Rift over admission tests: Punjab body ‘culls’ federal HEC’s directives

HEC constitutes ETC to conduct tests, while Punjab advises varsities to carry out tests on their own

Riazul Haq June 16, 2017
HEC constitutes ETC to conduct tests, while Punjab advises varsities to carry out tests on their own. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: There appears to be a rift escalating between the federal Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the Punjab HEC over conducting admission tests at varsities and degree-awarding institutes as the former has constituted a testing council to carry out such tests, while the latter has informally directed them to organise tests on their own.

This rift has also created a divide among other provinces as well, as the HECs of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Balochistan are on board with the federal HEC’s decision, while the Sindh HEC is backing Punjab HEC.

“The Punjab HEC is not bound to follow the directives of the federal HEC,” a vice chancellor of a university in Punjab, requesting anonymity, said on Thursday. “We will decide about the new directives of the federal HEC in our next syndicate meeting after Eidul Fitr.”

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A letter from federal HEC Executive Director Arshad Ali was sent to the vice chancellors, rectors and heads of public and private universities seeking their confirmation and support for the free Education Testing Council (ETC).

According to the letter sent on June 7, the tests will be arranged during the fall semester (September) this year. The federal HEC had launched the ETC in April 2016 and since then it has conducted tests of over 100,000 students for indigenous and overseas scholarship programmes.

In December last year, the federal HEC informed all universities through an ad that it would be mandatory for them to conduct admission tests under the ETC.

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The federal HEC testing service will arrange admission tests in five categories while the registration process will be done online, the notification read.

The ETC will be launching tests for admissions of undergraduate programmes from fall 2017 and during first half of July 2017 in five categories – engineering; medical; basic and natural sciences; management and social sciences; and arts and humanities, it added.

The letter revealed that the ETC would carry out tests in all major cities of Pakistan in higher education institutions through online registration process giving students the liberty to choose a test centre of their choice.

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Meanwhile, the HEC also asked universities to nominate a focal person and provide infrastructure facilities in the institutions, the letter stated.

Through the notification, the HEC urged the institutions of Punjab to confirm adoption of the ETC Aptitude Test for admission to undergraduate programmes.

The federal HEC states that the initiative was taken on the advice of the government of Pakistan to relieve the students and their parents from the burden of taking multiple recruitment tests and paying fees for each test separately.

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Holding tests for over 170 public and private universities will not be less than a challenge as the Lahore High Court (LHC) in 2014 had declared the National Testing Service (NTS) an unapproved body. The court also directed the HEC to establish its own testing service for the purpose, which it did so in the shape of ETC.

NTS Acting CEO Air Commodore (retd) Dr Sherzada Khan had more than often mentioned before the media that the federal HEC had no mandate to run a monitoring and testing body simultaneously.

Interestingly, it was in early 2000 when the federal HEC indirectly informed the universities to hold admission tests under the NTS, but as there was no written notification or order about it, the federal HEC could not prove it in LHC.

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Later, the body became controversial due to several flaws and financial irregularities in its system being run by its CEO Haroon Rashid whose PhD thesis was also found plagiarised and eventually he had to resign.

Punjab factor

Interestingly, after the letter was circulated across the country, Punjab HEC informally informed the universities in the province to take their own tests.

The decision comes at the backdrop of a tussle between the federal HEC and Punjab HEC, since its formation in 2014. As the role of federal HEC has yet to be finalised in the new scenario, the tussle is often seen on several issues.

The Express Tribune contacted Punjab HEC Chairperson Dr Nizamuddin, but he was not available for comment.


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