KARACHI: Taking a U-turn on its earlier decision within two months, the academic council of Karachi University (KU) recently abolished its two-year bachelor programmes in arts, science and commerce (BA, BSC and BCom) for affiliated public and private colleges, without consulting stakeholders and creating awareness of the new programmes, sources told Dawn.

Acting in haste, they said, the university also announced admission to the two-year associate degree programmes starting on Sept 6.

KU’s academic council had unanimously approved the continuation of its conventional graduate degree programmes (BA, BSc and BCom) and decided to defer the two-year associate degree programme till June 2022 in a meeting held in July.

According to a statement issued by the university on Sept 3, the “academic council after approving the policy has changed the nomenclature of the two-year BA, BSc and BCom degree programmes to Associate Degree in Arts, Associate Degree in Science, and Associate Degree in Commerce, respectively, for regular and private students”.

‘The implementation of the associate degree programme would end the option of private education’

It cites a resolution (adopted in the same meeting) of the academic council according to which “there will be no change in the course outline/syllabi, rules, and regulations as of now. The course outlines/syllabi which have already been offered in BA, BSc, and BCom will be offered in the Associate Degree Programme and the system of the examination for the Associate Degree Programme will be the same as the previous one.

“The academic council has constituted a committee that will discuss and deliberate the changes in the curriculum, including the examination system for the associate degree in the light of the guidelines given by the Higher Education Commission after getting approval of KU’s academic council.”

Students to suffer

Speaking to Dawn, senior college teachers slammed the KU decision, describing it as an anti-education step.

“The university can’t mislead people by saying that they are only changing the programme’s nomenclature. What they are not saying is that they have changed the programme’s status. It’s no longer a graduate degree programme,” said Prof Zafar Yar Khan, a senior teacher at Malir Govt Degree College and member of the Sindh Professors and Lecturers Association.

This decision would have far-reaching implications, especially on underprivileged students who earlier had an option to obtain a bachelor’s degree in two years, he added.

Explaining his point, he said students who got admitted to universities in Karachi every year were around 16,000, but more than 100,000 students graduated from colleges yearly. Many of them opted for private education.

“Several of these educational institutions are located in underprivileged areas such as Korangi, Nazimabad, Malir, North Karachi and New Karachi and students who sought admissions to these colleges are poor and can’t afford university education. They just need a bachelor’s degree to enter the job market.”

He said the implementation of the associate degree programme (a semester-based programme according to the Higher Education Commission criteria) would end the option of private education and a student with an associate degree would need admission to a university for a bachelor’s degree.

Seconding his opinion, Prof Muneer Alam of DJ Govt Science College questioned the immediate need for changing the ‘nomenclature of the degree’ since the university was making no change in the curriculum and other things.

“There should have been thorough consultation on the matter besides creating awareness of the new programme,” he said, terming the situation confusing, especially for students.

Court orders

In this respect, the college teachers referred to the Sindh High Court’s orders under which colleges were required to end two-year bachelor degree programmes and start four-year bachelor programmes.

“The hearing of this case still continues and we believe that till the time colleges upgrade their infrastructure and teaching capacity to start four-year bachelor degree programmes, Karachi University and other universities in Sindh with affiliated colleges should continue with the two-year bachelor programmes,” said Prof Alam, emphasising that students needed a bachelor’s degree and not a certificate for the associate degree to enter the job market.

A section of government officials, he pointed out, was misinterpreting these orders and the court had never suggested starting of the associate degree programme.

Upon contact, KU acting Vice Chancellor Prof Khalid Mahmood Iraqi reasoned that the secretary of boards and universities in a meeting held last month had directed vice chancellors of KU, Benazir Bhutto Shaheed University, Lyari, Sindh University Jamshoro, and Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur, to implement the associate degree programme.

“The government has also published advertisements in newspapers warning parents not to get their children enrolled in unauthorised BA, BSc and BCom programmes as these programmes have been discontinued under court orders and HEC’s directives. Besides, all universities in the country have adopted the associate degree programme,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2021

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