Following the government’s decision to dissolve the Higher Education Commission (HEC), the core functions of degree recognition, equivalence and attestation are to be shifted to a new commission which will be constituted under the cabinet division, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The federal government has decided to constitute a separate division under the cabinet division to deal with all federal departments. The proposed commission would also have the power to recognise the new universities mushrooming all over the country. The move could allow universities that do not presently meet the existing criteria to get themselves recognised and accredited. Already, many such cases have been blocked by the HEC as the institutes lack the required faculty, libraries, internet connectivity and are housed in a few rooms.
It is generally believed that by granting recognition to such institutes, the degrees granted by all universities in Pakistan would become suspect.
Some sources were of the view that the shift of HEC degree recognition and attestation functions to the cabinet division has little to do with devolution and everything to do with parliamentarians who hold fake degrees.
The HEC attests more than 200,000 educational documents each year and every Pakistani going for work abroad must have their degrees attested by the HEC, which is recognised by the entire world as a fair and impartial body. The HEC is a board member of the Asia Pacific Quality Network and is a member of Quality Assurance Agencies of the World. These memberships have to be earned and are not transferable.
Some experts believe that due to the creation of a new commission, all degrees issued by Pakistani institutions would not be internationally accepted at face value despite any ‘stamp’ issued by the new body. This is because the world is carefully following the fake degree scandal of Pakistani parliamentarians and can see what the HEC’s dissolution entails.
The HEC is an autonomous body that reports directly to the prime minister (PM) instead of a division. Two-thirds of its members are appointed by the PM from a panel of eminent academics. These members are appointed for terms spanning four years and may not be removed, save on proven charges of corruption, inefficiency or permanent disability. This structure is what gives the HEC autonomy and allows it to pursue its function with merit and rule of law as the only arbiters.
The autonomous nature of the HEC was the reason that allowed the it to defy pressure to verify degrees of parliamentarians that did not meet the strict standards of verification set by the commission.
Sources said that without autonomy, a new commission would then, presumably, rapidly clear the backlog of unverified degrees.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2011.