Polytechnic education in Nigeria is largely perceived as inferior to university education due to some arguable factors which play down on the aims and objectives of polytechnics.
The institutes of technology and polytechnics have been in existence at least since the 18th Century, but became popular after World War II with the expansion of technical education, associated with the new need created by industrialization. In some cases, polytechnics or institutes of technology are engineering schools or technical colleges.
In spite of these differences in polytechnics and universities, in advanced countries there is no disparity as both institutions award the same degree. In the United States of America, polytechnics are referred to as institute of technology, polytechnic institute, polytechnic university. In Asia, it is polytechnic school of engineering. A polytechnic was a teaching institution in England, Wales and Northern Ireland offering higher diplomas, undergraduate degree and post graduate education that was governed and administered at the national level.
After the passage of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, they became independent universities which meant they could award their own degrees. Thus, from 1992 till date about 33 polytechnics have been converted to degree awarding institutions in the United Kingdom.
These are generally research-intensive universities with a focus on science and technology. However, the level of academic rigor in these schools may vary from entry-level state universities to world renowned elite schools.
In Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Education classified both the polytechnic and university as tertiary institutions with the same qualification in the labour market. But in practical terms, many stakeholders in the sector do not see them as same. In some quarters, the argument is that if both are same in quality, why are employers placing a university degree holder above its polytechnic counterpart even when apparently evident that the polytechnic graduate can do better. Many times, when employers receive more job applications than they can absorb, they often short list the university graduate before the polytechnic.
Moreover, some schools of thought argue that status quo should remain, noting that the admission process of the polytechnic is more flexible than the university. They averred that whereas, minimum of five credits are required for university entrance, four credits are only needed for the polytechnic. To buttress their point, the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination UTME does not give same cut off mark to both university and polytechnic. For example, if general cut off mark for university admission is 180, the polytechnic could be 130. To worsen the situation, while those who need the university education are meant to seat for four subjects, those in the polytechnic years back sat for only three subjects. The scenario has therefore began to create an unnoticeable impression to even the student that the polytechnic education is inferior.
On the other hands, our government who suppose to correct the anomaly is not helping the situation as it often gives more fund and attentions to university than the polytechnic. That explains why our polytechnic students have been on strike for over two sessions and the Federal Government has not taking the students and its striking workers seriously.
Can our university be shut for so long and the Federal Government and other stakeholders will keep mum?
If our polytechnics in Nigeria are upgraded to degree awarding institutions as it has been clamoured for perhaps thess disparities would have been over. If the government of Nigeria think because its university education is functional, the international communities cannot claim that Nigerian students are on strike, the government should better believe that some of our polytechnics are doing pretty well than some Nigerian federal universities and this fact is well known to the world.
For instance, in the August 2013 Web metric ranking of Nigerian universities, Obafemi Awolowo University was ranked 22nd in Africa and number 1,113 in the world. Whereas in the same year, Auchi Polytechnic came second in Nigeria and 23rd in Africa, beating the likes of University of Ibadan to the third place, thus showing that Nigeria polytechnics are no pushovers and are reputable in their areas of focus.
Speaking in the same vein at 8th convocation of the Lagos City Polytechnic where 870 graduates were churned out, the Director of Taxes, Mr Olulenu Michael Abimbolu, said that any institution which meets the standard of global ranking will be recognised accordingly.
According to him, the global standards used for either polytechnic or university are the teaching strength, research, international journal publications, international reputation, teacher/student ration and research impact.
To achieve these, he said, tertiary institutions are to pursue teaching and research adding that dissemination of information whether new or existing in various publications.
Olulenu, however pointed out that the challenges to education sector range from quality of the output which could not compete globally either professionally or academically. Others include poor service delivery, incessant strike by teachers.
The Nigeria Polytechnic has been on strike since October 4, 2013. The union’s demands include the need for the constitution of the Governing Councils of Federal Polytechnics, the migration of the lower cadres on the CONTISS 15 salary scale, the release of the White Paper on the Visitations to Federal Polytechnics, and the need for the commencement of the Need Assessment of Nigerian Polytechnics.
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