By Ammar Sheikh
The fate of ongoing two-year BA session students has become uncertain after the latest direction of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC). While the top higher education body has clearly stated that the two-year BA programme would be discontinued after 2018, BA examinations for the year 2019 are underway at several universities.
HEC has offered a way for students of two-year BA programmes to get their degrees validated, the conditions only apply to students who got enrolled in the two-year programme until the year 2018.
The HEC has clearly stated that the old two-year BA/BSc degrees (equivalent to 14 years of education) and MA/MSc degrees will no longer be offered by Pakistani universities after Academic Year 2018 and 2020.
In a statement, the HEC has offered an intermediate solution for students still enrolled in the officially discontinued two-year degree programmes. The statement said that holders of BA/BSc degrees will be allowed to take admission in the third year (fifth semester) of a BS (four-year degree) programme after successful completion of 15-18 credit hours of bridging courses as prescribed by HEC and the admitting university.
However, it also informed that as per the decision taken by the HEC in 2016, the old two-year BA/BSc degrees (equivalent to 14 years of education) and MA/MSc degrees will no longer be offered by Pakistani universities after Academic Year 2018 and 2020, respectively.
HEC further said that in place of the two-year BA/BSc, universities will now be able to offer an Associate Degree through recognized campuses or constituent colleges in market-driven subjects after necessary approval from HEC, for students with 12 years of schooling. Detailed guidelines for this programme are available on the HEC website. Students holding associate degrees will also be able to re-enter the education system by getting admission in the fifth semester of a BS programme after fulfilling additional entry requirements.
Despite this, the fate of those in the 2-year BA/BSc programmes is uncertain. When contacted, the HEC representative said that the degree of anyone who passed the BA/BSc programme after 2018 would not be recognized. Therefore, the solution offered by the HEC would also not be applicable to students obtaining a two-year degree in 2019 or onward.
Similar confusion also persists at universities and in the provincial higher education setup. When asked about the fate of the students of the 2019 batch, an official of a leading public university in Punjab said he too was not sure and further clarification was required on part of HEC. Similarly, other government officials were of the view that the BA programme would continue but could be re-branded as an associate degree with some changes until the provincial governments set up associate degree programmes. However, this is contrary to what the HEC has stated with regards to the associate degree programmes and the discontinuation of the BA/BSc programmes.
Adding to this, universities and provincial governments have yet to establish associate degree programmes, which might take time to fulfill the legal requirements and necessary approvals from the HEC.
For now, the HEC, universities and the provincial higher education bureaucracy seem confused about the fate of the students attempting the BA/BSc examinations in 2019 and this will create problems for not only the departments concerned, but mostly for students, who will find themselves running from pillar to post to get their degrees validated by HEC.