LAHORE: The Higher Education Commission has barred three new public sector medical universities of the province from all kinds of admissions in their postgraduate medical and dental programmes after the Punjab Government failed to pursue the matters with the HEC.
Because of the ban, the postgraduate programmes, including MS, PhD, M Phil etc, have particularly suffered a major blow as these universities have been barred from admitting students for a period of one year (till Nov 2019), besides undergraduate/MBBS students.
The HEC action is being viewed as a punishment for the government for its inability to make the medical universities fully functional. It followed the inspections conducted by the teams comprising senior medical teachers and the commission staff.
These teams have pointed out critical shortcomings in their reports, recommending the Punjab government to address the chronic issues in line with the HEC rules and regulations within stipulated period.
The HEC has issued provisional No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the three varsities, giving a deadline of Nov 2019 to get recognition status from the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PMDC) after addressing the issues pointed out by the inspection teams.
The three universities- Faisalabad Medical University (FMU), Nishtar Medical University (NMU), Multan and the Rawalpindi Medical University (RMU) -were established by the Punjab government in 2017 by upgrading colleges.
An inspection report clearly says that the FMU needs to fulfill all the legal requirements of the PMDC for getting its recognition.
“No admission shall be made under the seal and signature of FMU till the time it is registered/accredited by the PMDC and all the legal requirements of the government of Punjab are fulfilled”, warns the report.
The HEC says that the three medical varsities did not have any constituent medical colleges since their inception, which is mandatory to get recognition under the council rules.
“The requirement of having a constituent medical & dental college as a recognition requirement of the PMDC Ordinance 1962 (Amendment Act 2012 XIX) shall be ensured and the notification of the constituent college shall be issued by the government of the Punjab”, reads the HEC report.
One of the major factors behind the situation was lack of interest on part of the Punjab government in the health and medical education sector of the largest province of the country, said the official.
He said this lack of concern for hundreds of medical students was evident from the fact that no correspondence was initiated by the Punjab health authorities with the two top federal regulatory bodies- the PMDC and the HEC- for the purpose since the Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaf government took charge of the province.
He said that on finding the health authorities unmoved, the vice chancellors of the medical universities themselves took the initiative.
They expressed serious concerns, while writing to the health department, over the sorry state of affairs resulting in critical deficiencies in these varsities and their non-recognition by the PMDC.
The VCs pointed out that since the health department failed to provide them with the constituent colleges for their respective universities, they had to face a ban on admissions to all kinds of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.
In order to avoid further crisis, the FMU administration proposed a dental college in Faisalabad that might be declared a constituent college of the varsity, the official said.
Similarly, he said, the NMU management proposed the Nishtar Institute of Dentistry, Multan, as its constituent college to steer the only varsity in south Punjab out of the crisis.
For the RMU, the health department was proposed to reinstate the Rawalpindi Medical College as its constituent institution.
To the stakeholders’ utter shock, the official said, the VCs proposals, submitted to Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Secretary Mr Saqib Zafar, were “dumped” on the excuse that the matter required consent of the health minister who was busy in other “urgent and important” assignments.
The HEC inspection reports had also pointed out many other flaws that showed the government’s apathy towards the medical universities.
“Since MBBS is a professional discipline, hence, as per practice, the HEC will only verify degrees of those graduates who have been registered with the PMDC as registered medical practitioners”, reads the report.
It also mentioned an acute shortage of faculty, particularly professors and associate professors having PhD qualification- a requirement under the HEC appointment criteria.
The regular key positions like those of registrars, controllers, treasurers etc. were also found vacant.
The HEC has also declared it mandatory for the varsities to obtain an NOC from the Quality Assurance Division for the postgraduate programmes before their launch. It has warned that no admissions shall be allowed till these varsities comply with the recommendations forwarded to the Punjab government.
“The medical universities will be subjected to periodic monitoring by the HEC”, reads the inspection report.