The Sindh Higher Education Commission (HEC) has for the first time, approved the inspection and grading of the province’s private universities, with similar intentions for public institutions in the near future. Meanwhile, the ongoing ranking process of formerly inspected private universities has also been brought to a stop, in connection to the aforementioned development.
The decisions recommended to private universities and degree awarding institutes by the Charter Inspection and Evaluation Committee were approved at a meeting of the Sindh Higher Education Commission, which took place on Friday and was chaired by the Sindh HEC Chairperson Dr Asim Hussain.
The charter committee had recommended that inspections of private universities were likely to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, despite the completion of the inspection, the recent ranking of private universities should be stopped and all private universities should not be ranked on the basis of inspections for the last three years.
On the other hand, it was also recommended to the HEC to inspect both, public and private universities, but the varsities were to be collectively graded per the grading style of private universities i.e. in form of categories instead of rankings.
Furthermore, according to HEC sources, a 190-page proforma has been approved in the commission’s meeting. It will form the basis of inspection and grading of private and public universities and the Charter Inspection and Evaluation Committee will inform the universities about the said decisions of the commission respectively.
Inspection and Evaluation Committee Chairperson Dr Tariq Rafi, while acknowledging the aforesaid decisions and explaining the underlying reasons said, “ The Charter Inspection Committee had inspected most of the private universities and certifying institutions in Sindh before the outbreak of Covid-19. Only four private universities, Iqra University, Ziauddin Medical University, Indus University and the Institute of Technology remained. Their inspections could not take place for almost a year-and-a-half due to the closure of educational institutions during the lockdowns. However, when these four institutions were visited, the academic situation in the educational institutions had changed. Classes were online, physical students were not present, and neither was the required number of faculty was not present on campus, due to which some components could not be tested. So if we rank these institutions with other universities without said components, that wouldn’t be fair to these institutions.”
Now that the inspection process for all private universities has been completed, Dr Rafi believes it’s time to start sending letters to inform the universities about their assessed strengths and weaknesses. “We will however not rank them anymore,” the chairperson commented.
Explaining the reason for deciding against issuing rankings, Rafi said that it is generally observed that when private universities are given a rank, they tend to misuse it at the time of admissions, which is not the purpose. “Higher Education Commission Islamabad has also ended issuing rankings for the last several years. With the approval of HEC, we will now rank and add different grades and will add universities in it on the basis of their performance, which will not be misused,” he added.
Sources privy to the development, officials at the HEC and the charter committee, however, are yet to decide whether public universities will be inspected by a team of already notified vice-chancellors or if experts from the private sector will be included. The confusion stems from the current standard, it is a team of representatives from public universities who inspect private universities, but the change in inspection and grading protocols has opened the question for debate.
Also under consideration is the question of whether Sindh’s public universities would affirm to the idea of individuals from private universities being included in the inspection of public universities, considering most heads of private universities tend to receive their education from public institutions.
That being said, it should be noted that the Charter Inspection and Evaluation Committee now falls under the Sindh Higher Education Commission, with Dr Tariq Rafi as is its new permanent head and Dr Asim Hussain as chairperson. Earlier, this committee was under the Sindh governor and its former chairperson Dr Qadeer Rajput was appointed by the governor Dr Ishratul Ebad, only for his tenure to once again be extended by the Sindh cabinet to the same post.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2021..
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