ISLAMABAD: Like other public sector institutions, the menace of corruption has also been seeping into institutes of higher education.
With International Anti-Corruption Day being marked on December 9 (today), it can be noted that many financial scams have surfaced in various universities in the last few years and the Higher Education Commission’s (HEC’s) efforts to curb corruption at the higher education level have failed to yield the desired results.
In July this year, the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (FUUAST) was rocked by scam when it was unearthed that five employees in its Islamabad campus illegally transferred Rs150 million to a private account.
The employees accused of being behind the scam were suspended for their alleged involvement, but academics continue to be disrupted by their sit-ins on campus. They claim they were falsely implicated in the case.
Last week, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials probing the case reportedly took up issues in the investigation with the vice chancellor, registrar and other officials at the Karachi campus.
Similarly, a few years ago the Punjab University (PU) administration unearthed a scam of over Rs6 million, when it was found that the amount was paid as “advance salary” to some faculty members and employees of the varsity’s Hailey College of Commerce. One of the faculty members managed to get a Rs1.85 million advance.
Pakistan still lacks any set procedures to probe or discourage corruption at universities.
Recently, the HEC joined hands with NAB to root out the menace at the higher education level by conducting awareness seminars and lectures, besides including anti-corruption narratives in the curriculum.
The two bodies are also holding a speech contest titled “say no to corruption” at HEC headquarters on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the mushroom growth of sub-campuses of various universities without non-objection certificate across Pakistan has also become a headache for the HEC.
Most of the sub-campuses lack proper faculties, labs and other facilities, yet they continue to enroll students.
Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi has opened a sub-campus the Barani Institute of Management without taking an NOC from the HEC. FUUAST Faisalabad campus has also been established without an NOC.
A Unesco’s report from 2007 titled “Corrupt schools, corrupt universities: What can be done?” says that education in the world is plagued by rigged calls for tenders, embezzlement, illegal registration fees and academic fraud, among other corrupt practices. “Academic fraud is considered a serious fraud to the integrity and reliability of certification in higher education, leading to skepticism as to the validity of results and suspicion about real performance,” the report stated.
Other forms of corruption, including illegal appointments, plagiarism, low-quality research work and output, and misuse of funds, have also been uncovered at various higher education institutes in the recent past.
Lahore University of Management Sciences Associate Prof Faisal Bari said that there was a need to “reintroduce the ethics and values that we enshrined a decade or so ago”.
HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmad said that there was a lot to be done to root out corruption at the higher education level. He urged universities to improve transparency in financial matters and staff recruitment.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2014.