. Open letter to Mr. President, retrievedfrom:





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