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Discrimination Between Universities and Polytechnics

Submitted by Editor2 on 18 September 2023

By Eniola Olatunji

A University is an institution of higher education in which students’ study for degrees and where academic research is done. A Polytechnic is equally an institution of higher education where students study for degrees. However, there is a distinction between both institutions. While a University awards a Bachelor's of the appropriate field of study, a Polytechnic awards a Higher National Diploma (HND). Polytechnics are designed for technical education (i.e. the acquisition of practical skills).

While both institutions specialize in higher education, in Nigeria, there is a huge discrimination against Polytechnics and its graduates. People often have the notion that a university degree is above and more worthwhile than a polytechnic degree. Polytechnic graduates are seen as inferior to degree holders from universities. One area where this discrimination is exemplified is in the acceptance for a master’s degree program. A polytechnic graduate is mandated to undergo at least a year of postgraduate diploma courses before being accepted for a Masters. In contrast, a university graduate can gain direct admission to a master’s degree program. This begs the question: why is this so?

The inferior outlook towards polytechnics can be traced to the fact that a polytechnics were designed to train middle-level management manpower (mostly technicians). This is unlike universities that train for higher management positions. For instance, courses like Medicine are not offered by polytechnics. This creates the unfortunate assumption that polytechnic graduates are not intelligent enough.

The downgrading treatment meted out to polytechnic graduates in the labor market further fuels this discrimination. For instance, in the civil service, the entry-level position for a polytechnic graduate is a Higher Executive Officer, while a University graduate is employed as an Administrator. Even in Academia, a polytechnic graduate is simply employed as a technologist or instructor while a University graduate is employed as a lecturer. If employers demean polytechnics, why should the general public honor the institution?

Professional bodies contribute to this negativity through their hierarchy arrangement which portrays inferiority to polytechnic graduates. For instance, a COREN-registered university graduate is referred to as an Engineer while his polytechnic counterpart is called an Engineering Technologist.

Unfortunately, this discrimination has forced polytechnics to push for their conversion to universities. Prominent polytechnics like Lagos State Polytechnic and Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, have been converted to universities. In recent times, no fewer than twenty polytechnics and colleges of education have been converted to universities.

The government has a role to play in stemming this discrimination. Polytechnics and universities are two sides of the same coin. Laws and policies which promote equality amongst polytechnics and universities should be enforced. Nevertheless, polytechnic graduates should not be deterred from aspiring for high positions. Would you believe that Taiwo Oyedele, the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms, attended a polytechnic? He obtained a National Diploma in Accounting at Federal Polytechnic Ado Ekiti and his HND at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos.

Asibeluo Imonifewo Stephen, “The Effects of the Discrimination between Polytechnic Education and University Education on the Overall Technological Development of Nigeria.” Industrial Engineering Letters. Vol. 5, No. 4, 2015. 

Eniola Olatunji is a law  
student at the University  
of Ibadan. He enjoys
researching into new
areas of life, reading  
comics and writing plays.