LAHORE: The Punjab government has failed to penalise the private sector universities which have illegally set up their sub-campuses because of alleged ‘political influence’.

Twenty-three sub-campuses of private universities are not only functioning without approval of the Chancellor but have also failed to fulfill the minimum criteria of the federal and provincial higher education commissions.

“We want to take action against the private universities for their failure to meet the basic criterion of establishing a sub-campus but they have joined hands and are using their political influence to stop us,” an official source told Dawn on Saturday.

He said by not meeting the government criteria these private varsities had not only been fleecing students at their sub-campuses but also playing with their future (because there is a question mark on their degrees).

He said there was no check on these private institutions in the past and currently the monitoring of their campuses found enormous irregularities and the fact that the future of thousands of students was at stake.

Punjab Minister for Higher Education Raja Yasir Hamayun Sarfraz and Higher Education Department Secretary Sajid Zafar Dall are facing pressure from owners of the private universities and their newly-established association to withdraw orders of stopping further intake of students and implementation of the HEC guidelines. The owners and their vice chancellors had held several meetings with the top brass of the higher education forcing them to withdraw monitoring and implementation of legal matters.

However, Mr Dall denied any pressure and said the meetings were being held with the association to ensure implementation of private Universities Act.

The Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) had decided to discontinue admissions to twenty-three sub-campuses of these private institutions at their meeting on Sept 25, 2019. Out of these 23 illegal sub-campuses, eight were run by the University of Central Punjab (UCP), four each by Superior College and National College of Business Administration and Economics (NCBA&E), three by University of Lahore (UoL), two by Qarshi University and one each by University of Management and Technology (UMT) and Hajvery University.

The sub-campuses are working without the approval of Patron/ Governor in connivance with the Higher Education Commission, Islamabad without observing legal / codal requirements.

The matter surfaced when a member of the Punjab Assembly had submitted an adjournment motion and a Special Committee headed by Law Minister Raja Basharat ordered the HED to conduct probe. A team led by Additional Secretary (Universities) Usman Khalid Khan visited the UoL’s sub-campus at Gujrat on Dec 10 last and found that it was working without approval from the Chancellor/ Patron. The campus also did not meet the minimum academic, management and legal requirements of government policy and was offering educational programmes that were not being offered on their main campuses.

The Special Committee also found that 20 sub-campuses of other private universities were also working without approval on rented/ leased premises in a franchise mode and the lease deeds were not registered.

According to a report available with Dawn, the sub-campuses of private universities were stopped from further intake of students for not following and implementing the HEC guidelines. The guidelines include campuses located in one city of a private university will be considered collectively as one unit for the application of the criteria. However, the campuses of a private university located in other cities would be treated as a new institution.

The title of land should be in the name of sponsoring body as per criteria of the HED policy 2006. It further states, at least six full-time teachers per department are mandatory, out of them one professor and one associate professor should be PhD holder whereas federal HEC prescribed assistant professors should also be PhD degree holders. Any degree-awarding institution of higher education having four or more departments (out of which one should be in Basic Sciences) will be eligible for grant of character for a university.

Teacher-student ratio (desirable) 1:12 maximum for science subjects involving lab work and 1:20 for others while number of administrative staff for labs, library and other miscellaneous duties should also be equal to teaching staff. Journal and books include subscription to at least 15 current journals of international repute with impact factor of at least 100 and at least 1,500 books from major international publishers in relevant field.

Hall/Lecture theaters (desirable) 12 to 15 sq ft per student and number of rooms required (desirable) 2 lecture rooms per department, one seminar room, one library cum reading room and one committee room.

The gross area required for establishing university is at least 10 acre and other general facilities include office staff rooms, cafeteria, reading room, committee room, conference room, housing for staff, hostel, parking space and toilets. The university will give scholarships to 10 per cent of the students and 10 per cent of the institutional budget will be specified for research.

As per HEC guidelines, a university will require Rs50 million endowment fund, Rs50 million working capital and Rs100 million tangible assets.

The official sources claimed that the private universities had not conducted independent audit into the affairs of these trusts (varsities). They said federal HEC was facing problems in attestation of degrees of these universities because first there was no confirmation about legality of these private campuses and second, these campuses had not ever provided their student enrollment and degree completion details.

They said the PHEC had written letters time and again to these private universities to get details of enrollment and number of degrees awarded to the students but to no avail. They said the department was considering the administrative aspect of the matter in order to safeguard the interest of already enrolled students in the unauthorised sub-campuses and to adjust them at recognised universities both in public as well as private sector.

Speaking about the quality of education, they said no private university of the province was listed in top 1,000 universities ranking in the world.

University of South Asia Vice Chancellor Mian Imran Masood (who is the Association of Private Universities of Punjab spokesperson) told Dawn that both government and private sector were working under a sub-committee to remove irregularities in the sub-campuses and soon a new law would be introduced to fix the matter once and for all.

He said the government had admitted some of their reservations about delay in starting new programmes and would start one-window operation for it. He said the universities would implement their charters and guidelines of the HEC, the PHEC and the HED.

“Already the sub-campuses had stopped intake of the students and they would be allowed after removing all irregularities,” he concluded.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2020

Opinion

Editorial

Beyond the pale
Updated 09 Aug, 2022

Beyond the pale

When such ugliness is unleashed, everyone at some point suffers the fallout.
Burying Gaza
Updated 10 Aug, 2022

Burying Gaza

One fails to understand how the senseless killing of a child can be brushed so coldly under the carpet.
Celebrate the athlete
09 Aug, 2022

Celebrate the athlete

TALK about delivering on your promise: javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem did that in the grandest style at the...
An unseemly dispute
08 Aug, 2022

An unseemly dispute

THERE is clarity, but perhaps not of the kind that Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial hoped to achieve when...
Unfair on taxpayers
Updated 08 Aug, 2022

Unfair on taxpayers

Unfair move has drawn valid criticism as it coincides with drastic increase in income tax on salaried people and corporates.
Polio nightmare
08 Aug, 2022

Polio nightmare

AS if the resurgence of polio in southern KP were not enough, officials and international monitoring bodies must now...