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EDITORIAL: Future of some 400 prospective medical students hangs in the balance because of a row between two private medical and dental colleges affiliated with the Superior University, Lahore, and the University of Health Sciences (UHS). The trouble started last September when the Punjab caretaker government changed the MBBS/BDS admissions policy — a prerogative of elected governments — for all public and private medical institutions in the province, authorising the UHS to conduct admission tests for the academic year 2023-24. Consequently, admission notices were advertised and 10,397 applications processed for 4,000 MBBS and 1,025 BDS seats.

Out of a total of 49 private and public sector colleges only those two dissented, and went ahead to complete admissions on their own against 150 MBBS and 50 BDS seats. It may be mentioned that when the issue first cropped up the government had constituted a high-level committee headed by the chief secretary and comprising secretaries of all relevant departments. The committee held a meeting with the vice chancellor as well as other representatives of the fussy university to resolve the issue, but did not pursue it any further on being informed that the caretaker cabinet had approved and notified the new admissions policy.

Although just two private colleges decided to disregard it, soon after the notification of new admissions policy, Pakistan Association of Private Medical and Dental Institutions started a campaign against the centralised admissions in the province’s private sector colleges — generally believed to be about protecting a special interest, i.e., charging hefty fees.

Technically speaking, the interim administration was right in making the changes it made since the relevant rules empower provincial governments to regulate admissions as well as the fee structure. Nonetheless, the colleges in question insist that they had strictly adhered to the PMDC’s regulations of 2023, and with the approval of their university’s admissions committee fulfilled the requisite formalities and also disseminated necessary information together with the fee structure on their website.

On the other hand, pointing out that in consonance with section 17 (3) of the PMDC Act, 2022, each candidate was mandated to pass the admission test, they have alleged that the candidates selected by the UHS did not complete the private university’s admission process, including inviting applications on an online portal; and more importantly, the candidates’ participation in admission tests/interviews. Another contention is that the UHS changed the merit lists multiple times using the pretext of upgrade/transfer of candidates from one college to another. That though seems to be perfectly understandable since the seats are assigned on overall merit basis, and hence can change.

The sufferers in this unsavoury dispute are some 400 students. The Superior University says the matter is now a past and closed transaction.

This leaves 200 candidates selected by the UHS out in the cold whilst the ones admitted by the two colleges face the risk, down the line, of PMDC’s refusal to grant them registration as certified medical practitioners. It is imperative therefore that the government urgently resolve the issue and also sort out the confusion about the existing regulatory rules and regulations, causing unnecessary anguish and anxiety to so many deserving candidates for medical education.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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