The Punjab government has decided to abolish all quota seats at Shaikh Zayed Medical College, sparking debate on whether the fees at the college, which charges almost 10 times as much as other public medical colleges in the Punjab, should also be reduced.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Tuesday approved a new admission policy for the college for 2013-2014, under which all quota seats for students from other provinces will be abolished. Admission to the college will be through a standardised test administered by the University of Health Sciences (UHS).
Dr Anwar Janjua, the additional health secretary (Technical), told The Express Tribune that all admissions would be on merit.
“No seats will be reserved for other provinces at SZMC. All admissions will be done on merit. We have decided not to change the fees of the medical college or at the hospital,” he said.
The college charges students Rs200,000 per year, while students at other public medical colleges in the Punjab pay less that Rs18,000 a year.
The college has around 100 seats. Last year, when it was still under the federal government’s control, students were admitted to 60 seats on merit and the rest on quotas.
The minimum score obtained by students admitted on merit was 75.33 per cent, while the minimum for students admitted through the UHS was 84.2 per cent.
“I think it is a good decision to abolish the quota system at SZMC, but the fee should also be reduced.
The students who qualify on merit will not be willing to pay Rs200,000. Students may move court and the admissions process could be delayed,” said the principal of a public medical college in Lahore, requesting not to be named.
The additional health secretary said that the fee was already lower than at private medical colleges. “Students in private colleges pay Rs500,000 annually. There will be many students willing to pay Rs200,000 at SZMC,” said Dr Janjua.
A fourth-year student at SZMC said that tuition fees should be brought down to the same level as at other public medical colleges. He and other students have moved a case in this regard at the Lahore High Court. “The court gave us some relief and our fees were brought down from Rs500,000 to Rs200,000. The case is still pending,” the student said.
A Health Department spokesman said there would be no hike in tuition fees at other medical colleges, and no change in the quota of reserved seats for students from other provinces and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
A UHS spokesman said that the university had not yet received any directions on the subject or the new admission policy.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2013.
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