Will GAT be still valid if HEC devolves?

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LAHORE – With the prospects of Higher Education Commission (HEC)’s devolution in view, university students are puzzled over the validity of the General Assessment Test (GAT), a requirement for admissions in MPhil and the HEC scholarship schemes, Pakistan Today has learnt. GAT test is conducted by the National Testing Service (NTS). Thousands of students from all over the country, intending to do Mphil, appeared in the test on Sunday and expressed their concern over the validity of GAT if HEC devolves. They were unclear about their future and claimed that they were already upset over the contents of the GAT test and now a possible devolution of the HEC was adding to their miseries.
Students were of the view that NTS’ performance was exemplary and a central authority should stick with GAT in order to ensure transparency in the admission process. Students said NTS needed to revisit the contents of GAT because the social sciences and arts students also had to go through mathematics, which was not related to their future academics.
HEC ONLY HIRES NTS: The HEC demands to clear GAT to apply for the Mphil or MS leading to PHD after completing 16 years of education in any recognised varsity, whereas universities also practice their own criteria to admit the students.
HEC Assistant Director Bashir Muhmmad told Pakistan Today that NTS did not work under HEC, but it just hires its services for the admission qualification. He said that if HEC devolves then it would be a prerogative of the concerned provincial authority whether to hire the services of NTS or not. He also admitted that the students will suffer in that case. He was of the view that the pre-requisite for the admission in MPhil or the HEC scholarship schemes will be in the hands of provincial authorities which may raise questions about their academic standings in the varsities of other provinces. He said that NTS’ services were hired to ensure transparency in admissions and a single system throughout the country.
STUDENTS’ WOES: Students claim that they used to appear in single GAT to apply at any varsity all over the country, but now they would have to go through more than one test if HEC devolves. A student, Dawood, who intends to do Mphil and appeared in the GAT few days ago, said that he was unclear about his future.
He feared that the devolution of HEC could change the policies of provincial authorities on the last minute. He claimed that HEC has already closed the scholarship schemes and now the fate of GAT is uncertain. Students said that the issue must be addressed above the politics. They said the students were unclear that the pre-requisites displayed at HEC’s website would remain or not.
VARSITIES CONCERNED: According to the varsities’ sources the number of MPhil applicants has been increased by many times over the years owing to the importance of the degree, and now if the pre-requisites alter then not only the students would suffer but the varsity would also have to reform the admission procedure.