Finally got a degree

The events of 20th October, 2020 were a breaking point for me, and it led to me take certain steps for a better future, one of which was making the decision to embark on a journey to obtain the Professional Graduate Diploma in IT, a higher education qualification offered by BCS (the British Computer Society) which is equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s degree with honours (fancy). I decided to do this because I did not have a traditional university degree at the time. I will provide a minimal cost breakdown at the end of this if you wish to do the same, although you should note that the BCS is planning to retire the HEQ program in about 3 years (2026).

I was pretty ready to jump right into it, but registrations had closed for the November 2020 exam session. I had to wait a few months to be able to register for the next session which was May 2021. Each exam session is about six months apart, and I wanted to get things done as quickly as possible. But I ultimately learnt how to be patient.

I started with the Certificate in IT level, which has three core modules: Information Systems, Software Development, and Computer & Network Technology. I opted for self-study, so I decided to purchase a couple of recommended textbooks from the module syllabuses only for Information Systems and Computer & Network Technology. I have been developing software for over 27 years now, so I didn’t think it was necessary to get a textbook for that one. I also looked through the past papers which were available, and proved somewhat helpful. I hated Information Systems, Computer & Network Technology was quite hard (seeing as I had to remember intricacies about how laserjet and deskjet printers work, how hard drives store data, operating system features like paging and virtual memory, etc.), and I loved Software Development (27+ years of experience, obviously). It did take a couple of months to get the results which weren’t too bad. Note that the pass mark is 40%.

  • Computer & Network Technology – 51% (surprising, as I expected to do better with my detailed writeups)
  • Information Systems – 65% (most surprising, seeing as I hated the subject)
  • Software Development – 91% (well, duh!)

While waiting for the results, I embarked on a parallel journey to take a few ACCA exams in August 2021 for the Diploma in Accounting and Business, which was quite an interesting experience, as I was hungry for a challenge at the time. I also discovered that you could take any of the BCS exams for any of the modules at any level in any order. I had initially thought that you would have to take them in a particular order by level considering that there are 3 levels, Certificate, Diploma and Professional Graduate Diploma (PGD). This opened up a ton of possibilities and I decided to turbo through the rest. That turned out to be a not-so-great idea.

I ultimately decided to sit for six exams in the December 2021 session (4 modules from the Diploma in IT and 2 modules from the PGD in IT). These were:

  • Diploma: Professional Issues in Information Systems Practice – 53% (it is a core module, I studied for 6 different modules and I had brain fatigue and forgot some really easy questions).
  • Diploma: Web Application Development – 86% (18+ years of experience, ezpz)
  • Diploma: Object Oriented Programming – 70% (I don’t know, man. I kinda hate theory.)
  • Diploma: Big Data Management – 61% (I tried, man. Lots of theory. Brain fatigue).
  • PGD: Management Information Systems – 58% (very surprising result, to be honest, considering how much I hated Information Systems. I wrote what I could. Why did I pick this module, you ask? Well, because it seemed like one of the good options available on the exam calendar at the time.)
  • PGD: Software Engineering II – 64% (well, again, brain fatigue. This was the last paper on the calendar, and I was just glad it was over at the end.)

Why so much brain fatigue, you might ask? It turns out trying to study five different heavily theoretical modules is not a very bright idea. Plus I was also intrigued with trying to get the ACCA Advanced Diploma in Business and Accounting at the time, hence I was simultaneously studying Taxation, all while working a full-time software development job. I eventually burned out on the ACCA journey, failed my first attempt on the Taxation paper, and I had to forfeit the payment (£246, approx. $310) I made for a couple exams in March 2022 (Taxation retake and Performance Management), because I had to clear my head for the remaining couple of PGD papers: Web Engineering and Programming Paradigms which I was supposed to take in April 2022. I requested to defer the exams, but it was too late as I was past the deadline to do that, so I just rolled with it.

The results for the final pair of PGD papers turned out to be quite alright.

  • Web Engineering – 85% (Quite different from Web Application Development as this is more oriented to backend development. Again, I have been doing this for a long time now, so no surprises here.)
  • Programming Paradigms – 60% (Ugh! Another surprise seeing as I tried my best, but can we all just agree that theory sucks?)

Finally, I had to submit a project report. This turned out to be quite an annoying experience. There are only 2 submission dates in a year, and you have to wait six months to get a result. I submitted my report in May 2022 (August deadline), and waited until December 2022 to get the result, but it ended up getting marked as Fail. That ended up being rather disappointing, but I had to push forward and try again. I decided to contact a training centre for guidance, which required me paying a fee, but I went ahead with it since they’ve had students who have been successful with their project reports. I submitted again in February 2023, and waited until July 2023 to get another Fail mark. That really startled me and made me a bit upset, considering the amount of time, effort, blood, sweat and money that I had put into correcting my report based on the Project fail letter that was sent the first time around. I ultimately decided to appeal and that came back one month later with the score corrected to Pass. My final certificate is currently on the way and I am just glad this is all over.

What’s next? I’m really keen on pursing an online Masters degree in Computer Science, with Artificial Intelligence, since AI is all the rage right now. I’ve always been interested in AI since before it became cool, though. In any case, let’s look at the estimated total cost of everything at the time, and compare to now.

Cost breakdown
At the time

Student membership4 years£30≈$38~₦‎18,500$1/482
Certificate in ITthree core modules @ £40 each£120≈$152~₦‎74,000$1/482
Diploma in ITone core module + three elective modules @ £50 each£200≈$254~₦‎144,800$1/570
Professional Graduate Diploma in ITfour modules @ £90 each£360≈$456~₦‎260,000$1/570
Textbooks for all modules(bought at separate intervals, some used)~$360~₦‎189,400$1/526
PGD Project submission£115≈$146~₦‎88,700$1/607
PGD Project resubmission£115≈$146~₦‎110,600$1/757

Total cost – $1,552 or ₦886,000. I paid an additional ₦150,000 paid for project guidance from an accredited learning centre before the resubmission, and I also paid £100 (~$127) for the project appeal. Since the appeal was successful with the result changed to Pass, the £100 will be refunded.

With the parallel exchange rate at $1/920 today, which is just stupid (a story for another day), here’s what the total cost would look like (without a project resubmission).

Student membership4 years£30≈$38~₦‎35,000
Certificate in ITthree core modules @ £45 each£135≈$171~₦‎158,000
Diploma in ITone core module + three elective modules @ £50 each£200≈$254~₦‎234,000
Professional Graduate Diploma in ITfour modules @ £90 each£360≈$456~₦‎420,000
Textbooks for all modules(bought at separate intervals, some used)~$360~₦331,200
PGD Project submission£115≈$146~₦135,000

While this adds up to about $1,425 / ₦1,313,200 if you decide to take the self-study route, this is ultimately significantly cheaper than travelling all the way to the UK to obtain a degree from a university.