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Babar Awan doctorate degree, a fraud?

Babar Awan declares his American doctorate degree valid. US foundation terms the university fraud
Islamabad, Nov 12: Like a minister of the Musharraf cabinet, a high profile PPP minister has also been found holding a doctorate degree issued by a fake US university declared to be 'fraud' by an authentic US organisation and fined by a US court.

Although Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan said that his degree was valid, every body else says it was fake and was wrongfully awarded by a university that was never accredited for such degree programmes and was shut down in 2000 for being fraud.

The United States Educational Foundation (USEF) in Pakistan confirmed that the said University was never allowed to offer degree programmes, including Ph.D. "It was a fraud," the USEF Pakistan wrote to this correspondent on Monday.

The minister, who admitted to have got his Ph.D degree from the University of Monticello USA in 1997-98 through its distant learning programme (correspondence course), however, insisted that his Ph.D was valid.

But the USEF Pakistan is of the view that the "fraud" university was closed down in the year 2000 and was also fined US$1.7 million for befooling innumerable international aspirants of different degree programmes.

The Foundation also disclosed that a court in Hawaii had also directed the university management to return all the tuition fees of the students, who had enrolled with the institute. Acting spokesperson of the US embassy in Islamabad Mr Wes Robertson when approached said that the USEF Pakistan is an organisational set-up to promote opportunities and assist students intended to study in Pakistan and vice versa. "It (USEF Pakistan) gives accurate and credible information," Robertson categorically said.

To a question if there exists any university in the US in the name of Monticello, the USEF Pakistan said: "The closest that any university comes to that name is University of Arkansas, which is in the town of Monticello. There was an unaccredited institute named Monticello University but it was closed down."

The Foundation also referred to two web links -http:// and - which give details of how the university defrauded international students and also give details of the ruling of a court in Hawaii in a lawsuit filed against the University.

One of the links tells the tale of a student of history and law, Todd Rebillot, who said that he had found the university on the Internet, which looked professionally prepared. "I accepted that at face value and felt confident that (the school) could provide me with an education and the degree I was looking for."

It was not until the Wisconsin resident had paid more than $3000, saw the school's address changed three times and was given the run-around by school administrators that he finally grew suspicious. "When I started asking questions, then they [the school] began skirting the issue. I wasn't getting straight answers," Rebillot said.

Soon afterwards Rebillot was convinced that he had been scammed. Others apparently had come to the same conclusion. Babar Awan was one of those who were caught in the fraud but he was given a degree after which he started writing the title of 'Dr' before his name. This may not be valid now.

In April 2000, Monticello University operator Leslie Snell was found guilty in Hawaii and Kansas of issuing invalid degrees without state authority and was fined in excess of $1.7 million. The organisation was ordered to refund tuition to all the students. Whether Dr Awan received his money back is not known.

Despite all this evidence, Babar Awan insists that it is incorrect that the Monticello University was unaccredited and that the Ph.D degree he was awarded is fake. Awan, who also delivers regular lectures on Quran and Islam on a television channel, said that he got to know about the university through an advertisement in the international Times magazine and also reconfirmed the standing of the institution from his acquaintances in the United States.

The minister said that he was awarded the Ph.D degree through the university's distant learning programme and because of his (Awan's) experience and research work.

He recollected that when he was awarded the Ph.D degree, the news of his becoming doctorate also appeared in certain newspapers. He said that during those days he was defending Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in the SGS reference before an accountability court comprising Justice Qayyum and Justice Najmul Hasan.

Besides the newspaper record, he said he still has the fee vouchers that he had paid to the Monticello University and sent through proper banking and financial channels. "There was absolutely no question of fraud at that time when I got the degree from the said university," the minister said.

Babar Awan, who is known for oratory skills, however, perhaps does not know that the University that awarded him the Ph.D degree was never authorised to do so and that he had been fooled along with many other international students.

Your Comments
"The recent news item about the doctorate of a federal minister being not authentic should come as no surprise. The minister for his part has defended his degree and has said that he does not think the university is fake. It is strange that a university operating without any accreditation, without any campus and willing to give a doctorate to anybody, in return for a handsome fee, did not seem suspect to the minister. The minister indeed is very simple and innocent. Interestingly, a very similar situation occurred in Iran a few days back and the said minister had to resign. But of course we cannot follow the example of an 'extremist' country."
Name: Ahmed Zaheer
City, Country: Islamabad, Pakistan

"I totally disagree with Mr. Ashfaq Ahmad. The person who pursuing for Phd must have the calibre / knowledge about the hardships and steps in getting Phd. Mr. Awan is not so innocent that he just gave the money and got the degree and thinking himself doctrate. "
Name: Cool
City, Country: Karachi, Pakistan

"This is in reference to a recent story regarding the so-called inauthentic doctorate degree of federal minister Babar Awan. I think it is unfair to blame 'Dr sahib' eight years after the university had been declared fraud. The news story writer said that the university befooled 'Dr sahib' whereas, in fact, it is the people who are being befooled. 'Dr sahib' is a politician and no politician is ever at a disadvantage in any bargain (remember Maulana Fazlur Rehman?). Such degrees should also be available to ordinary Pakistanis. I am sure a fake American degree would be better than two valid Pakistani degrees. These degrees should be made available to the public at subsidised rates to 'poor Pakistanis' as part of the Benazir Income Support Programme so that they may get an opportunity for employment at the managerial level in a government organisation."
Name: Ashfaq Ahmad
City, Country: Lahore, Pakistan

"It has been reported in the Economist dated November 8, 2008 that Iran's parliament sacked the Interior Minister, Ali Kordan an ally of President Mahmood Ahmadinejad, for falsely claiming to have an honorary degree from Oxford University. We have a similar case of a false degree reported about a PhD degree claimed by Dr Babar Awan from an American University which has since been declared by US Educational Foundation to be unauthorized to award doctorate degrees. We wait to see as to when Dr Babar Awan who is an ally of our President is sacked from his job.
The said University has also been asked to return the fees charged for issuing false PhD degrees. This is a test case for our parliament to show that it is genuinely supreme or only a house of cards. The nation awaits to see the result."
City, Country: Lahore, Pakistan

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HEC Accreditation Councils explore collaborative possibilities
Islamabad: Accreditation Councils constituted by Higher Education Commission (HEC) that are mandated to accord accreditation of degree programmes being offered by Pakistani universities met here with the HEC representatives, says a press release.

The purpose of the meeting was to explore the possibilities of further enhancing collaboration and coordination amongst the 13 related Councils and with HEC to strengthen the common goal of quality assurance and enhancement.

Prof Sohail H Naqvi, Executive Director HEC, while chairing the meeting stated that institutional accreditation is being performed by HEC whereas programme accreditation is the responsibility of the respective Councils that have complete autonomy in such matters.

However, commonality of processes, objectives and increased globalisation of education requires a collective approach for meeting the challenges of quality assurance with improved levels of international compatibility and competitiveness.

HEC assured the meeting participants of full cooperation to the Councils in further strengthening their activities.

The key issues discussed in the meeting were the current international practices being followed by accreditation councils. A booklet 'Good Practices for Quality Assurance for Accreditation Councils in Pakistan' based on the guidelines of International Network of Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) was shared amongst the participants, so that the Councils may, if required, streamline their processes.

It was decided in the meeting that as the evaluators appointed by the Councils play a major role in determining the level and quality of programmes being accredited, their professionalism should be of great importance. As such, procedures and criteria for their selection might need revision considering the best international practices. Further, the Learning Innovation Division of HEC was directed to arrange training workshops for the evaluators.

As HEC is mandated to undertake the designing and revision of curricula of different programmes, it has established National Curriculum Revision Committees that recommend courses required for teaching in a particular programme. Common representatives of institutions of higher education and experts from user organisations form part of these committees. In all such committees, nominees of Accreditation Councils would also be included to further strengthening the process.

Other decisions taken in this committee to increase cooperation included formation of a sub-committee that would formulate requirements to be met by an institute for initiating a new programme, sharing of information by establishing linkages of the Council websites with that of HEC, and coordination of activities for increased sharing of information.

It was also decided in the meeting that the Accreditation Councils and Quality Assurance Agency at HEC would hold quarterly meetings to deliberate on issues of mutual interest. The News

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Quaid-e-Azam University's (QAU) Social Sciences Dept gets new head
Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday appointed Prof Dr Naveed-i-Rahat new dean of Quaid-e-Azam University's (QAU) Social Sciences Department. The president made the appointment in exercise of his powers as the QAU chancellor. Dr Rahat currently heads the QAU Anthropology Department. Daily Times

Your Comments
"It is a real shame. Dr. Rahat has been accused of plagiarism of her own work. It has been proved through documentary evidence that she had cheated QAU to get professorship. HEC must take the action and terminate her services at earliest so that a cheater can not influence and destroy prestigious institution like QAU."
Name: Dr. Rauf Ahmad
City, Country: Islamabad, Pakistan

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