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Private universities fears about student unions

Karachi, April 04, 2008: The announcement to lift the ban on student unions is being strongly resisted by the managements of private universities and colleges who feel that it will interfere in the running of the institutions.

After the formation of the new government, the ban on both student and labour unions, imposed during the then military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq, has been lifted. The annoucement to this effect was made by the new Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani.

While the lifting of the ban is construed as a positive development in the government-run institutions, the privately-run educations institutions are perturbed by the order, said a source in one such institution. They feel that it will interfere in their affairs, specifically those relating to the admission policy and other administrative matters.

With the election of student unions, the administration of the private institutions would come under pressure from these bodies, said the source, adding that this was certainly something undesirable.

Elaborating on this, the source maintained that the mounting fee structures in private institutions, which have, in some cases, provided a convenient segway for large-scale corruption, would also come under fire, thereby affecting the administrations' monopoly in this regard.

Private institutions have been free to increase fees, at times arbitrarily, which caused an immense burden on the middle-class that had no choice but to get their wards admitted to these institutions keeping in mind the 'lower' educational standards in the public sector educational institutions.

The irony is that a reason most often cited for the lower educational standards in public sector universities was that students, instead of concentrating in their studies, indulged in politics, which had severely hampered the teaching process.

On the other hand, however, it is also believed that student unions would provide a much-needed counter weight to the unchallenged rule of the administration of private institutions, where mismanagement and malpractice go largely unchecked.

The private colleges and universities, said an offical associated with one such varisty, were minting money in the name of education. Student unions could help maintain a check and balance on all affairs that most managements had taken pains to keep secret.

Under the law, educational institutions are allowed to raise fees after the passage of three years - that too after the approval of education board. However, while universities and colleges defy rules and regulations such as these drafted by the education board, there is no check and balance from the concerned quarters. Such problems in privately-run educational institutions is a "hard nut to crack", said a senior educationist. The News
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