LAHORE: A number of public sector universities are planning to resist the federal Higher Education Commission (HEC) decision to do away with BA/BSc programmes and looking for a way out for hundreds of thousands of students appearing for the degree as private candidates.
Earlier, the HEC issued a final direction to all the public and private universities of the country and their affiliated colleges to abolish two-year BA/BSc and start Associate Degree (AD) programmes from the next academic year. It also directed the public and private sector universities that they could not offer MA/MSc programmes after 2020, when the ongoing programmes end.
It requires the degree colleges, not offering BS programmes, to change their current system, to start new Associate Degree (AD) programmes for which an outline has to be finalised yet. Such colleges reportedly don’t have the required conditions and staff for launching the proposed programmes and need to build their capacity.
The move has caused concern among the stakeholders because it will deprive a large number of students of an opportunity to earn graduation or master’s degrees as private candidates.
Education circles are criticising the HEC decision, arguing that without developing the capacity of the educational institution to shift to the new mode the direction could not be implemented effectively.
They also insist that the universities and colleges also did not have the capacity to meet the requirements of semester system. Still many education institutions were suffering because of implementation of the semester system without having required capacity.
Analysts say that such decisions could not be taken overnight, nor implemented without meeting the basic requirements.
Sources said the vice chancellors of all higher education institutions of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and federal capital Islamabad expressed their reservations regarding the move at a meeting with the HEC chairman Tariq Banuri last week.
Some of the VCs seeking anonymity told Dawn that they would write to the HEC for reviewing its decision of completely abolishing the two-year BA/BSc and MA/MSc programmes.
They said they had told the HEC chairman that it was not possible for them to start Associate Degree programmes as they did not have the resources required for the purpose.
They said the private students would be among the worst-hit as most of them came from less-privileged strata of society, having no access to good institutions.
“What option have we left for them (private students)? Unfortunately, there is none. We have deprived them of the only option they had for grooming themselves by doing BA/BSc or MA/MSc. This policy will halt academic career of hundreds and thousands of students at the intermediate level, depriving them of all educational opportunities,” a VC regretted.
He said that in other words, through the initiative the HEC, instead of increasing opportunities of higher education, would be further decreasing the same. “Female students will be the most affected [by this policy]. Thousands of female students in far-flung areas usually go for BA/BSc and MA/MSc degrees either privately or as regular candidates (if a college is available) for personal grooming as well as better economic prospects,” he added.
The VCs, however, said the HEC chairman, during the meeting, had also suggested starting Associate Degree programmes for the private students as well.
However, HEC chairman was not available for his comment despite several attempts made by this reporter to contact him.
Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2019