The recent notification (No. 15-54/A&C/2019/HEC/691 dated July 11, 2019 attached) issued by HEC supersedes all notifications and letters related to the termination, phasing out and bridging of MA/MSc and BA/BSc program.
Prof. Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad TI, Founding Vice Chancellor of Abbottabad University of Science & Technology is the leading scientist of KP and one of the leading academicians of Pakistan.
The notification is appreciated in a sense that HEC accepted that previous notifications were wrong. If previous were wrong then what is the chance that this one is correct? The growing agnostic approach of HEC officials, not respecting/honoring the opinion of experts, universities, colleges and even provincial HEDs on this matter is beyond understanding.
The present issue of terminating annual BA/BSc and MA/MSc after December 2018 is one of those issues, where HEC is enjoying the misery of the stakeholders and playing with their nerves. The HED Baluchistan has already notified against this decision, while Sindh, Punjab, AJK and GB has not shown interest in its implementation.
However, KP has partially accepted the decision but still confused. If all the provinces, colleges, universities and HEDs are reluctant to implement the decision the HEC should have spent time to revisit their decision or convinced the stakeholders. Colleges are expecting admission just after one-month and hence everybody across the country in colleges and universities are confused with this notification of July 11, 2019, “what to do and where to go?”
According to this notification colleges are banned from admission in BA/BSc after December 31, 2018 and these degrees are terminated. The conflicting details of this confusing and vague notification are provided as below:
i. The main theme of this notification is termination of conventional BA/BSc and MA/MSc degrees after December 2018 and 2020 respectively, without knowing or considering or discussing private students, making more than 50% of the total students.
ii. According to this notification colleges are required to replace the existing BA/BSc with an Associate Degree (AD). As per section 1(iv) of the letter “the overall goal of the AD is degree holders with broad-based knowledge and marketable skills. However, the degree program requirements are given in sections 1(v) and 1(iv) i.e., general education and marketable skills such as computer literacy, office management skills, farm Prof. Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad TI, Vice Chancellor, Abbottabad University of Science & Technology 2 management and agri-business skills, retail service skills, hospitality industry skills, technology related skills, accounting and business related skills, or others. Section viii provides some mechanism for the implementation of this marketable skills based Associate Degree. However, in section 1(vii) transition of the conventional BA/BSc programs in colleges to marketable Associate Degree is described. Section 1(vii) is contradictory to all other sections of the notification or at least confusing.
After analyzing this notification even an average mind person will raise the following questions:
a) There is no mention of private students, and the termination of BA/MA degrees as stated in the notification will terminate opportunities for marginalized communities, who can’t afford colleges/universities.
b) More than half of the regular students in Pakistan attend Government colleges. These students have high dreams and hence obtain 16-year regular education for good paid job within Pakistan and abroad, but because of their socioeconomic status or other reasons they prefer first college and later on university. Is it possible that all of Degree College students will go for two-year technical skill based degree with low paid job?
c) Do government colleges have the resources and faculty members to run the skill based degree programs mentioned in the notification?
d) Even if a college has the resources and faculty, the programs have to be approved by the statutory Bodies of the universities, which is a time consuming job. Do the colleges have enough time to complete all these codal formalities before admissions in the next month?
e) If technical education is such a great need of time then why best students are not joining technical colleges and why the student number is decaying with time in technical colleges?
f) In this new scenario planed by HEC, what will be the difference between a technical college and a regular college?
g) Is it logical to make every young chap of the nation a technician?
Prof. Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad TI, Vice Chancellor, Abbottabad University of Science & Technology 3 Before summarizing the details, it is necessary to be mentioned here that three types of students are generally attending higher education across the globe in developed as well as in the developing countries.
The first group of students makes more than 80 % with a focus on 16-year education, as most of the adequate jobs require this level of education. The second group of students is about 5% interested in jobs in academia or research and development and their focus is ultimately on PhD degree.
The last group of students in higher education is about 15 %, coming from marginalized communities and can’t afford colleges/universities for longer time and looking for a market based skills certificate or two year degree as mentioned in the HEC notification, as with such degrees they can get a low paid job like technicians etc. In order to make any policy all these details should be kept in mind.
Furthermore, the existing resources of government colleges as well as the required codal formalities of universities starting programs must also be known to a person framing a policy.
This issue of phasing out of BA/MA is under consideration in HEC and sensitized them about the same issue. The former ED and former Chairperson were kind enough to let me lead and provide adequate HEC management. HEC constituted Steering Committee and two meetings, probably on July 06 and July 18, 2018, were conducted on priority to resolve the issue once for all.
The following solutions were recommended by the Steering Committee for approval:
1) The only viable solution of integrating government colleges with universities in the BS/BA (4-year) programs is 2+2 model following the US Higher Education system. Where, according to this model the annual BA/BSc system will be shifted to semester system in degree colleges in the programs BA/BSc are offered. After two year students will be transferred to postgraduate colleges or universities on merit basis to complete the final two-year of BS/BA (4-year) degree.
2) Semester system is different than annual system, and hence they cannot be bridged. Therefore, discussing the concept of bridging is wasting of time and resources.
3) The date of the stopping of BA/BSc and MA/MSc should be extended to 2024 and in the meanwhile the universities with Prof. Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad TI, Vice Chancellor, Abbottabad University of Science & Technology for the help of HEC will develop/strengthen their distance learning capacities as an alternative to the annual BA and MA private programs.
4) The principal seat policy of HEC for affiliation is against the acts of universities and hence creating complications, so it maybe upto the universities as per their statutes to grant affiliations as long as the universes are convinced that they have the capacity to do so.
Unfortunately, these conclusions of the Steering Committee have never been notified. The growing monopolistic approach of HEC dishearted me in dealing this issue for more than a year. It is an issue of National interest and being on responsible seat and having the knowledge of the problem, it is my responsibility to clarify the situation and inform concerned officials about the complications of policy, if any.
After all the struggle and efforts, now I am a firm believer that HEC will follow its own wishes and desires but it is my final attempt to request HEC to revisit and make appropriate logical as well as workable decision in this regard in the best interest of the Nation.
It is humbly submitted that KP has worked on this problem for more than a year including all stakeholders i.e., students, faculty members, College Principals, Director Colleges, HED, University Vice Chancellors and even former Minster of Higher Education KP (Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani).
Conferences and workshops of stakeholders are organized on this issue and ultimately a workable solution has been sorted out based on the US Higher Education System, from where the overall higher education system of Pakistan is adopted.
Realizing the gravity of the situation the following recommendations are submitted after considering all the efforts of the KP Government, KP Universities and KP Colleges in this regard:
I. Notification No. No. 15-54/A&C/2019/HEC/691dated July11 may kindly be immediately withdrawn.
II. The termination of BA/BSc and MA/MSc private students may kindly be withdrawn till alternative is not sorted out (probably in the form of distance learning). Prof. Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad TI, Vice Chancellor, Abbottabad University of Science & Technology.
III. The existing colleges offering conventional BA/BSc programs may immediately be replaced by two-year programs in the same subjects in semester system. The colleges will follow the first two-year studies of the four-year program approved by the Statutory Bodies of the concerned university. After two years the students will be transferred to postgraduate colleges or universities offering BS/BA (4-year) and will be admitted in the 5th semester on merit (it is similar to our present BA and MA system but in semester. The bare minimum requirements of transfer will be two year studies with CGPA not lesser than 2 out of 4 and passed 66 credit hours with at least 30 credit hours with C grade or better). After transferring the students will complete the last 2-year of BS/BA (4- year) degree at a postgraduate college or university, and hence will be awarded BS/BA (4-year) degree in the concerned subject. The colleges and universities will be required to terminate their existing conventional MA/MSc degree programs and allocate the same resources to the additional classes of the 5th semester transferred students from colleges.
IV. Those students not able to continue BS/BA (4-year) studies because of unavoidable circumstances may opt for Associate Degree (Arts or Science). The bare minimum requirements of the degree will be two year studies with CGPA not lesser than 2 out of 4 and passed 66 credit hours with at least 30 credit hours with C grade or better.
V. Degree colleges along with the two-year transfer programs in arts and science subjects will be also encouraged to start skills based Associate Degrees as mentioned in the HEC notification. The overall goal of this skill based AD degree as per sections 1(iv), 1(v) and 1(vi) of HEC notification No. 15-54/A&C/2019/HEC/691 dated July 11 will be “producing degree holders with broad-based knowledge and marketable skills such as computer literacy, office management skills, farm management and agri-business skills, retail service skills, hospitality industry skills, technology related skills, accounting and business related skills, or others ensuring Prof. Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad TI, Vice Chancellor, Abbottabad University of Science & Technology that every holder of this degree is able to easily find job or start own business”.
About Author: Prof. Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad TI, recently received Civil Award from the President of Pakistan for his innovations in higher education, uplifting its quality at par with the developed World.
Dr. Iftikhar has produced 18 PhD and published 170 research articles with accumulative impact factor of more than 350. He has also established the fastest Supercomputer of Pakistan at the University of Malakand.
Dr. Iftikhar received his PhD in Materials Science Engineering from the University of Idaho (USA) and worked in various universities including LSU (USA), University of Idaho (USA), UTM (Malaysia), ICP, Hazara Univerity and University of Malakand.