A National Assembly panel has censured the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the Comsats Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) for failing to sort out the dual degree programme issue of the university.
The NA Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which met at the Parliament on Wednesday, was chaired by Opposition Leader Kursheed Shah.
HEC Chairperson Dr Mukhtar Ahmed briefed members about the dual degree programme initiated by the CIIT Lahore campus in 2010 in collaboration with the Lancaster University (LU), UK, without the commission’s permission.
Ahmed said that the programme was launched after a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed with LU. “The HEC was informed about the programme on October 13 and 28, 2009 and as per the MoU, it was an obligation upon the CIIT to obtain approval from the HEC and its respective governing bodies by January 1, 2011, otherwise, the agreement would stand null and void,” he said.
“But the university went ahead with new enrolments and awarding degrees to graduating students till 2014,” he said.
Since the CIIT never took the NOC from the commission, the Pakistan Engineering Council or its board of governors (BoG), the MoU stands null and void.
A detailed dossier of correspondence between the HEC and the institute was also shared with the PAC members. Ahmed also shared email replies of former HEC officers and the former chairperson.
While quoting figures provided by the CIIT, Ahmed said for local engineering course the CIIT charges Rs 694,000 fee which is less than Rs 1.4 million for LU degree programme. He said that in total, the Comsats charged £3.6 million from the students from 2010 to 2015 for giving them the foreign degree.
While talking about solutions to the problem, he said the HEC has offered award of a joint degree from the CIIT and the LU or a singular degree of the CIIT or the LU along with a joint transcript dually singed by both local and professional accreditation councils.
Ahmed also said that the university has been suggested one year master’s programme for those who got themselves enrolled for the programme but did not get the degree. “LU professors can come and teach them for a year as compensation,” he suggested, adding that otherwise they return the extra money charged from students.
Responding to this, PAC member Sheikh Rohail Asghar told the HEC chief why in his personal tussle with the CIIT rector, students were made to suffer.
“The programme started in 2010 and the HEC informs them about the wrongdoing in 2013 or so, why this much delay,” he asked curtly. “Do not spoil the future of the children,” he said, requesting the committee chairperson to invite all stakeholders in the next meeting to resolve the issue once for all.
To this, the HEC chief said that it was a principled stance and an academic issue and not a personal one and the CIIT was consistently communicated about the anomaly.
PAC member Mehmood Khan Achakzai asked Ahmed why the violation was not brought to his knowledge when the HEC was an autonomous body under the prime minister.
Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho said the issue should be resolved as soon as possible as the students’ future was at stake.
Shah said that since the CIIT rector was absent and the pro-rector unwell, the issue will be further discussed in the next meeting on October 8.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2015.