islamabad - Higher Education Commission (HEC) is set to formally conduct the first aptitude test for admissions in undergraduate programs of universities; however, it has sought the support of institutions for the successful launch, an official said on Wednesday.

All the vice chancellors, rectors and heads of public and private universities have been formally notified seeking their confirmation on allowing HEC-backed ‘Education Testing Council’ (ETC) to arrange the test during the fall semester of this year.

The HEC testing service will be free-of-cost for students and will arrange admission test in five categories while the registration process will be online, the official added.

The notification issued in this regard stated, “As announced at the ETC commencement ceremony and approved in first meeting of the council held on May 06, 2017, the ETC will be launching tests for admission to undergraduate programs from Fall 2017, during first half of July 2017 initially in five broad categories viz. engineering, medical, basic & natural sciences, management sciences and social sciences, arts and humanities.

The tests would be conducted by ETC in all major cities of Pakistan within higher education institutions in most professional and transparent manner, registration process will be online and choice will be given to students for selection of test centre.”

Meanwhile, HEC has also sought the support of institutions in adoption of the ETC along with adoption of the testing service. HEC has also asked universities to nominate a focal person and provide infrastructure facilities in the institutions.

The notification also said, “HEC seeks your kind and urgent support to confirm adoption of the ETC Aptitude Test for admission to undergraduate programs from fall 2017 in your institution.

HEC also solicit support of the university in authorizing use of university infrastructure and services for conducting the tests and will appreciate your nominating a responsible focal person for future direct contact in the matter.”

HEC has addressed the institutions that in pursuance of the powers vested under Section-1091) (n) of the Higher Education Commission Ordinance, HEC has established ‘Education Testing Council’ (ETC) w.e.f January 25, 2017.

The initiative was undertaken on the advice of the government of Pakistan to relieve students and their parents from taking multiple recruitment tests and charge of fee for each test separately, and providing free-of-cost, uniform, standardised, competitive and accessible assessment tests for admission to universities and degree awarding institutions across Pakistan.

Since commencement of the council, the ETC has successfully conducted tests for over 100,000 students for different HEC’s indigenous and overseas scholarship programs, states the letter.

Meanwhile, academic circles have expressed their concerns on the launch of testing service by HEC.

Talking to The Nation, a Vice Chancellor (VC) who wished anonymity declared the launch of testing service a clean violation of HEC Act after the decision of Lahore High Court (LHC), which directed the regulatory body to work under Council of Common Interest (CCI).

“HEC is overstepping from its constitutional role and interference in the autonomy of the universities by directing them to must adopt this service in given time,” he said.

He said it will not be possible for universities to adopt the service in such less time.

“Conducting free-of-cost test is a positive step but it could have been done through universities,” he said.

Dr Shehzad Ashraf, President Islamabad chapter, Federation All Pakistan University Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) said that HEC is taking such steps only to consolidate more power; however, its role has been limited after the 18th amendment.

“It is not HEC’s responsibility to select and shortlist the students for universities,” said Dr Shehzad.

He also stated HEC would take the admission testing fee from government and would have given the funds to universities to conduct such tests free-of-cost.

Earlier, National Testing Service (NTS) had also expressed concerns over the launch of ETC declaring it against the mandate of HEC.

However, students are encouraging the ‘free-of-cost’ service as they do not have to pay for admission tests repeatedly.