Compromising quality education: Mushrooming illegal varsities go unchecked

HEC plans to hold meeting of all accreditation councils by end of next month.


Riazul Haq January 29, 2015
HEC has issued warning letters to illegal institutions. PHOTO: HEC.GOV.PK

ISLAMABAD: Illegal universities, sub-campuses and colleges continue to grow in the country as the number has now reached 185, while the Higher Education Commission (HEC) warning letters seem to yield no results.

Following devolution and establishment of provincial higher education bodies, Sindh and Punjab have yet to tighten the noose around such institutions.

The practice of teaching of programmes not allowed and illegally upgrading colleges to sub-campuses has reached its peak in the country in the last few years.

To stop this, in April 2014 the Supreme Court also issued notices to nine universities, which had illegally granted affiliation to law colleges outside their territorial jurisdiction.

These universities were reportedly reluctant to furnish information regarding the affiliations to the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC).

A similar situation arose with medical and engineering colleges.

Last week, after the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training sought details about illegal campuses in the country, the HEC shared a comprehensive document, also available with The Express Tribune.

“The HEC has continuously warned all those higher education institutes (HEIs) being involved in violation of its directives and has kept respective provincial governments in the loop,” it said.

The frustrating step for HEC all along has been the establishment of sub-campuses by public-sector universities without getting a no-objection certificate (NOC). Besides, some private universities also consider franchise of a varsity as part of the main university, which HEC treats as new campus.

“Punjab and Khyber-Paktunkhwa governments have shown keen interest in taking action against such HEIs, while Sindh and Balochistan have taken no action,” the document stated.

The HEC has issued 110 directives to 38 universities for fulfillment of prescribed procedures.

Under the rules, a NOC from HEC is required to establish a degree-awarding institute. Upon receiving the request, HEC sends a team to the campus to check whether the institute fulfills criteria vis-à-vis faculty, laboratories and other requirements.

But a number of institutes are flouting rules and churning out ‘graduates’ without the HEC’s approval, which also includes many foreign institutes.

Most of the unapproved campuses are situated in Karachi and Punjab.

A few illegal campuses are also functioning in the capital.

“We write to the relevant provincial government if the main campus was based outside the capital requesting them to take action,” said an official at the Attestation and Accreditation Department, but was clueless as to why the said campuses were running in the federal capital.

The HEC has been issuing public notices in the newspapers, warning parents and students against taking admission at unapproved varsities.

According to the latest figures, the HEC monitoring teams have conducted 118 inspections during the last five years, in which 38 universities, 22 sub-campuses and 20 affiliated colleges were approved.

On the other hand, according to the HEC insiders, about 26 universities’ campuses are violating the rules as they lack sufficient faculty as well as infrastructure. About 13 universities have been told to close their PhD programmes, which do not meet HEC faculty requirements.

By the end of February, HEC plans to hold a meeting of all accreditation councils.

HEC Chairperson Dr Mukhtar Ahmad also told The Express Tribune that action was on the cards against many campuses running MS and MPhil programmes without having fulfilled due requirements.

Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology in Karachi had given an undertaking four years ago that it would restrict law education to its campus in Karachi and will not conduct law classes anywhere else.

However, the university campuses in Lahore and Islamabad are both offering LLB and LLM degrees. The university has also started enrollment without NOCs at sub-campuses in Lahore, Narowal and Sialkot.

University of Central Punjab has exceeded the limit of affiliation of colleges in eight cities.

Moreover, Agriculture University Faisalabad’s campus in Burewala, Punjab University’s sub-campus in Jehlum and other universities are also involved in similar practices.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2015.

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