"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: 12/18/09

Friday, December 18, 2009

HND and American Universities

By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

In the past few weeks, I have received no fewer than 10 emails from readers of this column asking questions about how the Higher National Diploma (HND) compares with American post-secondary educational qualifications.

Does the United States have the HND or its equivalent? If no, do American universities accept HND graduates from Nigeria and elsewhere for graduate studies without requiring them to take remedial courses? Or do American universities also look down on HNDs like Nigerian and British universities do?

The straightforward answer, which derives from my personal experience with the American university system, is that the HND is treated almost exactly like a bachelor’s degree here. I know of many Nigerian and Canadian HND graduates who have been admitted to the master’s degree (and later PhD) programs of many American universities without undergoing remedial postgraduate diploma courses. (In any case, American universities don’t offer postgraduate diplomas).

The closest and most recent Nigerian HND graduate I know of who is pursuing a master’s degree at a U.S. university as of the time writing this column is a man who graduated from the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, with an HND in mass communication. He is, incidentally, studying for his master’s degree in communication at the University of Louisiana—my alma mater.

I once narrated the story of an HND graduate from Canada whose qualification was mistaken for a master’s degree at the University of New Orleans. This confusion arose, perhaps, because in American English “diploma” is the generic word for a document certifying the successful completion of any course of study. It’s equivalent to what we call “certificate” in British and Nigerian English. (Even the document certifying the completion of the PhD is called a “diploma” here).

Given that background, it’s easy to understand how a “higher diploma” would be mistaken for an advanced degree. But that’s not the only reason why HNDs are not discriminated against in American universities. There are at least four other reasons.

First off, let it be known that the American university system has no concept of the HND. Institutions of higher education here just award associate, bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees. Associate degrees are awarded only by “community colleges” after two years of study. They are, in some sense, equivalent to our Ordinary National Diploma (OND) or, perhaps, British and Nigerian “A” levels.

Universities and colleges award bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees. Although the word “college” is the generic term for what we would recognize as “university” in Nigeria (Americans describe people as “college-educated” if they have at least a bachelor’s degree) schools designated as “colleges,” for the most part, only award bachelor’s degrees.

Now, it is also usual for American colleges and universities to have the word “polytechnic” in their names even though they bear no resemblance whatsoever with the British and Nigerian concept of polytechnic. For example, 15 miles north of Atlanta, there is a school called the Southern Polytechnic State University, which awards bachelor’s and master’s degrees in technical and vocational fields, the humanities, the social sciences and the sciences.

Other popular American universities with “polytechnic” in their names are, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (often just called Virginia Tech), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (where Dr. Gabriel Oyibo of GAGUT infamy teaches), California State Polytechnic University, etc.

So when somebody comes to America with a qualification from a “polytechnic,” it’s likely to be regarded as the equivalent of a university degree since universities in America, as you have seen, can also be known as “polytechnics.” That’s probably the second reason why HNDs from Nigerian polytechnics and elsewhere are not discriminated against here.

The third possible reason why HNDs are not discriminated against by many U.S. universities is because the qualification is awarded after four years of post-secondary education. When you add to this the fact that these “higher diplomas” are given by “polytechnics” (a name often associated with universities here) it’s easy to understand why HNDs are easily accepted as the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree.

Now, compare this with the experience of Indians whose bachelor’s degrees from universities are never accepted as the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree precisely because it takes only three years to get a bachelor’s degree in the social sciences and humanities in India. An Indian master’s degree is accepted as the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree. That’s why every Indian here has a master’s degree.

Lastly, as I once mentioned on this page, admission to graduate schools in U.S. universities is often the result of a multi-faceted process. The most important of this process, however, is getting an acceptable score in the Graduate Records Examination (GRE). So even if you have an HND but received very high scores in the GRE you have a greater chance to get into graduate programs in U.S. universities than someone with a first-class degree from a university but with low GRE scores.

In the UK from where we inherited the tradition of HNDs, polytechnics have been discontinued since 1992. They have all transmuted into universities both in name and curriculum. As you would expect, HND holders still face discrimination in UK universities. In other words, U.S. universities are more welcoming to HND graduates than UK universities are.

Next week, I will write more on the idea of the polytechnic and how we can rescue it in Nigeria.

Postscript
I receive scores of emails every day from people who read this article. Please note that I am not an admissions officer and can't help anybody find  admission into any American university. Write directly to the universities you're interested in and ask if they accept HND as the equivalent of a bachelor's degree.

I will not respond to emails asking me to help or advise with names of schools in America that accept the HND as an entry qualification for graduate studies. In any case, the  related articles below answer most of the questions I often receive from readers.

Related Articles:

On the Parity of Esteem between Universities and Polytechnics
Studying in America: What You Need to Know
Funding Your American Education
Looking at American Education with Nigerian Eyes I
Looking at American Education with Nigerian Eyes II
Looking at American Education with Nigerian Eyes III
Looking at American Education with Nigerian Eyes IV

Louisiana is America's Happiest State; New York Its Unhappiest!

A new research has just shown that Louisiana, one of America's poorest states, has the happiest people in the country and New York, one of the nation's most prosperous states, has its unhappiest people. Georgia is 19. Interesting finding. Read the full story below:

Happiest States Revealed by New Research
Jeanna Bryner
Managing Editor
LiveScience.com – Thu Dec 17, 2:05 pm ET

Ever wondered if you'd be happier in sunny Florida or snow-covered Minnesota? New research on state-level happiness could answer that question.

Florida and two other sunshine states made it to the Top 5, while Minnesota doesn't show up until number 26 on the list of happiest states. In addition to rating the smile factor of U.S. states, the research also proved for the first time that a person's self-reported happiness matches up with objective measures of well-being.
Essentially, if an individual says they're happy, they are.

"When human beings give you an answer on a numerical scale about how satisfied they are with their lives, it is best to pay attention. Their answers are reliable," said Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick in England. "This suggests that life-satisfaction survey data might be very useful for governments to use in the design of economic and social policies," Oswald said.

The happy-states list, however, doesn't match up with a similar ranking reported last month, which found that the most tolerant and wealthiest states were, on average, the happiest. Oswald says this past is based on raw averages of people's happiness in a state, and so doesn't provide meaningful results.

"That study cannot control for individual characteristics," Oswald told LiveScience. "In other words, all anyone has been able to do is to report the averages state-by-state, and the problem with doing that is you're not comparing apples with apples because the people who live in New York City are nothing like the individuals living in Montana."

Rather, Oswald and Stephen Wu, an economist at Hamilton College in New York, statistically created a representative American. That way they could take, for example, a 38-year-old woman with a high-school diploma and making medium-wage who is living anywhere and transplant her to another state and get a rough estimate of her happiness level.

"Not much point in looking at the happiness of a Texas rancher compared to a nurse in Ohio," Oswald said.

The happiest states:
1. Louisiana
2. Hawaii
3. Florida
4. Tennessee
5. Arizona
6. Mississippi
7. Montana
8. South Carolina
9. Alabama
10. Maine

The scientists caution, however, that the top spot, Louisiana, might not reflect current levels of well-being since the data were collected before the disruption caused by Hurricane Katrina. They are confident that data for the other states does accurately reflect happiness levels.

See the full list of 50 states (and the District of Columbia) here.

Happiness measures
Their results come from a comparison of two data sets of happiness levels in each state, one that relied on participants' self-reported well-being and the other an objective measure that took into account a state's weather, home prices and other factors that are known reasons to frown (or smile).

The self-reported information came from 1.3 million U.S. citizens who took part in a survey between 2005 and 2008.

"We wanted to study whether people's feelings of satisfaction with their own lives are reliable, that is, whether they match up to reality - of sunshine hours, congestion, air quality, etc - in their own state," Oswald said.

The results showed the two measures matched up. "We were stunned when it first came up on our screens, because no one has ever managed to produce a clear validation before of subjective well-being, or happiness, data," Oswald said.

They were also surprised at the least happy states, such as New York and Connecticut, which landed at the bottom two spots on the list.

"We were struck by the states that come at the bottom, because a lot of them are on the East Coast, highly prosperous and industrialized," Oswald said. "That's another way of saying they have a lot of congestion, high house prices, bad air quality."
He added, "Many people think these states would be marvelous places to live in. The problem is that if too many individuals think that way, they move into those states, and the resulting congestion and house prices make it a non-fulfilling prophecy."
Would you be happier in another state?

Using both the subjective well-being results, which included individual characteristics like demographics and income, and the objective findings, the team could figure out how an individual would fare in a particular state.

"We can create a like-to-like comparison, because we know the characteristics of people in every state," Oswald said. "So we can adjust statistically to compare a representative person hypothetically put down in any state."

This new research will be published online on Dec. 17 by the journal Science.

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