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October 2, 2015

Comsats issue going in circles

Lahore

 
October 2, 2015

The Dual Degree Programme (DDP) launched by Comsats Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) and Lancaster University, UK in 2010 is becoming more complicated with the passage of time. Despite the all-out effort by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to find a resolve and offer various possible options within its framework and regulations to resolve this issue nothing has been agreed to resolve the issue of more than 3,000 students waiting for an outcome.
The HEC being the only regulatory body in the higher education sector has a stance that it would not allow institutions to violate rules and regulations in awarding dual or joint degrees. It is of the opinion that they will also not let international education institutions or universities to challenge and put on stake the authenticity and recognition of Pakistani degrees because of their own interests.
I had the opportunity of discussing this issue with the HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed who was preparing for yet another presentation to be given to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. He categorically said that he was doing the all-out effort to resolve the issue in consultation with the CIIT management. However, he was not getting any cooperation from the other side to understand the implications that may have adverse effect on the entire system of transnational or global education MOUs in Pakistan. He denied the rumours of any personal vendetta against the management of Comsats and said he considered CIIT as one of our leading Federal IT universities but in his capacity as Chairman HEC he had to safeguard the interests of millions of Pakistani students and the recognition and respect of Pakistani degrees internationally and therefore, he was following the international norms to protect these interests while providing possible solutions and a legitimate bailout for the students of Comsats under the DDP programme.
I was unable to get latest version from the Comsats management as I was given to

understand that Dr. Junaid Zaidi, the rector, is currently in UK to sort out the issue with its partner university of Lancaster and the relevant authorities.
Last week Mr. Zaidi assured me that he would follow the guidelines of HEC and shall do the all-out effort in finding an amicable solution for more than 3,000 students as soon as possible. He was of an opinion that very soon they would be able to get an approval from the IET and ECUK which intern would get them the approval from the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) and the matter would be resolved. However, the issue is not that as simple, for a dual degree to be awarded both institutions in both countries should show evidence of providing value addition and tuition that justifies the award of a dual degree which may be up to one to two years of additional tuition taught by a foreign university.
Apparently according to HEC chairman, these conditions have not been met in this programme, the fee charged from the students for the dual degree programme in foreign currency shows it was paid for validation of degrees and not for tuition in many cases. If such conditions are not met by both partners it may amount to what is known as “Academic Crime”.
The university of Lancaster, on the other hand, should have ensured that their partner university in Pakistan has complied with the local regulations and in fact they should have taken into consideration any complications that might arise in the approval of such degree from their own local authorities such as IET (The Institute of Engineering and Technology) and ECUK (Engineering Council) etc. Technically therefore, under these circumstances they cannot claim that the student body of more than 3,000 students which have graduated or are enrolled in this dual degree programme at CIIT are part of their international student body. The MOU was signed in 2010 and it is shocking to see that both the universities failed to complete international or local formalities to obtain dual NOCs that are prerequisites in the award of a dual degree.
HEC should, therefore, play its due role and as educationists, academics, students and policy makers we are duty bound to support HEC in ensuring that our degrees are recognised on a par with international degrees. HEC is an autonomous body that was established with an objective to regulate and monitor higher education sector under a constitutional framework and they would welcome any international university who would like to come and collaborate in offering international qualifications within the provisions of the HEC and after satisfying the conditions of such an MOU.
Having said this, it is important to keep in front the future of 3,000 students which is equally important and therefore, efforts are needed from both sides Comsats and HEC to immediately resolve and issue a notification to the satisfaction of those students that have paid a huge prize and have given four years of their valuable time to obtain an international qualification.

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