LAHORE: The public and private universities across Punjab have rejected the Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) decision to hold the Undergraduate Studies Aptitude Test (USAT) for admissions at the undergraduate level in universities all over Pakistan.
“The public and private universities are conducting their own admission tests and do not need to follow the HEC testing council’s USAT,” said Dr Khalid Khan, Registrar of the Punjab University. He said the matter was also discussed in the last academic council meeting and they did not approve of any test other than conducting their own tests.
Meanwhile, the Government College University (GCU) entrance tests of each department for undergraduate admissions began on Saturday (Aug 28) and would continue till Sept 1. The tests are being held in small groups to ensure strict implementation of SOPs for prevention against Covid-19.
The tests would be conducted in 27 disciplines, the university said, adding that it wouldn’t be able to adopt the USAT for admissions this year.
The vice chancellors told Dawn that the HEC had not consulted them about the USAT and they had come to know about this through newspaper advertisement. They said first the test was termed mandatory but it was made optional after the reservations of a majority of the vice chancellors.
They were of the view that some people might want to get financial benefits and launched a centralised admission test for undergraduate classes. “It is a general test for all candidates having no specification of any disciplines like science and arts,” they said.
Last week, the Education Testing Council (ETC) announced that it would hold the USAT, a standardised test, for admissions at the undergraduate level in universities all over Pakistan on Sept 12, 2021. The last date for online registration was Aug 30. The students who have passed the Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC) or equivalent/Grade 12 education and those who have appeared in the final examination and are awaiting results can apply for the test by registering through http://etic.hec.gov.pk.
It says the USAT is a competitive product that intends to carve out its own niche based on quality tests. It is developed from a standardised question bank with quality, equity, reliability, and validity of the product as well as integrity of the processes involved ensured at all levels of development, administration, grading and result reporting. Its validity will hold for a year. Being a universal test gauging the ability of a student, it can be used by all universities if they so desire. The test is however not intended for the candidates applying for MBBS/BDS programmes.
It added that the universities may freely choose to accept USAT result card as valid for their respective admissions by announcing it for their prospective undergraduate candidates.
GCU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Asghar Zaidi said if the HEC had decided to conduct the test, it should have consulted them prior to announcing the policy. He said the idea to conduct a centralised test was acceptable but a generic test as was announced could not help check the aptitude and interests of the students.
He said the Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISEs) of Punjab did not have the same standard and quality of education and such a centralised test could not help check aptitude and quality of education of the students. He said the HEC should have consulted the administrations of all the universities and addressed their apprehensions.
The HEC spokesperson did not answer the phone calls or text messages when contacted for version.
Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2021