Admission criteria hinder access to higher education for some students

Published November 2, 2021
The Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) spokesperson Quaid-i-Azam University guidelines for admission to associate degree, BS programmes have to be followed. — Photo via QAU website/File
The Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) spokesperson Quaid-i-Azam University guidelines for admission to associate degree, BS programmes have to be followed. — Photo via QAU website/File

• Institutions refuse applications of students with less percentage
• Minister says due to shortage of seats, all passed students cannot be accommodated
• QAU guidelines for admission to associate degree, BS programmes have to be followed, FDE spokesperson insists

ISLAMABAD: A large numbers of students who have passed their intermediate examinations have been deprived of their right to higher education with the changed admission criteria adopted by higher education institutions in recent years that limits eligibility to a minimum of 45 per cent marks.

This suggests that the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (FBISE), and colleges and universities are not on the same page, as the board declares students with 33pc marks pass whereas their applications to higher educational institutions are not accepted.

Earlier, sources said students who secured marks between 33 to 44pc pursued private Bachelors degree from various universities, mainly the University of Punjab. However, a couple of years ago, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) abolished the traditional BA/MA, shutting the doors of education on a large number of students.

Talking to Dawn, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said due to shortage of seats, all passed students could not be accommodated. However, he said if seats were available in any college, they should not remain unfilled due to the student not having gained 45pc marks. “I would look into this issue,” he said.

The issue of abolishing the BA/MA also came under discussion in a three-day meeting of vice chancellors that concluded on Sunday, in which majority of the VCs pleaded that they have no issue with the four year BS programme introduced by the HEC, but private BA/MA should be restored to provide chance to students.

This year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government had issued directives to boards to give grace marks to students, who were going to be declared fail. However, these students could not get any favour as no university or college of Islamabad offers admissions to students who get less than 45pc marks.

“I do agree, this is one of the burning issues. Actually, this issue started a couple of years ago when BA/MA was abolished. But this year the government declared all students successful, and therefore all students had passed but those with less than 45pc could not apply for admission as per policy,” said Prof Tahir Mahmood of H-8 College.

In Islamabad, he said, public colleges were affiliated with Quaid-i-Azam University. Due to the university’s policy, colleges cannot give admissions in a two-year associate degree programme to students who had secured less than 45pc marks, Prof Mahmood said.

He said for admission to BS programmes, the minimum criteria set by universities was 50pc.

“Due to these restrictions, sometimes some seats remained unfilled in our college,” he said.

The Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) spokesperson, Abdul Waheed, said the directorate was cognisant of the issue of students who obtained 33pc to 44pc marks, but “we are supposed to follow guidelines of Quaid-i-Azam University, which has set 45pc marks for associate degree and 50pc marks for BS programme”.

Another college principal said: “Students with less numbers should be offered relatively easy associate degree or BS programme but there is no justification that passed students with 33 to 44pc marks cannot even apply,” he said, adding that if these students are ineligible, then the FBISE should not have passed them.

When contacted, FBISE Chairman Qaisar Alam said the board declared students with 33pc marks pass, adding that it would look into this issue.

A teacher said if colleges and universities were not ready to reduce merit, then the FBISE should increase passing marks. It is relevant to note here that on Sept 27, FBISE announced intermediate (part II) results with 99.8pc passing percentage.

Now, the board is going to conduct another full special exam of intermediate from Oct 10, in which sources said, around 30,000 students will appear.

They said most students who are going to appear in the exam are the ones who were declared pass but could not secure admission anywhere and now they want to improve their results by sitting in the special exam.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2021

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