What you need to know:
- I have noticed the apparent lack of information about HEC and to say the least the programme has been ignored by both teachers, parents and students
The current minimum admission requirements for direct entry into university, according to accordance with National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) guidelines, is two principal passes and one subsidiary pass obtained at one sitting of Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) for degree programmes.
However, an increasing number of candidates completing UACE are unable to meet the bare minimum requirements for joining the university on direct entry.
In most cases many of them opt to repeat the UACE exams with the hope of doing better and others simply branch off to other routes of life, yet the Higher Education Certificate (HEC) programme is an equally important option they could have picked to achieve their university dream.
Now taught in over 30 universities and other degree awarding institutions across the country, the HEC is a remedial programme intentioned to bridge the gap for students who completed UACE but do not meet the existing minimum direct entry requirements for the degree programmes.
It is one of the many standards for entry and admission for Diploma or Bachelor’s degree in higher education institutions alongside direct entry, diploma/certificate entry and the mature entry scheme.
Students with the Uganda Advance Certificate (UCE) or its equivalent and UACE with at least two subsidiary passes obtained in principal subjects or its equivalent and a UACE with only one principal pass are deemed to have met the admission requirements.
Unfortunately, if you visited a university teaching the HEC programme in this country today, chances are that most of the students enroled are foreign students, with minimal number of Ugandan students, a reason all stakeholders in the education sector need to show the much-needed interest in this great but untapped opportunity in the education trajectory of the young learners.
In some secondary schools where I have had the opportunity to speak on career days, I have noticed the apparent lack of information about HEC and to say the least the programme has been ignored by both teachers, parents and students.
Most of the talk is about passing or repeating UACE for direct entry to the university or enroling for a diploma in area of interest and later applying for the degree course or joining under the mature entry scheme for those above 25 years of age who must pass an aptitude test set by NCHE.
Before the HEC was accredited by NCHE in 2016, a number of institutions were offering the foundation or access programme but to only students from foreign education systems, leaving out the natives.
Therefore, NCHE had to set minimum standards to harmonise the programme in terms of course content, entry requirements, duration and assessment.
In the one-year programme students are taught both domain-specific and generic competencies such as critical thinking, teamwork, communication skills, and ability to handle variety of higher education tasks.
Depending on the final grade, a holder of Higher Education Certificate (HEC) is eligible for admission to a relevant bachelor’ degree or diploma programme in any university of his or her choice.
The good news though is that more universities are coming up to teach HEC. For example, NCHE recently accredited HEC-Humanities to be taught at Muni University, in Arua city in the West Nile region of North Western Uganda.
The university management anticipates that the programme will provide entry opportunities not only for natives who fail to make it by direct entry but also those with foreign qualifications considered below minimum Uganda entry requirements, especially for students from the neighbouring countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Kenya, Central African Republic, among others.
Mr Kefa Atibuni is a Senior Communication Officer at Muni University. [email protected]