Islamabad: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has formed a committee to decide the fate of hundreds of students enrolled in illegal campus of Bahauddin Zakariya University within 15 days after the students took to the streets in Lahore over the crisis of degree recognition.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on October 29 had arrested Bahauddin Zakariya University’s (BZU) former vice chancellor Dr Khwaja Alqama over illegalities and violation of rules in the establishment of varsity’s sub-campus in Lahore. On Monday, hundreds of students enrolled in the campus had started protesting over the undecided status of the degrees that may ruin their career, following the revelation that the campus is not recognised by the regulatory body.

HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed addressing a press conference yesterday after having a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the four-member committee headed by HEC executive director has been formed on the instructions of the prime minister and it will find a way out.

According to PM’s instructions, it will be made sure that time and money spent by the students may not go down the drain but quality and legal requirement will not be compromised, he said. The campus and university will be given time to fulfil quality and legal requirement, he added.

The Lahore campus was established illegally as neither the varsity Syndicate nor the HEC and Public-Private partnership body had approved it, said the HEC chairman. “The HEC was corresponding with BZU and other universities that have opened illegal campuses bypassing the set SOPs (standard operation procedures). And they have been warned time and again.” The HEC has no such powers under its ordinance of 2002 to close down the campuses, explained the chairman, and it can only write to the concerned provincial governments to take action.

The HEC updates regularly its website to keep updated the students and their parents about illegal campuses and also give advertisements in newspapers to warn them about the status of various varsities and their campuses across the country, he said. “The students should check the status of the universities and their sub-campuses before taking admissions,” he stressed. According to HEC website, there are around 160 institutions awarding higher education degrees that have been listed as non-recognised institutions in the country. Moreover, the HEC will also write letters to all the universities to meet shortfalls within 90 days, informed Dr Ahmed.

Higher learning institution that are found lacking set standards may lose their charter and their cases will be referred to the concerned authorities for action after the lapse of the deadline, he warned. There are at least over 3000 colleges offering higher education degrees across Pakistan, he said, which will be scrutinized in second phase.