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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 colum...

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.

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


  1. Grea post! Learned a whole lot. Keep it coming.

  2. Higher National Diplomas (HND) in the United Kingdom is not 4 years of study. It is infact only two years of study, and is said to be equivelant to an American Assosiates Degree.

  3. Gewber, it appears you're referring to the Ordinary National Diploma (OND). Before you can enroll for an HND in Nigeria, you must first complete two years of study leading to the award of an OND.

    The OND is the foundational qualification to study for the two-year HND. So that makes HND a four-year study beyond secondary school and thus equivalent to a bachelor's degree.

    In fact, an HND actually lasts 5 years if you take into account the fact that OND graduates must take part in a one-year internship program before they can enroll for the HND.

  4. Interesting article. However here are my experiences which are generally in the same direction.

    I hold four separate British HNC's one of them gained at Glasgow Caledonian University [HNC Engineering Computing with Information Technology]. I have found that even Community Colleges in Texas don't know what to do with them.

    The US Associates is a pretty humble thing in comparison which seems to dwell too long on pointless general studies, and as you know HNC/HND is a very focussed, even specialised award.

    So far I have had no luck with Houston Community College. They seem to be very antagonistic to anything they consider foreign. Even producing a credit evaluation document saying I had 101 credits (I found that a little grudging actually) went unanswered.

    I would argue that any of my HNC's is at least equivalent to one of their Associate Degrees. I am still stuck for a course and have no idea where to turn with it.

    Educators in the US I have come across so far, where very arrogant and completely intolerant of foreigners and foreign credentials. I find this quite saddening. There is no other alternatives in Houston besides HCC. With that rubbish experience, I'm not sure I should bother University of Houston. It just puts potential foreign born students off.

    1. Keeping in mind that a bachelors degree obtained from UK is not an equivalent bachelors in the US. Bachelors in the UK is obtained within a time frame of 3 years while US consider a bachelors degree to span a 4 year period with at least 120 credit hours...
      Be it HND or Bachelors from Nigeria, as long as your credit evaluation comes out to 120 credit hr spanning at least 4 yrs of formal accredited education...US considers it as a bachelors..

  5. Samorita,

    I don't understand what you are talking about. I am an individual, not a university. Did you read this blog at all?

  6. I hold a HND Cert. in Computer Science with CGPA 2.92 and have being working for the past 5years now professional upon graduation, i have long awaited such opportunity to study for my postgraduate programmes in the USA but lacks some good information as to where to start from. I find your NOTE to be very encouraging and revailing as well. Please how can you further assist me in securing a sort of postgraduate studies precisely in any of the USA Universities. Thanks

    1. Please , I want to know the universities that accept Hnd in USA.

    2. Hello sir! Please can I also get the list of universities that accept HND

  7. Hello Sir,
    I am from Sri Lanka Island. I have completed HND in Computing (Edexcel-UK). I am seeking to US higher Education. Can you give me a University Name for credit transfer from my course.

    Thank You..

  8. Helo, am a HND holder from a nigerian polytechnic, though waiting to serve by march. But my friend in US wants me to come over as she is currently permitted to invite one person before august 2013, and it will really disturb my service. But their in US, i would like to have American bachelor. But my problem now is how to start processing it. I dont know where to start. Please direct me on what to do. Contact me on 08064586232 or Thanks for your understanding.

  9. Wonderful information.. Good job

  10. I have HND in Accounting from Nigeria Polytechnic and want to go to USA for my master degree. Please help me with list of Universities u can apply with there conditions. Thank


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