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How to Join University Without Two Principal Passes



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As universities gear up to receive senior six leavers, the spotlight turns to first-year students who are set to be admitted with a requirement of at least two principal passes at A’level. But what happens to those students who did not achieve the desired grades? Are there alternative pathways for them to pursue higher education? Conan Businge and Maureen Nakatudde delve into the other options available.

Higher Education Certificate Programme

One such option is the Higher Education Certificate Programme, accredited by the National Council of Higher Education (NCHE). This program, classified as a level 4 qualification within the qualifications framework, offers an intensive pathway for students who completed the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) or its equivalent but did not attain the required grades for enrollment in a degree or diploma program at a tertiary institution.

The grading system for the Higher Education Certificate Programme is inclusive, recognizing a range of scores from A to F. Notably, a pass with distinction or credit in a subject taken at the subsidiary level, such as general paper, sub-maths, or computer studies, carries one point. A subsidiary pass ranges from grades 1 to 6.

Advocates of the Higher Education Certificate Programme highlight its role in providing equal opportunities for students who may have narrowly missed the mark in their A’level exams. NCHE emphasizes that this program is part of an overarching strategy to promote science education and ensure that all students have access to quality training facilities.

Program Structure and Pathways

According to Prof. Mary Okwakol, the NCHE executive director, the Higher Education Certificate Programme spans one academic year, divided into two semesters over 34 weeks. The minimum graduation load is 40 credits.

Dr. Jalia Namugaya, a lecturer at Muni University, explains that students select two subjects, tailored to their career aspirations. For instance, aspiring doctors may opt for chemistry and biology. Upon successful completion of these subjects, students can choose from a range of career paths, including becoming a science teacher, biochemist, laboratory attendant, nurse, or doctor.

It’s important to note that the Higher Education Certificate Programme is available for privately sponsored students. While the program offers a valuable opportunity for advancement, government sponsorship is not extended to students who excel in this pathway.

After completing the Higher Education Certificate Programme, students who achieve distinctions and credits are eligible for admission to relevant degree programs. Those with passes qualify for admission to diploma programs.

Institutions Offering the Programme

Several private universities offer the Higher Education Certificate Programme, including:

  • Victoria University
  • Team University
  • Ndejje University
  • Kabale University
  • Clarke International University
  • ISBAT University
  • African Renewal University
  • University of East Africa
  • Mutesa I Royal University

Public institutions such as Busitema and Muni universities also provide this pathway to higher education. However, the program is not yet widely offered at most public universities due to structural considerations.

Minimum Requirements and Clarifications

To be eligible for the Higher Education Certificate Programme, a student must hold the Uganda Certificate of Education or its equivalent. Additionally, they should possess the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education with at least two subsidiary passes obtained in principal subjects or their equivalent. Alternatively, vocational qualifications at level 2 or level 3 of the Uganda Vocational Qualifications Framework are also considered.

Addressing misconceptions about the program, Dr. Lawrence Muganga, the vice-chancellor of Victoria University, emphasizes that it is not a course for failures. Rather, it offers a second chance for students to excel and corrects the misjudgment of a single exam defining one’s future.

Similarly, Narcicir Tibenderana, the academic registrar of Kabale University, stresses that the program provides an opportunity for students to showcase their potential and strive for academic excellence.

In conclusion, Prof. Eriabu Lugujjo from Ndejje University highlights the importance of nurturing talent and providing practical avenues for success beyond exam scores. The Higher Education Certificate Programme stands as a beacon of hope for students, offering an inclusive and empowering path to higher education, regardless of initial examination outcomes.

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