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An analytical model to assess the efficacy of the British HND programme in the Arabian Gulf region

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Wilkins, S., 2001. An analytical model to assess the efficacy of the British HND programme in the Arabian Gulf region. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 26 (6), pp. 579-591.















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Wilkins, Stephen (2001), An analytical model to assess the efficacy of the British HND programme in the Arabian Gulf region, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, Vol. 26, No. 6, pp. 579-591.


An analytical model to assess the efficacy of the British HND programme in the Arabian Gulf region





Dubai University College




ABSTRACT By developing a logit model, this study attempts to identify the determinants that influence the efficacy of the HND programme. The total sample comprised of 104 final-year students surveyed in two university sector colleges in Oman and the UAE. The most statistically significant determinants were found to be the gender of students, their desire for vocational course content, their desire for varied and on-going assessment methods and whether or not they had taken the HND as a last resort. The model was found to be a reasonably effective model of qualitative choice for rating an educational programme good or otherwise as it correctly classified 77.5 per cent of the students` ratings for the in-sample (80 students) and 71 per cent for the hold-out sample (24 students). The study suggests that such a model could be effectively used by educational policy makers to assess the efficacy of any academic programme.



Keywords: Higher education, United Arab Emirates (UAE), BTEC Higher National Diploma (HND), student attitudes and characteristics, logit model




The internationalisation of higher education is one feature of the general trend towards globalisation in trade, commerce and communication. Increasing competition at home, decreasing public funds for higher education and the general trend towards globalisation have all encouraged western universities and awarding bodies to expand their operations overseas. The market leaders in offering higher education to foreign students in their home country are the USA, the UK, Australia and Canada (British Council, 1999b). The number of foreign students taking British university courses overseas has increased from virtually nothing fifteen years ago to over 100,000 today (Buerkle, 1999) . BTEC, a subsidiary of the Edexcel Foundation, is a British awarding body that offers a great range of qualifications from school level to the Higher National Diploma (HND). The HND is offered internationally by both BTEC and several UK universities. The HND equates to an American Associate Degree or an Australian Advanced Diploma.



Philosophy of HND

The BTEC Higher National Diploma has been designed to meet the following aims (Edexcel Foundation, 1998):


ƒ      to provide an educational foundation relevant to individual vocations and professions in which students are working or intend to seek employment,

ƒ      to enable students to make an immediate contribution in employment,

ƒ      to provide flexibility, knowledge, skills and motivation as a basis for future studies and career development,






Wilkins, Stephen (2001), An analytical model to assess the efficacy of the British HND programme in the Arabian Gulf region, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, Vol. 26, No. 6, pp. 579-591.


ƒ      to develop a range of skills and techniques, personal qualities and attitudes essential for successful performance in working life.


The HND is offered in a variety of vocational subject areas including Computing, Travel & Tourism and Business, the latter being available with a number of specialisms (pathways) such as Finance, Marketing and Personnel. The pathway qualifications ensure professional progression through recognition by relevant professional bodies. Full-time students normally take two years to achieve an HND while part-time students usually take three years, although this may vary depending on prior experience and learning. To achieve an HND students must complete sixteen units (subjects) while the completion of ten units gives a student the Higher National Certificate (HNC).


Centres delivering the HND are advised by BTEC to ensure that the structure, content, delivery and assessment methods adopted enable the programme`s learning outcomes to be achieved in a motivating way (Edexcel Foundation, 1998). The qualification has been designed on the assumption that it will be made available, without artificial barriers that will restrict access and progression, to everyone who can achieve the required standard. Candidates are usually at least 18 years of age on enrolment and they normally hold at least one GCE A Level pass or an equivalent qualification. The HND, therefore, provides school leavers who do not meet the requirements for entry onto a bachelor degree programme with access to higher education study. Older candidates with suitable work experience but no academic qualifications beyond compulsory schooling are also usually admitted onto HND programmes.


Fisher (1998) reported that BTEC qualifications are well regarded by most employers in the UK and that the programmes usually motivate students and improve their understanding, confidence and competence. The status and credibility of the HND have often been questioned however, because the qualification does not typically attract the students with the highest academic attainment and because the pass rates are high.


BTEC/Edexcel qualifications are available in over 100 different countries worldwide including several in the Arabian Gulf region. Like those of other universities and awarding bodies, BTEC`s qualifications are usually exported from the UK "off-the-shelf" with little modification done to reflect the political, economic, social and cultural differences in the different countries in which they are offered.



HND in the Arabian Gulf region

The HND has been available in the Arabian Gulf region since the early 1990s. Countries such as the Sultanate of Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were among the first in the region to adopt the HND with the medium of instruction being English. Some observations on the actual implementation of the HND in the Gulf region should be noted. Institutions in the Gulf region offering the HND probably make assumptions about their students or the qualification, which may be valid in the UK but not in Oman or the UAE. For example, in the Gulf region attitudes to higher education may be different, working hours in the private sector tend to be much longer than in western countries thus affecting the participation of working candidates, religion and social values affect the participation of females in education, and different governments implement different policies with regard to recognition and accreditation of foreign qualifications. While employed candidates studying on a part-time evening basis in the UK typically aim only for the Higher National Certificate (HNC) which consists of ten units as opposed to





Wilkins, Stephen (2001), An analytical model to assess the efficacy of the British HND programme in the Arabian Gulf region, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, Vol. 26, No. 6, pp. 579-591.


the HND`s sixteen and which often allows progression to a top-up bachelor degree, the term "certificate" is not widely appreciated or valued in the Gulf region, therefore, virtually all students register and aim for the HND only. This has implications for the length of time the candidate has to study and the amount they have to pay for fees. Given the instability of the Gulf region labour markets, especially for expatriate workers, it is not surprising that completion rates for HND are below the UK average, although factors such as the fact that the majority of candidates are not native speakers of English must also be considered.



Aims of the study

Taking into account the vocational, flexible and motivational aspects of the HND programme, the study aims to:


1.      Identify the features of both individual students and the HND which influence the efficacy of the programme.

2.      Develop a model to quantify the extent of impact of the factors identified in (1) so that the efficacy of the HND programme can be assessed.


It is hoped that the results of this study could facilitate educational institutions in the Gulf region and policy makers at BTEC to address the issues identified in the study, to further increase the efficacy and adoption of the HND programme overseas. The model developed could, however, be applied to any academic programme anywhere in the world.



General hypotheses about the HND

The specific programme features which are hypothesised to increase the efficacy of the HND are its vocational course content and the fact that it is a UK qualification; while motivational aspects are provided through the programme`s flexibility, non-conventional assessment methods and links with local organisations (such as Chambers of Commerce and Industry).


Similarly, the specific features of students that are hypothesised to increase the efficacy of the HND relate to their gender, age, mode of study, and their perception of HND as an alternative to other programmes of higher education. A discussion of these factors follows.


It is a feature of the education system in several Gulf countries that female students outnumber males in higher education, and that they are more hardworking and more successful than male students (Allen, 1999). It is expected, therefore, that enrolment of more female students on to the HND would increase the efficacy of the programme.


Mature students with work experience are particularly suited to vocational education as they bring with them relevant skills, knowledge and experience, and can then better understand and apply the theory they learn. They also tend to be more highly motivated, often grateful to be given a second chance after not progressing to higher education immediately after completing high school. Often they are nervous about examinations and formal assessment, and they consequently find the HND`s on-going assessment less intimidating and more satisfying. It is expected, therefore, that enrolment of more part-time mature students on to the HND would increase the efficacy of the programme.






Wilkins, Stephen (2001), An analytical model to assess the efficacy of the British HND programme in the Arabian Gulf region, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, Vol. 26, No. 6, pp. 579-591.


Being a modular course, the HND typically allows flexibility with regard to the order and timing of delivery of the units and to the total duration of study. For example, part-timers studying in the evening are often permitted to take additional units during the day to speed up their completion of the programme. In contrast, students are also usually permitted to postpone units if work or personal circumstances make it necessary. For these reasons, it is expected that students who are motivated by the flexible aspects of HND and its varied assessment methods tend to rate higher the efficacy of the programme.


Expatriate students often want a qualification that will be internationally recognised rather than one which will only be recognised locally. Many plan to continue their education overseas and therefore it is vital that they perform well on the HND if they are to progress onto a one-year bachelor degree top-up programme in the UK or elsewhere. Successful expatriate students are likely to be happy and content with their student life in general and this general satisfaction may lead to an increased likelihood of them rating the HND good.



Empirical Model

The logit model developed in this study is a qualitative non-linear binary-choice model, where individuals are faced with a choice between two alternatives and that the choice they make depends on a set of characteristics of the individuals. Such choice models have been extensively used to address classification problems in the fields of finance, medicine, and the social sciences such as:


-          whether a prospective loan borrower is a good or poor risk for granting credit,

-          whether an existing credit customer defaults or not in their loan repayment to the creditor,


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