The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan passed a notification on Tuesday abolishing two-year Bachelors’ degree programmes at universities across the country. This means students will no longer be able to pursue two year B.Com or BSc degrees. The new rule will come in force from January. The announcement left students worried and a number of questions surfaced on social media. SAMAA Digital contacted HEC Spokesperson Ayesha Ikram and here are her answers to some of the most frequently asked questions: What is the policy? The notification issued by HEC read, “[The two-year bachelors] degrees shall not be recognised by the HEC for students enrolled in these programmes after December 31, 2018.” Students enrolled in two-year programmes before December 31, 2018 will be allowed to complete their BA and BSc degrees until December 2020. However, those enrolled later will not be granted their degrees. "For the avoidance of doubt, students admitted to two-year post-higher secondary or equivalent programs after December 31, 2018 shall have been and shall continue to be admitted to Associate Degree programmes." The HEC announced that it will replace the two-year BA/BSc programmes with a new postsecondary programme which will be called the Associate Degree (AD) programme. The commission said that under the AD programmes, general education will be provided to students, which will help them gain market skills. Why was the policy introduced? Graduate degrees across the world are either for three or four years. If a student has a two-year B.com or BSc degree, they are not counted as graduate degrees and will not be accepted internationally. This means that a student with this degree will not be able to apply for a Master’s anywhere abroad as the requirement for that is 16 years of education. A student enrolled in a B.com or BSc programme will only be able to get admission abroad if they complete both their BA and MA [two-year programmes]. According to Ikram, this is not the first time the policy has been introduced. “We have been working on it for the past two years.” Universities were first informed about it in 2017 and then again in 2019. “If these programmes are still being offered, it’s the fault of the varsities,” she said. Will this mean programmes started after December 2020 will be cancelled? The university will be responsible for answering this query. The notification issued by the commission has one remedy: the BA/BSc degrees can be converted into AD programmes with minimum changes in the courses during the transition period in the first year. Ikram said that in order to facilitate the transition, universities and colleges offering AD programmess will be allowed to move gradually from their current programme offerings towards the new requirements. In the first year, the courses currently offered in BA/BSc programmes may be adapted with minimum changes for the AD programme, provided that institutions that have taken significant steps towards transitioning to the AD programmes continue to bring additions according to the policies and guidelines given by the HEC from time to time. Will these students have to apply to other universities from scratch? What about the one year they completed? The HEC’s semester guidelines have space for exemption of some courses on the credits transfer policy. In such a case, students can look for options of enrollment in either BS – four-year degree programmes or AD programmes. They can present the courses they have studied in their transcripts. The case will then be looked into by the university on the basis of courses already studied. The varsities will decide if the credit hours can be transferred or not Will the degrees of BCom/BA graduates be considered now or will they have to take admissions for BA again? Yes, they will be accepted. Degrees of students that started before December 2019 will be accepted. Will universities that were continuing these programmes be fined? Ikram said currently, the option is not under consideration due to the transition phase from conventional degrees to internationally acceptable systems. Are MA programmes being abolished as well? No, they aren’t. You can, however, only enroll in those programmes after completing a four-year bachelors’ degree. For students who complete their BCom/BSc programmes by 2020, the decision will be taken by the respective university. What are AD programmes? AD programmes are two-year programmes that extend BA or BSc degrees to four years and make them internationally recognised. The goal of the programme is to provide broad-based education to students along with experiential learning. These are basically skill-based courses. As per the National Qualifications Framework developed by the HEC, these programmes are equivalent to 14 years of education. Prior to completing it, students can enroll themselves in the fifth semester of Bachelor programmes of their choice after a transcript evaluation by the university.
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