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February 13, 2020

Call to overcome crisis in higher education

Lahore

February 13, 2020

LAHORE:Private sector higher education institutions while forming its first ever body, Association of Private Sector Universities in Punjab (APSUP), has warned the government against ‘looming crisis’ in higher education after sugar and flour crises in the province.

The first meeting of the association was held at a private university’s Raiwind campus here Wednesday in which the participants comprising owners and administrative staff of private sector universities termed the government’s policies anti-education and called for concerted efforts to overcome crisis in higher education.

According to a press release, the meeting was unanimous in observing that the government’s policies could result in closure of campuses of private sector’s higher education institutions (HEIs) owing to which future of hundreds of thousands students and teachers would be in the doldrums.

It is pertinent to mention here that this comes at a time when the Higher Education Department (HED) Punjab is all set to tighten noose around private sector universities for operating unauthorised campuses and offering unapproved and unaccredited academic programmes.

Recently, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Justice (r) 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.

It is pertinent to mention here that this Prevention Committee was constituted in May 2018 with an objective to streamline working of private sector HEIs/degree awarding institutions (DAIs) through effective monitoring and regulatory mechanism and to secure career of students who were vulnerable to exploitative factors because of rampant unlawful practices in the education sector.

One of the recommendations of the Prevention Committee reads: “Higher education institutions should be subjected to performance audit annually and reports be made public besides taking stringent administrative as well as penal action upon reported violations.”

Another recommendation reads: “Cognizance may be taken against educational institutions imparting illegal, unapproved and non-accredited study programmes causing damage to career of students and be immediately refereed to NAB for taking cognizance under the relevant laws.” It is also worth mentioning here that recently a special committee of the Punjab Assembly directed the HED Punjab and the provincial HEC to take comprehensive measures to stall the functioning of all the illegal/unauthorised sub-campuses of all the provincially chartered universities/ institutions of the Punjab as “their legal and public duty”.

In January this year, the HED Punjab while declaring 23 sub-campuses of seven private sector universities unauthorised had directed universities to immediately stop any further intake of students at these sub-campuses. A senior HED Punjab official, requesting anonymity, said in the light of NAB letter to the CM and directions of the Punjab Assembly’s special committee, the department was all set to take action against the private sector HEIs/DAIs for the violation of rules and offering unaccredited programmes and operating unauthorised campuses which prompted the private sector to pressurise the department by forming an association. He added, however, the department would proceed as per law.

Earlier, founder and chairman of a private education group, Prof Dr Ch Abdul Rehman, was elected as the president of APSUP while former Punjab Education Minister and now Vice-Chancellor of a private university, Mian Imran Masood, was elected as the association’s spokesperson. The meeting decided that a ‘charter of demand’ from private universities would soon be presented to the government which include steps to ensure easy access of higher education to male and female students, strategy to improve quality of education and to eliminate existing irregularities in the higher education system, implement efforts to amend policies of the government.

Talking to The News APSUP spokesperson Imran Masood said it was for the first time that stakeholders from the private sector higher education had gathered at one platform. He said private sector was striving hard to facilitate the government in the provision of higher education opportunities to the youth of the country. He said the government instead of closing down campuses because of procedural irregularities should make efforts to streamline the processes. The former education minister clarified that the private sector did not want confrontation with the government by establishing APSUP. “No one has heard point of view of the private sector”, he said while adding the association would serve as a collective wisdom, to highlight private sector’s point of view.