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Editorial: Blind Spots

IT has been reported that the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan has issued a list of illegal higher education institutions (HEIs) and sub-campus across the country and a similar action has been taken by the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC). The issue of private universities and HEIs minting money from unsuspecting students by opening colleges, sub-campuses and even universities has been plaguing the country – which itself does not have a level of education that can be considered ideal. The issue resurfaces after brief intervals, but it seems that no long-term solution exists with the government agencies responsible for curbing the practice. Meanwhile, students suffer at the hands of these profit-hungry institutions.

Then there is also the rivalry between the federal and provincial higher education bodies. Along with the HEC, the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) also released a list of unrecognised institutions. However, there seems to be a difference in the names given by both the bodies in the province. This shows a lack of cooperation and, more importantly, standards by which the institutions are gauged. This becomes a problem for students. Where should the students turn to? Do they go by the list issued by the HEC or the PHEC? These questions are serious and need to be addressed, as these blind spots of policy are exploited by the institutions minting money from poor and unsuspecting students and their parents’ hard-earned money along with the precious time spent by students are wasted.

It is also important to note that because of the struggle for power between the HEC and provincial HECs, these illegal HEIs – set up to profit without even the basic necessities for education – get the maximum benefit. As it is seen that when they are curbed by one body, they turn to the other for support. In Punjab, especially, this has become a norm not just for the illegal HEIs but other universities as well. They seek the opposite parties’ support when one confronts them to provide a requirement or enact a particular law. This has created a loophole in the higher education system of the country and could, in the near future, become more visible and regrettably more problematic. The ultimate losers in this fight between the two titans are the students, who now have nowhere to turn to and are their future is the casualty.

As per the logic, it can be assumed that the HEC list should be given preference as it is the body that later verifies all the higher education degrees. However, the 18th Amendment makes things more complicated, as the provincial governments point towards it for the validity of their higher education bodies. The state of affairs now stands at a problematic crossroad for students. This problem should be resolved immediately by all those in power as it hangs the security of our students at risk.

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