'Unlike fast food outlets, varsities can't be allowed to set up franchises'

*LHC seeks details of summary allowing establishment of BZU sub-campus in Lahore * HEC had declared establishment of sub-campus illegal * HEC chairman says education sector has become an industry

'Unlike fast food outlets, varsities can't be allowed to set up franchises'

LAHORE: A full bench of Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday directed the Punjab advocate general to submit the original summary allowing establishment of a sub-campus of the Bahauddin Zakariya University in Lahore (BZU).

The bench directed the AG to submit the summary till January 13.The court was hearing a petition filed by students against the university administration after the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) had declared it illegal and subsequently the campus was closed.

Dr Khawaja Alqama, former BZU vice chancellor, who had materialised the idea of setting up this campus under the public-private partnership, appeared before the court on Monday. He submitted that in 2011 the BZU had a deficit of Rs 450 million in annual budget and they sought a grant from the government but the request was turned down.

"So the BZU administration decided to generate funds under the public-private partnership," he added.

It was told to the court that there were 11 sub-campuses of different universities in different cities but "discrimination was being done against the BZU".

Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, who personally appeared before the court, said, "The field of education had become an industry but such franchises of the universities could not be allowed like those of McDonalds or Pizza Hut." He said that in the year 2014 when he was functioning as executive director of the commission, he had written a letter to the vice chancellor of BZU highlighting the illegality of its sub-campus, but nothing was done.

He submitted that different universities had established sub-campuses but this public-private partnership was something different. He also said that it could only be done by some legislation.

The bench directed Dr Mukhtar to present the record of his correspondence with the Higher Education Department of Punjab and the government about establishment of sub-campuses till next date of hearing.

The bench also directed a representative of the West Continental Group, which was running the BZU campus, to submit details of students, courses and financial benefits they had from the campus.

Meanwhile, the incumbent vice chancellor of the BZU told the court that on January 23 they would start classes and within few days there would publish an advertisement in newspapers.

The petition has claimed that future of students is at stake owing to the closure of the sub-campus, and no one is inclined to redress their grievances.