Private universities often find themselves at the receiving end of immense media and social criticism in case of slightest of irregularity highlighted by one of the several educational watchdogs operating in the country.
A couple of months ago, the media raised a massive hue and cry when Higher Education Commissions of Pakistan asked several private universities to take measures to end various academic and infrastructural shortcomings or face restrictions on admitting students. The news sent many a students and parents associated with these institutions into panic, with concerned stakeholders rushing to varsities to know of the fate of their degrees. However, the news turned out to be more smoke than fire.
But surprisingly, a recent similar directive to a public university by HEC has gone relatively unnoticed by many. According to a report in Daily Times, HEC has recently directed the administration of Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) Islamabad to stop inducting students in 15 departments and suggested a complete halt of academic activities in two key departments.
QAU is the only Pakistani university included in the Times Higher Education’s prestigious ranking of top 500 universities of the world, and the directives by Pakistan’s premier higher education supervisory body to halt academic activities should be a cause of major concerns for the authorities concerned.
Not Enough Resources
Per details, a recent visit to QAU by HEC’s Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Program Review Committee revealed that a number of departments had excess enrolments and limited faculty, while two of the departments were working without the requisite number of PhD faculty.
HEC rules state that a university must have at least two full time PhD faculty members to run a MPhil/MS degree programme and at least three full-time PhD faculty members are required to offer PhD programme. In violation of set rules, QAU’s Area Study Centre for North and South America and Management Science departments each have only one PhD faculty member, and have been asked by HEC to stop all academic activities henceforth.
The area study centre has an enrolment of 56 students in MPhil/MS degree programme besides 31 PhD students, while the management science department also has students enrolled in MS/MPhil programmes despite having only one PhD faculty member. HEC has asked QAU to freeze all classes, examination, thesis and award of degrees for these departments.
Similarly, the HEC committee noted that several programmes were being run in excess of capacity and directed the varsity to block further admissions in these disciplines. These include anthropology, biochemistry, Asian studies, animal sciences, economics, biotechnology, chemistry, mathematics, plant sciences, statistics and microbiology.
The review committee also barred admissions to MPhil/MS degree programmes in earth sciences, pharmacy and physics as well as to PhD programme in international relations.
HEC also noted that QAU lacked the requisite academic facilities to offer programmes in sociology, psychology, Pakistan studies, history, environmental sciences, electronics, defence and strategic studies, computer science and bio informatics.
While it’s justified to criticise private sector varsities for any irregularity in their practices, the fact is that they affect a limited number of students. QAU presently offers educational opportunities to close to 10,000 students in varied disciplines and the latest findings by HEC mean the academic facilities are far from ideal.
We hope the right orders are passed by the powers that be to remove the shortcomings in QAU in order that the educational progress of hundreds of students continues unhindered.