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Monday February 26, 2024

MDCAT ‘anomalies’ hit candidates

January 29, 2023

LAHORE: Discrepancies in the result of Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test (MDCAT-2022) in Punjab have disproportionately affected candidates appearing under the University of Health Sciences (UHS) Lahore in comparison to those appearing under the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University (SZABMU), Islamabad, conducted under the supervision of now-abolished Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC).

It is learnt that Rawalpindi candidates got a lion’s share in the consolidated MDCAT list for the year 2022, as the Rawalpindi Medical University, which ranked 7 in the UHS Medical Universities list in terms of merit in 2021, suddenly jumped to second spot in 2022 – behind only to the King Edward Medical University, Lahore.

Out of the total number of 83,142 UHS candidates, merely 207 scored in the range 181-200 (0.2489% of the total candidates). On the other hand, out of 18,839 SZABMU candidates, a total of 1167 scored in the range 181-200 (6.195% of the total candidates).

The position tilted predominantly in favour of candidates from Islamabad/Rawalpindi, out of the total of 1,374 students in the consolidated list of successful candidates, only 15.065% (207) UHS candidates scored in the range of 181-200 and a whopping 84.934% (1,167) SZABMU candidates performed better in the range despite the fact that the number of candidates appearing under the UHS was about five times the number of candidates who appeared under the SZABMU.

This indicates alleged anomalies in the conduct of MDCAT-2022 as candidates appearing through the SZABMU had 2400 percent more chances to score in the range 181-200 than those who appeared under the UHS.

This had an overall impact in the compilation of merit (Matric, FSc and MDCAT) as it disturbed the balance in the distribution of seats among successful candidates from the two examining bodies in medical and dental colleges in Punjab. Out of the total of 3,047 seats in Punjab, UHS candidates secured 1,798 seats (59%) and ICT candidates got 1238 seats (40.6%) along with three seats by overseas candidates, one by a Balochistan candidate and seven seats by candidates of 2021.

Sources told The News that the Pakistan Medical Authority, under Sec 16(f) of the PMC Act 2020, was responsible for conducting one uniform test across Pakistan as prescribed in Section 18 of the PMC Act 2020. The Regulation 6 of the PMC Examination Regulations 2021 makes it mandatory to keep the pool of MDCAT questions in encrypted form, free from human handling.

“In violation of the provisions of Section 18 of the PMC Act 2020 and Regulation 6 of the PMC Examination Regulations 2021, the PMC delegated its authority to conduct MDCAT to various provincial/local universities which conducted their own MDCAT,” sources alleged.

Therefore, sources said, the conduct of one centralized MDCAT was dispensed with and a number of provincial/local universities conducted their own MDCAT. “The decision to bypass explicit provisions of law was incorporated by the PMC in its letter on October 6, 2022,” they added.

Sources further alleged the PMC decision had also violated the Article 1 of the Constitution of Pakistan as a separate entity was carved out, which comprised Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and areas containing various districts of Rawalpindi Division. “Following this ‘gerrymandering’, SZABMU was delegated the authority to conduct MDCAT in Islamabad and northern Punjab districts of Rawalpindi division, while the UHS conducted MDCAT in the regions comprising central and southern Punjab,” they informed.

Since an Islamabad domicile is considered a Punjab domicile for admission to medical institutions, sources alleged there was no legal justification to bifurcate Punjab in two parts, where protocol of keeping question papers in encrypted form, free from human handling, were allegedly not followed.

The aggrieved students, on condition of anonymity, alleged that this pattern of giving overwhelmingly liberal score in MDCAT to Rawalpindi/Islamabad candidates smelt foul to sabotage merit in collusion between the PMC and SZABMU. “Since those having a domicile of Punjab/ICT were eligible for admission to public sector colleges of Punjab, this regional disparity in the scores of MDCAT, therefore, contravened the government’s policy of merit emphasized in the PMC Act, 2020,” they alleged.

When contacted, Dr Noshad Ahmad Sheikh, the then President of former PMC, said he had ceased to be President of PMC as the commission no longer existed. “It is not relevant to speak on behalf of the previous body,” he added.

SZABMU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Tanveer Khaliq categorically denied that the university had conducted MDCAT for districts of Rawalpindi division, saying that the SZABMU only conducted the entrance test for the candidates from ICT, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. However, he said that candidates from all over Pakistan were entitled to opt for MDCAT under the examining body of their choice. “The admission to successful candidates, however, will be awarded in the area of their domiciles,” he said while emphasizing that there was no anomaly or discrepancy whatsoever in the conduct of MDCAT.

UHS Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Ahsan Waheed Rathore said that the difficulty index/level of MDCAT question papers of both universities was the same, adding that the universities had prepared question papers from the question bank of PMC. “Students, who had grievances, went to courts and their cases have been dispensed with,” he added.

When contacted, Dr Suleman Ahmad, Registrar of the newly-revived Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PM&DC), did not respond to repeated calls and a message for his version.

Meanwhile, Hina Shaukat, head of Media Department at PM&DC, said that PMC had ceased to exist and a fresh council of newly-revived PM&DC was yet to be formed.

However, she said that the former PMC had delegated the authority to provincial/local universities on the pattern of boards of intermediate and secondary education. “The universities in each province prepared question papers out of a pool of over 14,000 question bank of PMC to hold their respective MDCAT,” she said, adding, the difficulty level remained the same. “The previous body had also addressed complaints of certain students as well,” she added.