After the federal and provincial governments took notice of the discontinuation of the two-year MA and MSc programmes by Punjab University, the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) has given a relaxation for a year for the implementation of the decision.
As per sources, the government reportedly intervened in view of the expected impact of the move on thousands of students. On the other hand, the HEC also issued a notification regarding permission to continue the MA and MSc programmes for a year.
The sources said the HEC might extend the period of the relaxation in future. Punjab University had announced last week the discontinuation of its 100-year-old MA and MSc programmes in accordance with a decision of the HEC in this regard.
The university also advised its affiliated colleges not to admit students for the degrees this year.
According to sources in PU, the university had taken the decision in view of HEC’s advice, otherwise it earned millions of rupees every year in registration fee from thousands of students of the programmes. The affected students had also run a social media campaign to draw the government’s attention to their plight.
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Now the students can appear in exams of MA and MSc for one more year. “We have given a yearlong relaxation till June 30, 2022 to students across the country. The purpose is to give an opportunity to thousands of students who had already been affected because of the coronavirus pandemic. We had earlier given relaxation to the students till March this year, but now we have extended the period by a year,” a senior official of the HEC told The Express Tribune.
A large number of students from remote areas with limited financial resources appear in MA exams as private candidates. A majority of students from South Punjab get higher education as private candidates of through local colleges.
“Although the universities have adopted the four-year BS honours and MS programs, our financial situation has not changed. Private education is the only option for our children, so the government should continue earlier programmes too,” said Ali Gohar, a resident of Dera Ghazi Khan.
A spokesperson for the university confirmed that a yearlong relaxation had been given to the MA students in accordance with the decision of the HEC.
An administrative official of the university said while commenting on the issue, “Almost all sitting parliamentarians and senior officers on important departments are products of the MA/ MSc programmes. Besides this, about 90 per cent officials in the civil services are those who did MA or MSc and after that cleared the competitive exams.”
The official said most of the PU professors and even vice chancellors at of public sector universities had obtained MA or MSc degrees during their education. Now these officials are winding up the degree programmes that were earlier counted among high qualifications in the country. If the programmes were substandard then how would these officials justify their own positions, he added.
“The professors and thousands of students are grateful to Punjab and federal governments for stopping the HEC and other officials from discontinuing the MA and MSc programmes,” he said.
He said ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had promised to promote education, so Prime Minister Imran Khan should take notice the moves against the MA and MSc programmes.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2021.