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‘Admissions row’ puts future of 400 medical students in Punjab at stake

A tussle between two private medical and dental colleges and the University of Health Sciences (UHS) has put the future of nearly 400 students at stake when the former reportedly rejected the central admission policy of the Punjab government for MBBS/BDS in both public and private sector medical institutions of the province.

The situation got complicated after Azra Naheed Medical College and Azra Naheed Dental College in defiance of the government’s policy refused the 200 students [admitted by the UHS] to join the institutions.

Both the institutions are the constituent colleges of the Superior University, Lahore.

There were reports that the above-mentioned colleges have separately conducted admission of 200 students allegedly in violation of the policy.

Affiliating varsity refuses to admit students cleared by UHS; claims process conducted as per PMDC rules

These were the only two out of total 49 private sector colleges of Punjab which rejected the government policy and completed admissions against 150 MBBS and 50 BDS seats.

Some senior medics feared that if the central admission policy was enforced in letter and spirit, the future of the students admitted separately by the two colleges would be at stake at any future stage as the PMDC may refuse to grant them registration for the practice.

Similarly, they said, the future of the 200 other students admitted by the UHS for two private medical and dental colleges is also at risk as they are still awaiting admissions to the two institutes.

A senior official told Dawn that recently the Punjab government constituted a high-powered committee with directions to the chief secretary to hold meetings to resolve the issue.

Chaired by the chief secretary, the committee held its first meeting where the secretaries of law, health, higher education commission, Punjab caretaker health minister, UHS vice chancellor and other officers were present. The private university was represented by its pro-rector, dean and principal of the constituent colleges.

During the meeting, the UHS VC and the government representatives briefed the CS that the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PMDC) is the central regulatory authority for medical and dental education in Pakistan and the Section 17(3) of Act ibid empowers the provincial governments to conduct admission into public and private sector medical and dental colleges as per policy forward by the respective governments.

A copy of the UHS’ presentation submitted in the meeting, the relevant documents of the PMDC and the Punjab health department were also available with Dawn.

The meeting was told that the Punjab caretaker cabinet approved and notified the admission policy for MBBS and BDS for the session 2023 on Sept 27 the same year.

Under the policy, the UHS has been authorised to conduct MBBS/BDS admissions to both public and private colleges in Punjab.

Consequently, the Punjab government declared the UHS the “admitting university”, on July 5, 2023 to conduct medical & dental college admission test (MDCAT) for academic session 2023-24.

“Following this, the UHS advertised the admission of both private and public sector colleges and a total of 10,397 applications were received for 4,000 MBBS seats in 32 private medical colleges and 1,025 BDS seats in 17 private dental colleges in Punjab”, reads the document.

Soon after the notification of admission policy, Pakistan Association of Private Medical and Dental Institutions (PAMI), a body representing private sector colleges in the country, initiated a campaign against the centralised admissions in private sector colleges in Punjab.

However, it said, the MDCAT 2023 was successfully conducted in Punjab on Sept 10 last year, in which a total of 65,221 candidates appeared.

Following the process, the first college-wise selection list for private sector institutions was released on Jan 8, 2024, as per notified schedule.

A total of 200 candidates (150 MBBS and 50 BDS) were placed in Azra Naheed Medical College and Azra Naheed Dental College, Lahore.

When these candidates approached the colleges, their administrations refused to accept the joining.

To protect the right of these meritorious candidates, the UHS accepted the joining of 104 candidates in the first list, 127 candidates in the second list displayed on Jan 15 and 143 candidates in the third list issued on Jan 22, 2024.

The UHS constantly communicated the issue to the Punjab health department and the PMDC vide letters issued on Jan 9, 11, 18, 19 and 25, according to the document.

In any case, the admission of these 200 candidates to Azra Naheed Medical College and Azra Naheed Dental College poses a challenge to the Punjab government as an immediate decision regarding the fate of these students is, therefore, necessary, the UHS told the meeting.

On the other hand, the Superior University rejected the allegations saying the UHS itself committed violations of the PMDC Act 2022 and PMDC Regulations 2023.

A spokesperson for the private university said this transgression is being taken in the form of so-called “central induction policy,” within the meaning of misuse of power against institutions diligently adhering to the PMDC Act 2022 and PMDC Regulations 2023.

He said Azra Naheed Medical College and Azra Naheed Dental College strictly adhered to the stipulations outlined in the PMDC Act, PMDC regulations, and policy guidelines set forth by their affiliating university – Superior University, Lahore.

Following the PMDC regulations of 2023, both the colleges, with the approval of the university’s admission committee, diligently fulfilled necessary formalities and disseminated comprehensive guidelines, including the fee structure, on their website on Sept 1, 2023 as per section 4(5) of the regulations.

Applications were invited subsequent to the declaration of the MDCAT result, in accordance with Section 5 (5) of the regulations.

He added that the online portal for applications was opened on Sept 10, 2023. The response was significant, with 590 applications received for the MBBS programme. Pursuant to the requirements of the affiliating university – Superior University – and in consonance with section 17(3) of PMDC Act 2022, each candidate was mandated to pass the admission test, which was conducted on Sept 30, 2023.

A total of 439 candidates participated in the test. Subsequently, interviews were conducted from Dec 18 to Dec 20, assessing candidates’ mental alertness and resilience, with 321 candidates making an appearance in the interviews.

The admission committee formulated the list comprising all successful candidates of the admission test as per the criteria of PMDC referred to above at paragraph 4 (section 5 (10) of the regulations) and published the provisional merit list of 260 candidates before Jan 15, 2024, in accordance with Section 5(10) of the regulations, against the available 150 seats.

“Our admission process maintained transparency in accordance with the provisions of Section 3(2), 4(5), 4(8), and 5 of the PMDC regulations of 2023 and Section 17 (3) of the PMDC Act 2022”, the spokesperson said.

The admission process is now complete, and this matter is a transaction passed and closed, he said adding that 150 medical and 50 BDS students have been admitted and are continuing their academics in the college and their list is attached.

“It should be noted that our colleges bear no responsibility for admissions conducted by UHS, as we neither hold affiliation nor are a constituent college of the UHS and as per law our affiliating university is Superior University”, the spokesman claims.

Furthermore, none of the candidates being touted by UHS completed the private university’s admission process, including online portal applications and participation in admission tests/interviews, so no responsibility lies on private varsity’s shoulders.

It is also worth mentioning that UHS did not follow this practice and changed the merit lists multiple times in the guise of upgrade/ transfer of candidates from one college to another through fake lists generated against the seats of Azra Naheed Medical College and Azra Naheed Dental College.

Both institutions have conducted their procedures transparently, inviting applications through an online portal.

Similarly, students who did not apply through the designated portal nor participated in admission tests of the colleges concerned are not eligible to seek admission, the spokesperson for the private university declares.

Title : ‘Admissions row’ puts future of 400 medical students in Punjab at stake
Author : Daily Dawn
Type : News
Role Performer : Corporate Author
Subject : Medical & Dental College Admission Test
Publisher : Daily Dawn
Publication Place : Lahore
Date : 2024-02-15
Language : English