Tertiary education has been made easy. Now arts students can enrol for science courses at universities under the new Higher Education Certificate (HEC) programme.

The certificate programme was launched yesterday by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) at their home in Kyambogo.

Students can enrol for the one-year certificate programme after Senior Six. It was designed by NCHE in partnership with the Forum for African Women Educationists (FAWE) and the MasterCard Foundation.

Under the programme, students will be able to cross from sciences to arts courses or vice versa. According to the HEC programme manual, this is for purposes of admission into undergraduate programmes at universities and other tertiary institutions.

For instance, students who are currently doing the History, Economics and Geography (HEG) subject combination at A’ level can enrol for the HEC programme in physical sciences. After one year, the art student would qualify for an undergraduate course, such as a bachelor of science in electrical engineering at any university.

Currently, students undertaking the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) are specialised as either science or arts students. However, the programme manual says this early specialisation dictates the university programmes that students are to pursue, with almost no flexibility to cross from arts programmes to science courses.

The NCHE noted that a number of able and willing students are not privileged to offer sciences at upper secondary due to restrictions at choice secondary schools.

“Given the level of academic maturity and the exposure to both arts and sciences, such candidates may be better placed for undergraduate university programmes than those who just specialised at the secondary school level,” the manual reads.

Prof. Mary Okwakol, the executive director of NCHE, said the HEC programme is one of the avenues through which enrolment in higher education will be increased, especially in science courses. She added that the programme will mainly target female students who would have wished to enrol for science programmes at university, but did not get the required points.

Okwakol said higher education should neither be restrictive nor just about mass education. “We want the higher education system to be flexible, where someone can enrol for arts or sciences,” she said. Martha Muhwezi, the executive director at FAWE Africa, said:

“We are hopeful that HEC will increase university enrolment in science courses, especially for female students.”