HEC in a quandary about its undergraduate policy

Educators say on-going tussle within HEC is directly affecting the education system


Safdar Rizvi July 26, 2021

KARACHI:

The Higher Education Commission (HEC), on July 15, announced a one-year extension in the implementation date of its latest undergraduate policy.

The move came in a bid to benevolently offer universities the opportunity to suspend the former undergraduate policy by mid-2022, if they so wished.

However, considering that the department also issued an alert for immediate implementation of the two-year associate degree (AD) programme—part of the same policy—has shown the statutory body to be nebulous about the clockworks of its own system.

In addition to that, under pressure from remnants of the old HEC administration, the department has also barred students from across the country from enrolling in two-year BA, B.Sc and B.Com programmes, which have now phased out.

The notification in the regard warned students that if enrolled in said programmes, the issued degrees will not be verified by the HEC, despite students bearing all costs and losses involved in the process.

Deeming the traditional programmes inauthentic, universities have been advised to start pushing for the two-year associate degree in affiliated colleges instead, which has left students, college administrations and institutions across the country bemused about the academic future.

Read Stay extended against appointment of HEC chairman

Regarding which, certain sections of educators also allege that it is the on-going tussle between the old and new HEC administration members that is directly affecting the education system of colleges across the country.

The new 22-page undergraduate policy addresses the two-year associate degree in detail on page 10 of the document.

There it clearly states that if the new undergraduate policy is postponed or the deadline for its implementation is extended, the implementation of the two-year associate degree will also be extended.

This is because the notification issued by HEC regarding the extension of implementation rather covers the implementation of the entire policy, as opposed to individual sections of the policy.

The Express Tribune contacted HEC spokesperson Ayesha Ikram for clarity on the matter, and enquired whether colleges will be able to start traditional graduation programmes after the HEC has issued a notification about the extension in implementation of the undergraduate policy.

Ikram in her response highlighted that two-year associate degrees can only be acquired from affiliated colleges.

But when probed about four-year degree programmes remaining absent in Sindh’s colleges prior to HEC’s directives, she maintained that the traditional bachelor's degree programme had in fact been going on and it was instead the associate degree that was not offered in colleges till now.

However, it appeared that the spokesperson was possibly unaware of the said degree being part of HEC undergraduate policy and requested the question to be sent to her in writing, so she may enquire from the relevant authority and convey.

When the same question was sent to her in writing, Ikram replied that only colleges can offer a two-year associate degree, while the BA programme will no longer be recognised by the Higher Education Commission.

When asked, if a university has not adopted HEC’s undergraduate policy as yet, what do the associated colleges have to offer to students, Ikram responded in few words: "Associate degree, and nothing else."

In absence of any clarity from the spokesperson, the next source was the HEC Acting Chairperson Ahmed Farooq Bazi, but he too remained unavailable to comment despite several attempts.

Read more No deferment of 4-year, 2-year degrees: HEC

It is however being alleged that Bazi had been offered the chairperson’s position by virtue of Prime Minister Imran Khan, but his functionality has remained limited owing to a tussle with remnants of the former HEC administration.

For this reason, despite the notification to extend the implementation of the undergraduate policy, he has remained unable to provide any clear and permanent solution regarding admissions in colleges.

It may be recalled that a detailed meeting was also held earlier this month, between Vice Chancellors (VCs) and HEC Executive Director Shaista Sohail, where a majority of VCs had recommended an extension in implementation date of the undergraduate policy.

The HEC had also indicated at the meeting that the program could be extended soon after talking to the commission hierarchy.

Following which, a notification in the regard was issued on July 15 but the statutory body still appears to be muddled about its own policies.

The Higher Education Commission has now called a commission meeting on Wednesday July 28, during which the issue will be discussed by commission members.

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