ISLAMABAD: The Higher Education Commission (HEC), in its ongoing crackdown against the illegal and fake educational institutes, has closed down 154 such institutes across the country, putting the future of thousands of students at stake.
A recently released list of unauthorised institutes on HEC’s website includes campuses from Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa (KP), Federal Capital (Islamabad) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
The data has shown that of the total 154 unauthorized institutes, 3 were operating in in the federal capital, 101 in Punjab, 36 in Sindh, 11 in Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa (KP) and 3 in AJK. However, the list did not include a single institute from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan.
The three illegal institutes operating in Islamabad were Islamabad Law College, Modern Institute of Informatics and Management and Mohiuddin Islamic University.
Lack of an effective accountability mechanism and the absence of stringent regulations had mushroomed the growth of illegal and fake educational institutions across the country. It has not only endangered the future of the youth but has also resulted in a loss of huge sums of money spent by the parents of these students.
Sources have also revealed that most of these institutes had a support and backing of influential people who had a self-interest in the business, and therefore the central and provincial governments were reluctant to take any action against these institutes.
However, the absence of an alternate mechanism to safeguard and protect the students from the administrative decisions has worsened the situation.
Most tellingly, the degrees awarded to the graduates of these institutes may also suffer from non-recognition by the employers here and abroad, virtually leading the students with no certification of higher education.
On the other hand, an official in the HEC, while justifying the action, said that these institutes were given repeated warnings beforehand. The official further said that the closure should not suffice, and rather, a punitive action should also be taken by the authorities against those found responsible.
The conflict between the HEC and the higher education commissions of the respective provinces has imperilled the establishment and functioning of a strong regulatory measure, the official added.
HEC Director Media Ayesha Akram said that in order to ensure quality education, HEC issues warning alerts in daily newspapers on regular basis to inform parents and students to check the legal status of these institutions and accreditation of the degree programmes in which students are interested in getting enrolled.
She reaffirmed her commitment to close down such institutes and said that HEC has informed the federal and provincial governments about the recent closure of these institutes, and have also updated them about their current status.
“HEC is regularly informing students and their guardians through advertisements in print media to not take admission in these institutions. Also, Parent Alerts in print, as well as social media, are being regularly disseminated through respective platforms at the start of each semester to inform students about recognised and unrecognised institutions,” she said.
Ayesha claimed that HEC periodically highlights the issue, and as a result, there is an increased awareness among parents and students. However, she urged the students and their parents to be more cautious in the future.
About punitive actions, she said that HEC is working within the legal framework, and has informed federal and provincial governments regarding illegal institutions that had neither taken the No-Objection Certificate (NOC) nor had followed HEC’s instructions.
Regarding any steps taken by HEC to save the future of thousands of students, she reiterated that HEC takes preventive measures to warn the students, but did not comment on any future policy framework designed to give relief to the students who await their academic fate to be decided.