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ISLAMABAD: The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) has announced new policies for PhD admissions and undergraduate education.

The HEC has prescribed standards for launching PhD programs, and universities must obtain the HEC's approval by submitting evidence of compliance with these standards before launching a PhD program.

Under the new policy for PhD admissions, students can apply for PhD directly after four years of the BS programme. The 12-page HEC policy document, applicable from January 1, 2021, reads that a BS degree, or equivalent, will be the minimum criteria for PhD admission.

The maximum duration of a PhD degree will be eight years, with the minimum being three years.

Further, the proposed policy said the previous qualification in the same discipline shall not be required for admission to the PhD program.

According to a new policy, a student pursuing a PhD will have to take up a course load of 48 credit hours.

The policy states that in case of non-implementation or violation, action can be initiated such as "warning to universities, suspension of admissions, suspension or revocation of NOC for admissions, public alert and non-verification of credentials".

The minimum requirement for admission to a PhD program shall be completion of the BS (or equivalent) degree.

To avoid confusion, it is clarified that this and the remaining criteria in this section are only minimum requirements, and universities are free to establish their own admissions framework that may vary by discipline, provided it satisfies the minimum conditions set forth in this section. Keeping in view that doctoral studies are intended to be rigorous and demanding, universities need to ensure that entrants to doctoral programs are capable of handling the academic rigor required to complete a PhD degree.

Further, in admitting students to PhD programs, this policy encourages admissions committees to take a substantive approach to ascertain (a) applicants' commitment (or level of interest) in pursuing the PhD program and (b) their preparedness in terms of previous academic training that will enable them to succeed in the program.

Prior to entry into a PhD program, the student shall have been awarded his or her BS/MS/MPhil or equivalent degrees. For admission in PhD programs, a minimum CGPA of 3.0 (out of 4.0 in the semester system) or First Division (in the annual system) in the most recent degree obtained is required, whether such was degree obtained from Pakistani or foreign universities. The PhD degree shall be awarded by universities after a minimum of three (3) years and not more than eight (8) years after the enrolment of the student; provided that for students who are unable to complete the program within eight (8) years, the university may designate a competent authority to determine whether the delay was caused by circumstances beyond the student's control, and if so, grant an extension in such exceptional circumstances; provided further that in no event shall the PhD degree be awarded more than ten (10) years after the enrolment of the student in the program.

The date of notification of the award of the PhD degree subsequent to the PhD defense shall be considered to be the date of the completion of PhD studies.

The undergraduate education policy provides objectives and policy for education programs leading to the Bachelor of Studies Degree (BS), professional degrees, and the associate degree (AD).

The overall objective of the policy is to enhance the likelihood of student success.

Specific objectives include competency-based learning, balance between breadth and depth, specialisation, applied knowledge, terminal degree.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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