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Karachi University running `fake` department

January 18, 2010


The signboard placed on the department's building bears the names of two departments: department of sociology and department of criminology. But the KU said that there was no department of criminology on the campus and the signboard stating so would be removed.
KARACHI An investigation into the affairs of Karachi University's sociology department has revealed that a parallel 'department' of criminology is being run here, though no paperwork has been done at the university to establish such a department.

A PhD degree has already been awarded from the department of criminology that doesn't exist on the campus. The degree was awarded at the university's convocation held last month.

The decision to award a PhD was taken at a meeting of the Board of Advanced Studies and Research (BASR), the university's highest body to regulate research on the campus, on Nov 11, 2009. The PhD thesis is titled A study of causes and consequences of human trafficking with special reference to terrorism in Pakistan. Prof Dr Fateh M. Burfat, who completed two tenures at the sociology department as its chairman, acted as the supervisor.

The KU's convocation document 2009 listing the names of students who got their degrees in 2009 clearly states that Mohammad Altaf Tahir has done PhD from the department of criminology (page 3). In the same document (page 125), there is a list of students who did their master's in criminology and population sciences (as course subjects) from the sociology department.

According to sources, the PhD thesis was completed in two-and-a-half years, though normally it takes five to seven years to complete a PhD thesis.

The KU offers the subject of criminology only as a master's level course on a self-finance basis under its evening programme.

Approved by the university's academic council, the master's level course is one of the most lucrative programmes of the university from which it earns over Rs10 million, according to Dr Burfat, a PhD in sociology.

Department with different names

Initially, an Institute of Applied Criminology was established in 1995-96 at the KU's department of psychology on a self-finance basis in the evening. Prof Dr Shamim Hashmi, then chairperson of the department of psychology, was its director and Dr Shoaib Suddle, former DIG of the Sindh police, was the technical advisor on its managing board.

The institute was closed down soon when the Pakistan People's Party's government was removed. The other reason cited for its closure was the lack of required number of students.

In 2000, a master's programme in criminology was launched in the evening, this time by the department of sociology headed by Prof Dr Khalida Rehman.

Later, the term 'criminology' was unofficially changed into criminological sciences in 2005 for some unknown reasons. A master's programme in population science was launched by the same department two years ago.

In various official letters and department notifications, the department of sociology has been referred to with different names - department of sociology/criminology, department of sociology and population sciences, department of sociology, population sciences and criminology and also as department of sociology, criminology and population sciences as is stated at the KU website.

Even BASR seems to have no clues to the actual name of the department. For instance, a BASR resolution passed on Dec 13, 2005 states “This is to inform you that your case for admission to MPhil/PhD has been approved, as a research student in the department of applied criminology.”

The thesis' title was Analytical study of dacoities in Sindh; causes, pattern and interventions to be supervised by Dr Fateh M. Burfat.

Another BASR resolution, passed on July 7, 2005, says that the case of Altaf Tahir for admission to MPhil/PhD in criminology under the guidance of Dr Fateh M. Burfat, the department of sociology, is referred back to the dean of arts for comments about the eligibility for admission of the candidate keeping in view the master's degree of the candidate.

No lab at 'criminology department'

Students who have completed master's degrees in criminology told Dawn that they took admission to the department of criminology and not to the department of sociology.

“We wrote the name of the department of criminology where we were supposed to write the name of the department while we were seeking admission. There were no two opinions about this. Our enrollment and university cards also state the same,” a student said while pointing to the signboard placed on the department's building which bears the names of two departments department of sociology and department of criminology.

Students complained that no laboratory facilities were offered to them though they had paid the highest fee compared to students of other departments.

“We paid around Rs14,000 at the time of admission while the semester fee is Rs12,000. There is no forensic lab facility at the 'department' nor are we taken to one. The entire teaching faculty is incompetent and unqualified for teaching criminology except one teacher,” they said.

One of their grievances was the collection of money by the teaching staff on various pretexts. According to these students, they were divided into four groups last year and asked to collect Rs50,000 each to prepare for a course presentation.

Senior teachers at the university contend that the major reason why there is no competent person to teach criminology is the fact that the professors hired from the sociology department to teach criminology have done no research in the subject.

“The teachers just translate what is written in English. Whatever little I have learnt is from professionals who come to study here, or other sources such as foreign documentaries on the subject,” a student said.

These professionals, according to students, comprised personnel of the army, police and intelligence agencies. A graduate from any background can apply for the course. Most professionals apply for the course with the intention to get a promotion or an increment in their jobs after receiving the master's degrees.

A large number of these professionals of the country's security apparatus have already got their degrees from the KU which obviously bring into question their credibility.

The students also raised the point that why no student who had done his master's in criminology from the KU had been appointed lecturer at the 'department' so far, though 10 years had passed since its establishment.

KU clarifies

Talking to Dawn, Prof Dr Burfat said there was no department of criminology on the campus and the signboard stating so would be removed.

“These subjects (criminology and population sciences) are taught as courses at the sociology department. The signboard whose cost is around Rs60,000 was donated by a student two years ago. The administration can remove it anytime,” he said, adding that if students didn't mention the name of the department of criminology in their admission forms, the chances were that they would be inducted into the sociology department.

Regarding the different names of the department in official letters, Dr Rana Saba Sultan, the chairperson of the department, said that this might have happened by mistake.

Dr Burfat denied that any degrees had been awarded in criminology and said the MS/PhD programme for criminology had not yet been approved.

When asked about why teachers who lacked any expertise in criminology were teaching the subject, he said the teachers had studied the subject as a course and were good at it.

“New appointments in the regular faculty could be made only if the programme is initiated in the morning. I have raised this issue many times with the vice-chancellor and also written to the Higher Education Commission to help us (KU) launch an institute of criminology with a separate building, but to no avail.”

When it was pointed out why no help was being taken from the expertise available in the field at the KU, he said the problem was that the teachers in other departments had knowledge in their own spheres of research and failed to relate it to criminology.

About students' concern over the lack of facilities, he said it was a forensic laboratory and was a hugely costly affair.

“Over 250 students have done their master's in the programme, which is a success, both in terms of enrollment and finances. No funding is provided by the university. If we had made the admission criteria strict that could have resulted in low enrollment. You can't run a self-finance-based programme with low enrollment.”

Talking to Dawn, Prof Dr Pirzada Qasim, the vice-chancellor of the KU, also denied having the department of criminology on the campus and said the department of sociology only offered it as a course.

“The board would be removed when the administration would carry out whitewash of the departments.”