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April 8, 2021

Has Sindh govt taken a U-turn on its two-year degree policy?


April 8, 2021

The logo of Higher Education Commission.

The Government of Sindh has made a U-turn on their prior decision to continue the two-year degree programmes abolished by the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

Last year the HEC had asked Pakistan’s educational institutions to discontinue the two-year bachelor’s degree programmes, saying that they would not recognise any such programmes undertaken after the academic year 2018. They, however, allowed those who had gotten admissions before 2018 to complete their degrees.

Previous stance

Addressing a news conference with civil society members on February 3, the chief minister’s adviser on universities & boards, Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, responded by saying that any HEC proposal to introduce a four-year degree programme was tantamount to attacking provincial autonomy.

Khuhro said that the provincial government rejected all such policies of the HEC that went against the concept of provincial autonomy, and that all the universities in the province would continue their two-year degree programmes in accordance with Sindh’s universities law and in pursuance of the idea of provincial autonomy.

He said that getting rid of two-year degree programmes would frustrate the efforts of a large number of students belonging to the middle- and lower-middle income groups to get higher education.

Current position

On April 5, however, the college education department’s public notice that appeared in local dailies read that in case of admissions in illegal and phased-out programmes, the students would be responsible for all risks and costs or any associated loss incurred for the conventional BA, BSc and BCom programmes after December 31, 2018.

The notice also stated that the rejection of the two-year BA, BSc and BCom programmes by any institution was not the responsibility of the college education department, which had taken the decision in compliance with the high court’s orders.

The department announced that with effect from March 31, universities had been given a grace period of three months to conclude the final examinations of the BA, BSc and BCom programmes, clarifying that any exam concluded before March 31 would be considered for the year 2020.

The deadline for admissions to the final cohort of the MA, MSc and MCom programmes has also been extended to March 31 so that the final cohort of the BA, BSc and BCom students can apply for admissions.

BA, BSc and BCom degree-holders have been allowed to apply for admissions in the third year or fifth semester of the BS programme, subject to the completion of a bridging semester or any additional course requirements that the university may impose.

Any student who misses the deadline to get admission to the MA, MSc or MCom programme can apply to the third year or fifth semester of the BS programme, which is a far superior option.

Fresh students can be admitted directly in a four-year BS programme offered through recognised campuses and constituent and affiliated colleges in place of the old BA, BSc and BCom programmes.

‘No knowledge’

When contacted for comment on the Sindh government’s future plan, Khuhro’s media coordinator, Shakil Memon, claimed that he had no knowledge of the high court’s orders.

“I’m unable to comment on the issue because I don’t have a copy of the court orders,” he said. Asked if the provincial government would challenge the decision in the apex court, he did not clarify.

Pending decision

More than 80 public colleges affiliated with the University of Karachi are yet to announce admissions to their degree programmes for the academic year 2021. The reason for this is that KU is still unable to announce its policy on whether or not its affiliated colleges should offer admissions to the traditional two-year degree programmes nullified by the HEC or the two-year associate degree programme sanctioned by the commission.

The KU Academic Council will discuss the HEC policy on two-year degrees in its next meeting expected to be held soon. It is pertinent to mention here that the Sindh University has already granted provisional admissions in the HEC associate degree programme, the alternative to the two-year degree programmes.