Higher Education Access Certificate promotes academic progression
Following the release of UACE 2022 exams, there’s been lots of celebration in some families were a candidate excelled, and silence & uncertainty in families where a candidate didn’t do well. Unlike PLE and UCE results which are quite easy for parents to understand and interpret, and which the media likes to cover, the UACE results are a bit complicated and difficult to understand and interpret. There are no division one’s and aggregates to shout about. Instead, UACE results are evaluated in terms of the number of points, and number of principal, and subsidiary passes obtained. While the number of points obtained can be well received by parents & the public, the definitive measure for good performance in UACE exams is the number of principal passes, and strength of these passes obtained in principal subjects desired to pursue a particular study programme at university.
For example, Sarah who did PEM and gets B in Maths, C in Physics, O in Economics, P7 in general paper, and C5 in Subsidiary ICT – gets a total of 11 points. Another student, let’s call him Mike, also did PEM and obtained C in Maths, A in Economics, O in Physics, D1 in General Paper and C6 in Subsidiary ICT. This totals to 13 points. If both Sarah and Mike wanted to pursue Diploma in Civil Engineering, Sarah would be admitted even though she got fewer points, compared to Mike. Sarah would be admitted because she obtained two principal passes in essential subjects for engineering– mathematics and physics. And Mike wouldn’t be admitted because he performed poorly in Physics (he obtained a subsidiary pass), but highly passed Economics, which is not a key subject in Engineering.
This is the kind of information most parents, especially in rural areas do not have. There are now four pathways to the degree programme. Firstly, there’s direct entry, using A-level results. For admission to any degree programme, one must have obtained two principal passes in key subjects required. Secondly, there’s diploma entry. This means that after A-level, you first enroll for diploma, and use the diploma to access the degree. For diploma programmes, the minimum requirement is at least one principal pass, and two subsidiary passes, in principal subjects. However, in some specialized diploma programmes, such as engineering, education, they need two essential principal subjects. These two pathways are the most widely known procedures to accessing the degree programme.
The third pathway is the mature-age entry scheme. This pathway requires one to have UCE certificate, relevant work experience, and must have sat for and passed mature-age entry exams.
The fourth pathway is new and unknown is most people. It is called the Higher Education Access Certificate (HEAC) or simply Higher Education Certificate (HEC). The HEAC is intended for those who sat for UACE and obtained only subsidiary passes in principal subjects. Previously, it was this category of students who would either repeat UACE, or pursue two-year certificate programme using UCE results.
The Higher Education Access Certificate (HEAC) is the 4th Higher Education access route approved by National Council for Higher Education (NCHE). The HEAC is an intensive one-year, full-time programme, were one studies chosen subjects (for example English and Literature). Upon completing HEAC, one is equivalent to someone with two principal passes, and can enroll for degree programme. HEAC programmes are available in public and private universities, including Busitema, Gulu, Kabale university etc.
Currently in A-level schools, due to government’s persistent emphasis on science, a majority of students are pursuing science combinations. Combinations such as PEM, MEG, MEE, MEA, BCM, BCA, PCM, PMA and very popular amongst students. However, when UACE results are released, you find that a good majority of them manage to score only subsidiary passes. It is this category of students that need urgent career guidance and support. Instead of repeating, they should be encouraged to pursue HEAC. Repeating does not guarantee one to excel.
Right now, universities and institutions of higher learning are calling for applications for the 2023/2024 academic year. Parents should embrace HEAC, because it supports academic progression, for those who did both arts and sciences. The HEAC is the right intervention that will improve enrollment, especially of girls, into STEM courses. Choosing HEAC means choosing progress over perfection or stagnation.