The Autumn Semester 2021 should start on time, the Association of Private Sector Universities of Pakistan (APSUP) said in a letter to Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood on Thursday.
The letter comes after the government decided to hold exams and not promote students based on school or college assessed grades. Although the education minister has said that Matriculation and Intermediate exams, which are due to begin after June 15, will be given priority and be held first so that university admissions are not delayed, varsities are concerned the Autumn Semester will be pushed to a date later than usual.
“APSUP is an elected representative body of 85 private sector universities with 31 regional campuses having more than 40% students in the higher education sector across Pakistan,” the letter written from the body’s chairman, Dr Ch Abdul Rehman, said.
Since a prolonged closure of higher education institutes with uncertainty about reopening timeframe, the situation has gotten even more stressful with the government’s latest decision about delaying the commencement of Autumn Semester 2021, the chairman said.
“This decision will cause an irreparable loss to students in terms of disrupting their academic journey and resulting in further stress and unrest among them,” Rehman said.
“Further, at the outset of this development, the already troubled financial system of private sector universities is going to [collapse] which is hardly surviving on [its] own without any substantial relief from the government during pandemic,” he said.
By implementing the decision of delaying the commencement of Autumn Semester 2021, it will be impossible to meet recurring financial cost — faculty and staff salaries and operational expenses — because private HEIs depend solely on admissions for their financial sustainability, the letter added.
“Therefore, it is requested that the admission process for the autumn semester 2021 may not be delayed and universities be given permission to open admissions for Autumn Semester 2021 as per their academic schedule,” he wrote.
The chairman urged the education minister to follow the best international practices if it becomes difficult to conduct exams physically during June-July 2021.
Modes such as the school-assessed grades and college-assessed grades sshould be adopted so that students may not further suffer academically and mentally and get a fair opportunity for promotion on the basis of grades secured in internal examinations, he said.
“This step will also be helpful in protecting the students from the deadly 3rd wave of COVID-19 and mental stress as well,” he added.
Board exams to begin after June 15
Mehmood had announced that board exams in Pakistan will commence after June 15, adding that priority will be given to intermediate and matriculation exams.
“Interprovincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC) took place yesterday. It was decided that Board exams would begin after June 15. Intermediate and Matric exams would be given priority so that results can come in before university admissions,” tweeted the minister.
Members of the IPEMC rejected the suggestion to promote students of grades 9 and 11 without exams. They also gave their approval to hold the exams as scheduled in July.
The minister revealed that the government will give priority to exams for grades 12 and 10 followed by grades 11 and 9.