ISLAMABAD: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has banned enrollments in MPhil and PhD programmes in 13 universities, which offer distance learning programmes for failing to meet the basic quality standards set by the commission.
A letter from HEC Consultant of Quality Assurance Division Muhammad Ismail sent recently to universities states, “Further admissions in any of the distance education programs being offered by universities are stopped immediately till finalisation of recommendation by the committee.”
It further directs that students enrolled in MS\MPhil\PhD programmes be shifted to regular discipline of universities without any further loss of their studies. The faculty required for their adjustment be ensured as per HEC guidelines. The decision, which is likely to impact about 4,000 students, lays bare the evident shortcoming in the academic system at the highest level of degree programmes in distance learning.
The HEC media section said that the current step of stopping programmes offered through distance education directorates was taken on the basis of noncompliance of the universities to the HEC guidelines. “In some cases, universities have not even got approval of their own statutory bodies,” said the commission’s media section.
It further states that the expert committee, which conducted physical visits and reviewed documentation, concluded that these universities lacked adequate faculty.
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According to the HEC figures, there are about 70,000 students enrolled across the country in distance learning programs and several universities have been found violating the rules besides being recipients to benefits of weak HEC policies about distance learning and proper approval of their own statutory bodies.
The universities also lacked integration of Information and Communications Technology in terms of instructional mode and that the attendance was being marked on weekend with no application of online systems to make processes transparent.
The universities on which the notification will apply are: International Islamic University, Islamabad; Virtual Campus, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad, University of Peshawar, Peshawar; Gomal University, Dera Ismail Khan; Government College University, Faisalabad; University of Agriculture, Faisalabad; The University of Faisalabad; Islamia University, Bahawalpur; Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan; Sukkur IBA; Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur; University of Sindh, Jamshoro and University of Balochistan, Quetta.
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At present, HEC has no consolidated policy on distance learning and assesses the quality of these programmes on the rules and regulations set for the institutions imparting regular higher education. The HEC website has nothing about distance learning except the basic definition under which institutions could function. The hyperlinks on the same page have only one PDF document of 2003, which has some details.
However, the HEC recently framed a new policy for the distance education and also sought observations and feedback regarding the new measures. It has not yet been approved by the commission as its members are not complete.
HEC has formulated a policy expert committee from different universities, including members from Allama Iqbal International Open University Islamabad and Virtual University, which provides complete procedure for imparting knowledge and assessing learning outcomes.