Bridging the gap between academic knowledge and the transformational needs of the society has remained the core concern of the tertiary TVET (Kelly, 2009; Maclean, 2007). In light of this, Ghana’s University Rationalisation Committee (URC) recommended the collaboration of stakeholders representing different institutions and groupings in the design and development of the Higher National Diploma (HND) curriculum offered by the former polytechnics, now technical universities (TUs) (URC, 1991). The relevance of the sector’s curriculum to the needs of the society has however continued to be questioned. This study therefore sought to explore the collaborative process employed to, design and develop the curriculum for Ghana’s HND programmes; using the HND Electrical and Mechanical Engineering programmes as cases in point.
Employing the hermeneutic–phenomenological approach, data gathered included interviews and documentary analysis from different stakeholder institutions and groups. In all, a total of 17 participants and four focus groups were interviewed for the study. Participants were drawn from (i) four government institutions with oversight responsibilities over the HND level in Ghana’s TUs; (ii) Institution for Professional Engineers; (iii) staff of TUs and students of TUs. The Nvivo software and Attride-Stirling’s thematic network analysis were used to categorize and organise texts for analysis (Attride-Stirling, 2002). The presentation of the analysis was guided by Guba’s four constructs of credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability (Shenton, 2004).
The major finding from the study was that, the type of collaboration employed to design and develop the HND curriculum eludes convergence; a critical element that Marsh and Willis (2007) and Walker (2003) identified to be the bedrock of a successful deliberated and socially relevant curriculum. Some major consequences of this situation, the study revealed, included non-consensus in (i) defined need(s) to pursue, (ii) selection of knowledge, (iii) pedagogic strategies to adopt; and disassociation of some stakeholders from the curriculum as a result of the mismatches between its intended purposes and development. It is therefore recommended that, the convergence of stakeholder representatives, especially at the design stage, should be deemed as key to the attainment of relevance between the curriculum and the social need it seeks to address.