Islamabad - Private-sector universities in the country are proving a boon for students aspiring for higher or professional education, who otherwise would have missed the bus by just a whisker in the bygone years.

In older days, the deficit of a mark than the benchmark number would prevent a student from admission in a medical or engineering college and shatter his dream of becoming a doctor or engineer, or passing out from such institutions as the Quaid-i-Azam University, Karachi University, Peshawar University or the Punjab University.

No more, a surfeit of private-sector universities has opened new avenues for such students provided they have sufficient marks and most importantly their families have spare cash to support their education.

Talking to APP, Ex-Chairman of Higher Education Commission (HEC) and former federal minister for education, Dr Prof Atta-ur-Rahman said, “Indeed, it is creativity and innovation that can make international ranking of a university.” He said the socio-economic development was not possible without linking knowledge with economy, adding it was need of the hour to focus on education at `all levels and disciplines’ to go with the pace of time. Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, however, said the quality of higher education could only be enhanced if the implementation of HEC introduced yardsticks were ensured in higher institutions of learning.

Assistant Prof and Head of English Language Centre (ELC), International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI), Dr Muhammad Sheeraz said Pakistan’s transition into the global knowledge economy depends on a robust system of higher education. He said the public sector was unable to cope with the surging demand of higher education and there was a need to encourage the private sector. However, he said most of the emerging private educational institutions didn’t meet the HEC prescribed criteria and hence very often the educational standards were compromised. Dr Sheeraz said the private sector universities had created an environment of competition and young PhD scholars were attracted towards these institutions due to attractive salary packages, which had also created job opportunities for many. He said as per HEC rule, no university could offer MS or PhD programme without having at least two PhD’s in the department, adding non-recognised degree awarding institutions were offering admissions, awarding degrees and giving advertisement in newspapers for a long time before the HEC could make them blacklisted.

M Hamad studying in a private university of the capital said the sole motive behind establishing private universities, medical and engineering colleges is to generate maximum revenue with minimum investment.

Dr Manzoor Afridi, Assistant Prof at department of international relations, IIUI, said the HEC should constitute a special committee for regular monitoring of private-sector universities. He said the admission criteria was getting very low, which was why, a number of students below than average and incapable of getting admission in any well-reputed university were enrolled in the private institutions as long as they could afford the hefty tuition fees and other charges.

Dr Afridi said most of the private universities and colleges were lacking qualified faculty members, proper infrastructure and research facilities, libraries, laboratories, latest scientific equipments, teaching aids, and control on plagiarism.

Spokesperson of Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC), Mehmood Rehmani said the same criterion was followed for accreditation of public and private engineering institutions, adding only the students of accredited institutions are registered with PEC as engineers. He said a team of experts visits regularly the newly established and already working engineering institutions to check whether it meets the required standards of PEC or not.

Director media and public relations of HEC, Ayesha Ikram said for public information, a list of 171 HEC recognised universities and DAI and 151 non-recognised educational institutions were uploaded on the HEC website. She said, “The students are warned time and again through newspapers and other media not to get admission in the non-recognided universities.”

Dr Prof Atta-ur-Rahman said, “The approved HEC criteria for establishing a new university or DAI of higher education should be strictly implemented for maintaining international standards of higher education in the country.” However, he said, “Failing to comply with the HEC prescribed rules, in case of a new DAI, charter should not be given, and in case of a running educational institution, charter should be withdrawn.”