Diversification of Tertiary Education Growing – Study

Non-university technical programmes are the fastest growing forms of post-secondary education, according to UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning.

Tracer  studies coordinated by the IIEP in five countries – Azerbaijan, Chile, Malaysia, Nigeria and South Korea – indicated that increasing job market demand for varied skills is the primary driver of the emerging trend.

The abridged studies published this month by the IIEP in the volume The Diversification of Post-secondary Education, edited by NV Varghese, highlight how non-degree programmes are challenging traditional university systems.

IIEP Director Khalil Mahshi observed in a statement: “The non-university segment of post-secondary education is becoming a credible alternative to degree courses, especially in developing countries, when it comes to expanding access to employment-related study programmes.”

The research for the five country studies was initiated by the IIEP in 2010. According to the book: “These countries are at varied levels of higher education development, as reflected in their gross enrolment ratios for higher education in 2008. The expansion of post-secondary education is common to all of them and is in line with global trends.”

It continues, “The growing demand for varied skills in the job market necessitates various different modes of delivery, a multiplicity of providers and proliferation of study programmes. Diversification of post-secondary education can be seen as a drift towards vocational or employment-relevant courses, allowing for flexibility of study programmes.”

Potential in Sub-Saharan Africa

In Sub-Saharan Africa there is tremendous potential for growth of non-university post-secondary education.

While university enrolment in the region has been growing faster than anywhere else, still only about seven  per cent the tertiary education age cohort is currently enrolled in universities, according to UNESCO.

Secondary school graduates unable to be absorbed in universities are increasingly seeking alternatives in non-university institutions.

The over-expansion of universities – which have been growing at the rate of about 8.6 per cent  a year since 1970 in order to satisfy social demands – has resulted in a lack of adequately qualified staff and over-crowded and over-stretched learning facilities.

Also, graduates from polytechnics are deemed to have hands-on practice and experience, and they are often absorbed into the labour market more quickly than university counterparts with degrees in conventional subjects.

According to Ebele Amali, professor of economics at the University of Jos in Nigeria and one of the IIEP’s tracer study researchers, over 50 per cent  of university graduates in Nigeria are still unemployed three years after graduating while the proportion is much lower for polytechnic graduates.

“This trend is noticeable in many industrial sectors that prefer to recruit polytechnic graduates rather than university graduates, because of their hands-on skills,” said Amali.

Contrary to expectations, challenges are expected to emerge in Nigeria’s non-university post-secondary education programmes in polytechnics as enrolment has become highly skewed in favour of business education courses.

In his study, Amali noted that 70 per cent of students in polytechnics were studying business courses such as accounting, banking and finance and business management while only 22 per cent were enrolled in core technology courses.


Most researchers pointed out that diversification of post-secondary education was also increasingly becoming a game-changer in higher education by creating more space for women, mature students and groups from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Culled from University World News

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Olusegun Fapohunda

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This post is authored by , the founder and editor of MySchoolGist. Boasting over a decade of expertise in the education sector, Olusegun offers current insights into educational trends, career opportunities, and the latest news. Connect with him on X/Twitter for more updates.