KARACHI, Nov 17: In what can be termed a major faux pas on the part of the administration, the University of Karachi is considering the withdrawal of the final MS/PhD merit admission list because shortly after the list was issued on Monday a lot of hue and cry was raised against it.

Though there has been no official announcement yet, a senior teacher and member of the deans committee said that the “corrected version” based upon the criteria earlier announced and stated in the admission brochures would be issued soon. Also, the administration is facing criticism for allowing the HEJ institute applicants, most of whom failed in the pre-entry test, to take another National Testing Service (NTS) test.

According to the list, 700 candidates for MS programme and 90 for PhD programme have been declared qualified. Only 722 candidates, however, had passed the NTS test.

The episode has occurred in the backdrop of NTS fiasco last month. About 60 per cent of the total 1,770 candidates, who appeared in the university’s first ever pre-entry tests for MS/PhD candidates, failed to pass the exam.

Fearing low enrolment in many departments, the deans committee decided to change the merit formula and issued a candidates’ list. As a result, the names of many students who have passed the pre-entry test couldn’t be included in the final list and the administration was forced to consider withdrawal of the list.

One such student reported to Dawn that she had been ignored in the final merit list for MS candidates though she secured over 50 per cent marks in the NTS test and was a position-holder.

“I was shocked to see that my name is not on the list while the names of my friends, some of whom got low grades or have performed poorly in the test, have their names in the list,” she said, adding that the university administration had asked her to file a written complain.

It is also worth-noting that the deans committee’s decision of acquiring the services of a private organisation to conduct the admission tests met with a lot of criticism from teachers, who also questioned the rationale behind holding admission tests, as a majority of applicants for MS/PhD programmes are usually awarded degrees by the KU itself.

Talking to Dawn, Prof Shahana Urooj, a member of the deans committee that took the decision to hold NTS tests, said: “A wrong list has been released. The correct list based on the merit formula mentioned in the admission books would be issued soon.”

Elaborating the reasons for changing the merit formula, she said: “Earlier, it was decided that the candidates achieving 50 per cent marks in the NTS test would be considered eligible for admission. However, the poor performance of candidates in the NTS tests forced the administration to adopt another formula to increase enrolment. According to the new criteria, NTS performance and previous academic degree were to be given 40 per cent and 60 per cent weightage, respectively.

“This created a lot of confusion and we received many complaints. We should have stuck to the old formula. Now, we have decided to give first chance to those students who meet the old merit formula and then will examine other cases to fill more seats.”

When asked why the university has given the HEJ institute applicants another chance for pre-entry test, she said: “Their question paper was not subject-specific and, as a result, most students failed. The NTS has admitted the mistake and now the HEJ would prepare the question paper for the candidates.”

Regarding criticism of NTS, she said the organisation had been taking exams for many years and was recognized by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). “The university was not prepared for the pre-entry test programme and we had to engage the services of NTS. But now, the university administration plans to set up its own independent testing system that could also offer its services to other educational institutions in future.”

Commenting on the development, Dr Abid Husnain, vice-president of the Karachi University Teachers Society (KUTS), said that the deans committee that took the decision of holding pre-entry tests under NTS was no statutory body of the university and had no authority whatsoever to take decisions on students’ eligibility.

“Only the Board of Advance Studies and Research (BASR) that represents the deans of different faculties as well as teachers has the authority to take such decisions. The board in a meeting did allow holding of admission tests but there was no mention of the NTS. The entire conceptualisation process of inducting NTS in the university system was wrong,” he said. According to Dr Husnain, many rejected students were contemplating filing suits against the university.

A lot of mismanagement was witnessed on the pre-entry test day held last month for candidates aspiring for KU’s MS and PhD programmes. About 300 to 400 ineligible candidates turned up for the test while many students lost their fees, which was non-refundable.

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