Govt gives HEC 90 days to review education standards
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By Kashif Abbasi | 11/4/2015 12:00:00 AM
ISLAMABAD: The federal government has tasked the Higher Education Commission (HEC) with playing its due role in the improvement of higher education standards in the country.

`The prime minister has given us 90 days to check university standards.

Particularly, the status of sub-campuses and those campuses or institutions that are run under publicprivate partnerships,` HEC chairperson Dr Mukhtar Ahmed said.

As many as 160 illegal degree awarding institutions are currently functioning in the country, and the standards of recognising universities and degree awarding institutions are not particularly encouraging, as many graduates end up working in clerical positions. There are no Pakistani universities in the 100 highest ranked Asian universities.

Following a meeting at the Prime Minister Office, Dr Ahmed addressed a hast11y called press conference at the Press Information Department (PID).

Dr Ahmed said that following a directive from the prime minister, he submitted a detailed report on the Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU) Lahore sub-campus to the PM office on Tuesday, where he met with a team that passed on the prime minister`s directives.

He said the sub-campus, which holds over 9,000 students, was set up without approval from HEC, the BZU syndicate or other concerned departments.

BZU recently disassociated itself from the Lahore sub-campus which panicked students.

On Thursday, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested former BZU vice chancellor Dr Khawaja Algama for his role in setting up the illegal campus. Thousands of students have been protesting the deafbliation, seeking safeguards for their academic future.Taking notice of the protests, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sought a report from the HEC, which was submitted on Tuesday.

`I have been directed to take steps to safeguard the future of BZU Lahore campus` students. At the same time, I was told not to compromise on quality and rules,` Dr Ahmed said.

He added that a fourmember committee, supervised by the HEC executive director, has been asked to propose recommendations to resolve the issue.

`Various options to safeguard the future of students are underway,` he said.

The issue of Comsats dual degree programme has also recently made headlines, and was ultimately resolved when the Public Accounts Committee directed the HEC to attest the Comsats` local degree.

`We have been asked to check the quality and the status of facilities at all public and private universities, and we will review the status of legal and illegal subcampuses,` Dr Ahmed said.

He said that the standards of public and private sector colleges offering degree programmes after being affiliated with other universities will also be reviewed.

Around 3,000 colleges are currently offering degree programmes, however the majority received affiliation without proper monitoring or facilities.

When asked why the HEC did not take action against those running illegal campuses for years, Dr Ahmed said the regulatory authority could not take direct action against universities.

`We are doing what we can we issue parents and students alerts asking students not to enrollin unrecognised institutions.

Dr Ahmed said that following the 90-day drive, the HEC would give out solid recommendations.

`We don`t want to close down institutions. However, as a last resort, we will recommend the closure of those institutions that do not follow regulations,` he said.