Pakistan News

Old habits die hard: PTI govt touts questionable higher education stats

LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has once again been caught propagating false official statistics about the state of education in the province after it claimed to have established 10 universities during its rule, even though half of them are not even recognised by the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

The KP Higher Education Department had recently claimed that the PTI government had established 10 public sector universities during their tenure. The number was based on a report released in July by the provincial government’s Higher Education Management Information Sector (HEMIS) cell.

However, at least five institutions listed as universities in the report were not recognised by HEC. Meanwhile, one of the three that have been developed on their watch was a simple case of upgrading an existing sub-campus, while another institute listed in the report was in reality upgraded between 2008-2013 when an Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) formed a coalition government in KP.

The PTI and HEMIS had made the same claims in October last year when Pakistan Today had reported the discrepancies between the HEC listings and the claims propagated by HEMIS.

The HEMIS report had claimed that under the PTI-led government, nine public sector universities were constructed from scratch. However, the HEC had confirmed to Pakistan Today that only three universities were given charters in the past four years. The other five added to the list were either being developed into a varsity or were not up to the mark to be considered universities.

According to details provided by HEC, the current list of public universities in the KP included 25 universities. Out of these, those that have received charters and officialised as universities in their own right included the Abbottabad University of Science and Technology, Abbottabad (2015), Women University, Swabi (2015), Shuhada-e-Army Public School University of Technology, Nowshera (2016) and the Women University, Mardan (2016).

On the other hand, the list produced by the HEMIS cell cited a total of 29 universities, adding five more to the supposed tally of ‘universities founded’ during the PTI’s tenure in KP. These included the University of Buner, University of Chitral, University of Agriculture, Dera Ismail Khan (DI Khan, University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Mardan, and University of Science and Technology, Lakki Marwat.

The ninth university (Swabi Women’s University) being claimed by the PTI, was made during the ANP-PPP led government in 2012, according to HEC records.

Meanwhile, the other five ‘universities’ mentioned in the HEMIS cell report were all either managed by a project director with no vice chancellor or were simply sub-campuses of older universities that were established many years ago.

The claims seem to be a last-ditch effort by PTI to somehow surpass ANP’s record tally of eight universities that received charters during their rule, especially in the backdrop of media reports about the PTI government failing to build none of the 29 colleges that it had approved since 2013.

While it is true that the KP government had indeed given charters to the first four universities in the list, but both the University of Buner and the University of Chitral could not be officially considered universities without receiving the charters from the relevant body.

The Agricultural University in DI Khan did not even exist and was only a department inside DI Khan’s Gomal University and not even a sub-campus. UET Mardan was also nothing more than a sub-campus of UET Peshawar and the same was the case with the University of Science and Technology in Lakki Marwat, which was a sub-campus of a Bannu based university.

At this point, it is pertinent to note that other universities that have actually been given charters by the current government included Abbottabad University of Science and Technology established in 2008 as a sub-campus of Hazara University. For them to try and take credit for changing the name of an already established campus and giving it a university charter was a misrepresentation of facts in the same way that ANP had in the past taken credit for establishing the Islamia College University, which was already one of the oldest established institutions of higher learning in Pakistan.

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