* Many administrative officials at universities have fake degrees
* Move is logical next step of HEC’s drive to root out the fake degrees of parliamentarians
By Adnan Lodhi
The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has asked universities to verify the degrees of their faculty members, creating a tense situation.
Last week, the HEC wrote a letter to the vice-chancellors of all the country’s universities, asking them to direct their faculty members and administrative staff to submit their terminal qualification degrees for attestation by July 15.
Top university administration officials as well as contractual employees in equivalent positions are also required to submit their degrees for attestation.
Officials: According to sources, the move has created tension among administrative officials who were directly appointed by previous governments. Sources say this is because most such officials are relatives of parliamentarians found guilty of having fake degrees.
During the tenure of the previous government, when a bachelor’s degree was made compulsory for anyone wishing to contest an election, many parliamentarians obtained fake degrees. Many relatives of these parliamentarians also obtained fake degrees during the same period and became administrative officials at universities. They were able to obtain their fake degrees from both private and public universities since the authorities did not bother to check these.
According to the sources, certain currently-employed officials received their degrees overnight but no authority had checked them. The sources also said that most fake degree-holders were administrative officials, not faculty members, since faculty members who rise by promotion do not take the risk of using fake degrees.
Now that the HEC has announced its intention to verify degrees, many officials at universities are criticising the move, knowing that many of their colleagues would be exposed by it.
Next step: The HEC has also been checking the degrees of parliamentarians, and has been successful in identifying several fake degree-holders. According to the sources, the HEC decided to take this new initiative as part of its drive to root out fake degrees, and considered the step an important one, since the HEC had gotten several complaints concerning fake degrees held by university staff members.
On the other hand, this move has drawn criticism from organisations such as the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUSA), which is alleging that the HEC, instead of solving real issues, was only creating further problems. Such criticism is to be expected however, since certain elements in society always resist a positive change.
In the past, the HEC’s action against plagiarism was also criticised, as a number of teachers in public universities were sacked, but in time, the actions of the commission were proven to be favourable for the state of education as a whole. According to sources, most top officials in the FAPUSA are supporters of the Islami Jamiat Talaba and are in the habit of criticising positive moves such as this one.
A number of educationists and members of civil society appreciated the move by the HEC as they considered it a crucial step for the betterment of education in the country and expected the HEC to complete the process with complete transparency. According to educationists, the fake degrees of parliamentarians were shameful for students being educated in foreign countries as they brought into question the students’ degrees as well.
The actions of corrupt politicians have damaged the reputation of Pakistan’s educational institutions. The educationists said that the move would help restore the confidence of foreign educational institutions in Pakistani universities, and would help make the system more merit-based. Many faculty members are also asking teachers’ groups to avoid getting involved in politics over the issue and to support the move, as it is a positive step.
The educationists also expect that the HEC’s verification of degrees will not be limited to universities, and will expand to other sectors and departments