ISLAMABAD Expressing serious concerns over Pakistans educational system, after local courts have sent a number of legislators back for holding fake degrees, worlds leading universities have contacted the Foreign Office to make sure that Pakistani students, who made their way to these universities possessed original degrees, said sources. Although the Foreign Office spokesperson denied such reports when contacted, however, off the record discussions with top officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed that administrations of leading universities in the UK, the US and Europe have contacted the Foreign Office and questioned the validity of the degrees of Pakistani students studying there. These universities contacted the FO soon after a couple of legislators were found possessing fake degrees, said an official, seeking anonymity. It is believed that international universities are under the impression that the degrees of Pakistani students (currently studying abroad) can also be found fake, like those of the Pakistani parliamentarians. They think if public representatives of a country can resort to attaining fake degrees, then students are no exception. Meanwhile, insiders told TheNation that the Foreign Office fears that Pakistani students, who have been sent abroad for higher education, under cultural exchange programmes, could face deportation if any of their degrees are discovered to be fake. Currently, 12,000 Pakistani students are studying in the UK only. The number of students studying in the US and other countries is far beyond this. If degrees of any of students are found fake, it could make administrations of foreign universities close their doors to Pakistani students. The fake degree saga had only begun when media reports alleged that the Federal Minister, Dr Babar Awan, held a fake degree. Following this case, courts have sent home a couple of parliamentarians after establishing that their degrees were fake. Meanwhile, a large number of legislators still await verification of their degrees from their institutions. The Punjab University will be required to verify a large number of degrees of lawmakers, because 313 legislators have claimed to complete their graduation from that university. Next comes the University of Peshawar, which will be scrutinising the degrees of 110 members of parliament and provincial assemblies, followed by the University of Sindh, whose 105 graduates won the general elections, in 2008. The University of Karachi has 100 of its former students in national and provincial legislatures. The Baha-ud-Din Zakarya University and the University of Balochistan have received degrees of 50 and 56 lawmakers, respectively. In the past, if you had the money you could buy anything, even happiness. Thats if happiness came through acquiring a university degree. Not much has changed over the years, except that it got easier to buy a degree. Fake degrees have been sold in Pakistan for a long time, though; the scope of it has enlarged, considerably, with many shady outfits offering degrees in return for little or no work. A degree of choice is yours for a fraction of what it would cost to attend a university and workhard. Old methods, of course, continue, with enhanced brazenness, as cases of degree fraud in Sialkot illustrate. It was there that blank degree certificates from countries, worldwide, acknowledged by the Allama Iqbal Open University and other public and private degree-awarding institutions, were recovered. A gang of three acquired these certificates in connivance with the university officials. However, the lax officials, under whose noses this occurred, were never punished. No system has even been installed to avoid a repeat.