Discover the Benefits: Apply for the UCU Higher Education Certificate in 2023


About the Higher Education Certificate

The Higher Education Certificate provides learners with the basic introductory knowledge, cognitive and conceptual tools and practical techniques for further higher education studies in their chosen field of study. Attainment of an HEC signifies that the learner has attained a basic level of higher education knowledge and competence in a particular field or occupation and is capable of applying such knowledge and competence in an occupation or role in the workplace. Generally, holders of HEC are expected to be better prepared for further studies and the world of work.

Higher Education Certificate


This is a competency-based curriculum carefully designed to provide study and learning support skills for academic life and academic knowledge needed for further higher education. The knowledge shall emphasize general principles and application. The programme will cater for students interested in both Arts and Science subjects to prepare them for different courses of their choice at University depending on how they have performed. 

Who is eligible?

The HEC Programme is an intensive programme intended for students who have successfully completed the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) or its equivalent but who may not have attained sufficient grades to enrol for Diplomas or Degree programmes.

It is also intended for teachers with Grade III certificates who would like to upgrade to degree programs as well as students from countries whose secondary school qualifications are not considered equivalent to UACE but permit admission into Higher Education in those countries.


The minimum duration of the HEC  programme is 9 months for those who will be full-time and one academic year for those doing recess modular.

Programme Rationale

The current admission requirements to any higher education programme require at least two principal passes for degree programmes and one principal pass and two subsidiaries for a diploma programme.  Unfortunately, there is no remedial programme for candidates who qualify for UACE but have not scored sufficiently good grades to enrol for degree or diploma programmes.  The only available option is for them to repeat Senior Six or enrol for Certificate programmes using the Uganda Certificate of Education. In addition, teachers holding a grade III take a longer route through a diploma to enrol for the degree The programme is therefore intended to provide an alternative route to join higher education.  

Minimum Admission Requirements

  • UCE or its equivalent and UACE with at least two subsidiary passes obtained in principal subjects or its equivalent. For the avoidance of doubt, a holder of UACE with only one principal pass shall be deemed to meet the admission requirements.
  • Vocational Qualifications at level 2 or level 3 of the Uganda Vocational Qualifications Framework. 
  •  Grade III Teacher’s Certificate 
  • Qualifications equivalent to the UACE shall be determined by the National Council in consultation with the Uganda National Examinations Board
  • An ordinary certificate from an institution recognized by NCHE.
  • Students whose foreign secondary school qualifications are not considered equivalent to UACE but permit admission into Higher Education in a foreign country. Such students shall have passed at least five subjects with at least a credit in each of the five subjects. In addition, foreign students whose studies were not conducted in English shall show proof of proficiency in the English Language. The English proficiency centres shall be accredited by NCHE.

Categories of HEC 

  • UCU runs three tracks of Higher Education: Higher Education Arts, Higher Education Physical and Higher Education Biological.
  • Higher Education Arts for those who intend to do Humanities courses at the university such as Law, SWASA, BAED, BBA, and Journalism etc.
  • Higher Education Biological for those who want to pursue: Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Agriculture, Environment, Bachelor of Science with Education etc.
  • Higher Education Physical for those who want to pursue Engineering courses, Computer Science, Bachelor of Science with Education, etc. 

For whom is the HEC intended and Why?

  • UACE Holders: The HEC is intended for holders of the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education or equivalent qualifications but who may not have attained sufficient grades to enroll for Diplomas or Degree programmes in Uganda. 
  • Foreign Qualification: The HEC can also serve as a foundation programme for students whose foreign secondary school qualifications are not considered equivalent to UACE but permit admission into Higher Education in the foreign country.
  • Linkage between Vocational Qualifications and Higher Education Qualifications: One of the challenges facing holders of vocational qualifications is the inability to cross to Higher Education at the same levels as those with school qualifications.  For example, although an Enrolled Nursing Certificate is equivalent to the UACE, holders of the former can only join degree programmes after two and a half years of an intermediate diploma in addition to years of experience while holders of UACE can enrol for degree programmes right away. Similarly, teachers holding a Grade III certificate will have to go through a two-year diploma to have access to a degree program.  There is a general belief that holders of vocational qualifications and grade III certificate teachers may be highly skilled but lack adequate theoretical foundations to join knowledge-based higher education programmes. A HECA programme has been designed to enrol holders of vocational qualifications and teachers with Grade III certificates, exposing them to rigorous theoretical foundations that will enable them to pursue desired higher education programmes.