LAHORE: The Punjab government on Thursday constituted an eight-member reforms committee to address grievances of the association of the private universities.

The government announced the reforms committee on private sector universities would solve all the issues of accreditation and unauthorised sub-campuses.

Punjab Minister for Higher Education Raja Yasir Humayun Sarfraz, Association of Private Universities of Punjab President Chaudhry Abdul Rehman, University of South Asia Vice Chancellor Mian Imran Masood, University of Lahore Rector Awais Rauf and Higher Education Department (HED) Secretary Sajid Zafar Dall jointly held a press conference at the DGPR office.

The minister said the committee would consist of four members from the private sector and four members both from the Higher Education Department (HED) and the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC).

The minister said the government was in the favour of private universities and without their support they alone could not cope up with the challenge of providing quality education to the youth. He said the government would not compromise the quality of education in both public and private sector universities.

Minister denies taking steps against varsities; says correcting wrongdoing

Mr Sarfraz said the private universities were facing problems regarding laws and regulations in taking approval of their programmes and sub-campuses and the government would address their issues by starting one-window operation. He said the newly-constituted reforms committee would play an important role in solving the issues faced by the private universities.

The minister made it clear that the government was not making any law to punish the private universities and their VCs or administrators but would correct any kind of wrongdoing. He said the private universities would have to implement their charters approved from the assemblies.

Chaudhry Abdul Rehman said the private universities were not asking for any undue favours from the government. Their only demand was that there should be no undue interference from the HED and the PHEC. He said universities should be allowed to work freely, according to their charter, and added that the association would take action on their own against the unapproved campuses.

Quoting their meeting with the minister and the secretary, he said there was a misunderstanding between the HED and the association about the unauthorised sub-campuses and the misunderstanding had been removed.

A senior officer, on condition of anonymity, told Dawn the private educational institutions were violating their charter and the department was only regulating them to ensure quality of education in it.

He said most of these educational institutions were established as a trust and were avoiding government taxes and were also not giving any relief in fee to the students. He said these private universities could not be allowed to set their fee structure and establishing new campuses without monitoring and recommendation of the HED.

It is pertinent to mention here that owners of private universities were putting pressure on the government since January this year after the HED declared 23 sub-campuses of seven private sector universities unauthorized and directed them to stop further intake of students at those “illegal” campuses.

Recently, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal had forwarded recommendations of NAB’s Prevention Committee on “Educational institutions offering courses with NOC of HEC and accreditation by the authorities/ bodies” to Chief Minister Usman Buzdar for further necessary action.

The private universities had also recently established a platform under the banner of the Association of Private Universities of Punjab to resist action of HED and PHEC of regularising their programs and sub-campuses.

Earlier, the HED spokesman, in a statement, had clarified that the government had neither stopped any private university from working nor had issued any orders to close down sub-campuses.

He said the HED had sent notices to the unauthorised sub-campuses of private universities for violating their own charter. Recommendations have been given by the Special Committee of Punjab Assembly.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2020