The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has suspended admissions for MPhil and PhD distance learning programmes administered by 13 universities over the latter's failure to meet various quality standards set by the commission.
The HEC's decision will impact nearly 4,000 students.
"Further admissions in any of the distance education programmes being offered by universities are stopped immediately till finalisation of recommendation[s] by the committee," read a missive sent to the varsities by HEC Quality Assurance Division Consultant Muhammad Ismail.
After conducting physical visits and reviewing documents, a committee of HEC experts concluded that the 13 universities lacked adequate faculty to run the MPhil and PhD programmes, the statement read.
"In some cases, [the] universities have not even got [sic] approval of their own statutory bodies," read the statement. It also accused some varsities of violating rules and taking advantage of "weak HEC policies about distance learning".
One of the other complaints was that the universities had failed to integrate information and communications technology (ICT) in their coursework; another, that a lack of transparency was evident from the marking of attendance of students.
The commission has directed the universities to shift the students already enrolled in the affected programmes to other disciplines in order to prevent any losses to their studies.
The institutions whose distance learning programmes have been suspended are:
International Islamic University, Islamabad
Virtual Campus of Comsats Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad
University of Peshawar, Peshawar
Gomal University, Dera Ismail Khan
Government College University, Faisalabad
University of Agriculture, Faisalabad
University of Faisalabad
Islamia University, Bahawalpur
Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan
Sukkur IBA University
Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur
University of Sindh, Jamshoro
University of Balochistan, Quetta