ISLAMABAD: The future of National Testing Service (NTS) in the country's academia seems no more glimmering as the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has warned all its recognised universities not to approach the NTS for conduction of tests regarding their admissions and scholarships, Daily Times has learnt.
According to the available information, the HEC has directed all its recognised universities and Degree Awarding Institutions (DAIs) functioning both in the public and private sectors that it would be mandatory for them to conduct tests for admissions in MPhil and PhD disciplines.
The universities also have been said to approach the Education Testing Service (ETC) for holding any kind of tests either that is for admissions in any disciplines and test for any kind of student scholarships.
It is worth to mentioning here that the ETC is a testing service launched by the HEC itself and as per details this testing service will be functioning from spring 2017. There are no charges/ fees that the students have to pay for appearing in the tests. According to the HEC this service was introduced to facilitate the students as it is free of cost totally as compared to the NTS that charges fee from the students for the same purpose.
According to the HEC Chairperson, Dr.Mukhtar Ahmed, the ETC would be a standardised entry test for undergraduate admissions for which the representative university would determine the weightage of the test after the approval from its governing body.
"Initially the council would conduct the test for undergraduate students and later for MS and PhD admissions as well", Dr.Ahmed claimed. The HEC sourced disclosed that the decision of dissociating the NTS was taken on the basis of a judgment passed by the Lahore High Court (LHC) dated January 23, 2014. In the judgment the court had said that the NTS had not been approved by the HEC to act as a testing body under the HEC Ordinance 2002.
In compliance with the said judgment, the HEC decided to divorce the NTS with effect from January 31,2015. According to the HEC sources, the existing arrangements between both the bodies would only applicable till the said date and it would not sign any further agreement/arrangement.
While talking to this scribe, the NTS spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed, said that actually the said court's judgment went against the HEC, adding that the court was annoyed over the HEC for not creating its own testing service. Ahmed said that it was the inefficiency of the HEC that failed to constitute its testing service despite the fact that it has the recognition of hundreds of universities and DAIs.
On the other hand, HEC spokesperson Aayesha Ikram, says that earlier the universities were not bound to conduct the tests for their admissions in MPhil and PhDs programmes while after the said announcement all the universities shall be bound to conduct tests for this purpose. However, she said, they have an open option in the selection of the testing bodies, adding that these can be the NTS as well.It would be up to them," she adds.
She did not reply clearly, when asked about the dual policy of the HEC.
Moreover, some public sector universities are not conducting tests for the students for the purpose of admissions. For example, Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi (PMAS-AAUR) is one of such institutions.
An official of the PMAS-AAUR who was not authorised to speak to the press confirmed that the university did not rely on any testing body for admissions in all disciplines. The official says the PMAS-AAUR had its own criteria for admissions. "The university uses GAT test just for PhD admissions", he added.
Vice Chancellor PMAS-AAUR Dr Rai Niaz Ahmad confirmed the above statement. "Although the university is bound to follow the HEC directions, but we have prescribed standards and policies in this regard".
Dr Ahmed also said that the NTS was also creation of HEC and now the commission itself intended to dissociate the entity, adding that "our country policy making institutions should think deeply before formation of any policy".