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Universities ever-increasing fees

Students, parents hit by spiralling varsity fees
Lahore, Nov 23: The ever-increasing fees of public sector universities have reached an unprecedented level, burdening people already hit by skyrocketing inflation.

The situation has become bleak with every passing day and people look towards the government to control the unbridled working of public sector universities. An overview of fees being charged by public sector universities should be an eye-opener for the government which always claims to be education-friendly and the one working for the betterment of students.

The Punjab University's Institute of Business Administration (IBA) has set over Rs 75,000 fee for its one-year diploma programme in Business Administration this year whereas a four-year honours degree programme in different disciplines from the same university costs over Rs 80,000 which is also certainly high as the PU is after all a public sector university.

Similarly, fees being charged by the Government College University (GCU) Lahore, Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) and Government Kinnaird College for Women for different academic programmes are too high.

At the moment, the GCU is charging over Rs 13,000 and over Rs 10,000 per semester for its honours degree programme whereas intermediate level programme costs around Rs 30,000 from the same university. Similarly different degree programmes at KC cost over Rs 50,000.

Father of a student said it was becoming difficult for him and many other parents like him to bear the cost of education of their children studying at the LCWU. He said the increasing fee was multiplying problems of poor parents who were already hit by skyrocketing price hike on essential commodities. He regretted that the government was doing nothing to control fees of universities.

Recently, LCWU students had also demonstrated against fee hike and blocked the main road outside the university campus. There are also concerns over "hidden" charges. A citizen whose daughter is studying at the PU Institute of Communication Studies (ICS), says the institute's semester wise fee challan form does not clarify under which head semester charges are being collected. "This raises misconceptions and doubts," adding "students have the right to know where the fee is going".

A PU student said it was strange that every student had to submit transportation charges whether he/she uses the university transport or not. Similarly, he added that apart from tuition fees, students had to pay dozens of other fees. "It is as if the university is receiving nothing from the government," the student said.

Nonetheless, those who support the fee being charged by public sector universities argue that it is less than private universities and even less than some elite private schools. They, however, forget that at present there was no regulatory body in the province to control fees being charged by private sector educational institutions. The other group argues that the situation would have been different if there was a regulatory authority for institutions working in the private sector.

Academic circles argue that the government should go for policies that benefit students in general and not a particular group of students adding controlling fee and ensuring uniformity in this regard should be its topmost priority. Referring to a recent seminar-cum-essay competition on "Austerity Economy" held at the PU, they argue that managements should also cut their unnecessary expenses and enormous perks and privileges in order to provide relief to students. Meanwhile Punjab University (PU) Dean of Arts and Humanities Dr S Qalb-e-Abid participated in the South Asia seminar held at the Hamburg University Germany recently.

According to a PU press statement in his presentation, Dr S Qalb-e-Abid said Pakistan and India should follow the example of the European Union and establish soft border and cooperation in trade. He said both countries were expending huge budgetary allocations on their defence due to tension on their boarders. He said both countries could spend this amount on development projects if this tension was reduced.

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Universities asked to develop linkages
Lahore: Local universities should develop strong linkages with each other for the promotion of modern education in the country while it will also help them benefit from an international window of opportunities.

This was the crux of a meeting of International Islamic University (IIU) senior officials with Government College University (GCU), Lahore, Vice Chancellor Dr Khalid Aftab.

According to a press statement, the IIU delegation led by IIU President Dr Anwar Hussain Siddique, called on the GCU vice chancellor to share and learn from each others' experiences. The meeting was also aimed at developing strong link between the both universities.

IIU Director Strategic Planning Cell Dr Abdul Majeed and senior official Dr Ahmed were also part of the delegation while GCU Dean of Sciences Dr Ameenul Haq, Dean of Arts Dr Khalid Pervaiz, Registrar Sahibzada Faisal Khurshid and Director Academic Planning and External Links Fouzia Shaheen were also present

Dr Khalid Aftab informed the delegation about the steps which the university had taken in the recent years for providing quality education to its students which included the establishment of Quality Enhancement Cell, University's Data Bank and Career Guidance and Placement Centre.

He also discussed the transition from the college to the status of university and lauded the role of Higher Education Commission (HEC) in this regard. "We justified our existence by producing quality graduates," he said. The vice chancellor also laid stress on promoting the research culture in the country. The IIU president and GCU vice chancellor also shared the working of their various departments. The news

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Students' right to safe transportation
Islamabad: The traffic accident in which a student died last Thursday on the Islamabad Expressway was one that was just waiting to happen. Every day on the road we see students perched on the rooftops of moving public coaches and wagons, a practice which nobody can deny is potentially hazardous and life-threatening.

Every week almost, a photograph depicting students traveling in this perilous manner is published in our newspapers. The Federal Directorate of Education, school/college administrations and teachers know about this practice. The city transport authorities are well aware of it too.

The drivers of our public transport vehicles also know that it is a practice liable to fines by the traffic police. So also are our students aware of the fact that traveling on rooftops is both dangerous and illegal. Yet the practice continues with abandon - despite the presence of multitudes of grey-uniformed traffic policemen and blue-uniformed security policemen on our roads.

So if this practice has taken the life of a 9th class public school student, who according to this paper fell down from the rooftop of a moving bus, we are all to be blamed - some of us more so than others.

How many students must die like this for us to wake up to the fact that a drastic change in public transportation - or at least student transportation - is needed to stop needless death and injury on the roads?

The last time an apparent effort was made to resolve the transportation problems of public school students, particularly of colleges in H-sector, occurred early this year after a college student in H-sector was fatally hit by a speeding car on Islamabad Expressway. The Islamabad Traffic Police had consultations with the various stakeholders involved, including the administrations of various public colleges. Nothing much though has changed for the students in terms of transportation.

After the accident in January, steel speedbreakers and road bumps were constructed on the Islamabad Expressway to slow down traffic for students to cross the multi-lane road. A pedestrian bridge for these students has also been under construction for several months now but it seems to be taking an unnecessarily long time to be completed.

In any case, these structures alone are useless in preventing accidents - so long as students continue to do what they do every day, i.e., spill over onto the road in the way of traffic, trying to stop a coach/wagon or hitch a ride. This is the scene which occurs every day not only on Islamabad Expressway but also on Ninth Avenue (Agha Shahi Avenue) - particularly on the portions of these roads adjoining H-sector. Motorists on these two highways have to be very careful to avoid these students and not hit them.

Like the practice of traveling on rooftops, the spilling of students onto these two highways after school is dangerous and can be the cause of potentially fatal accidents. It is the scenario of yet another accident waiting to happen. Are we just going to sit by and let it happen? We are again making a grave mistake by not doing anything to forestall such accidents knowing full well the dangers to which the students are exposed.

To keep students off the two highways in question, we have to ensure that they are able to get onto transport from their colleges or just outside their colleges in H-sector so that they don't have to walk all the way out onto the Islamabad Expressway or Ninth Avenue to wait for public transport or hitch a ride home.

For these students, most of whose parents do not have cars - official or private - to drop and pick them up from college, there are only two options of safe transportation to and from college: college buses run by the Federal Directorate of Education or public transportation that they can get onto outside their colleges.

As it is the case in countries elsewhere, ideally our college students should be given passes to travel on public transportation that ought to comprise high-capacity buses. But the public transportation system in Islamabad - a responsibility of the district administration - is poor and grossly inadequate, despite demands for change and countless apparent attempts to change it over the years.

An elected local government in Islamabad might perhaps be more responsive to the transportation needs of the general public. Till then, college buses are the only safe means of transportation for students studying in Islamabad. Thus not only should adequate number of buses be procured for existing and upcoming educational institutions in Islamabad, those students who cannot afford the bus fees should be subsidised.

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Academics' access, HEC, British Council signed agreement
Islamabad: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) and British Council signed a letter of intent (LoI) on Friday aimed at cementing partnerships between Pakistani and UK education institutions and giving academics an access to international expertise.

The LoI would give Pakistani educational institutions and academics an access to international expertise, up-to-date knowledge and links to global networks through programmes tailored especially for Pakistan's unique requirements and would be supplemented by leadership training, support for research and other collaborative ventures, said a statement issued after the signing ceremony.

The arrangement has been made to equip Pakistan's future leaders, decision makers and opinion makers with the awareness necessary to bring the country to its rightful place in the modern world.

HEC acting Executive Director Dr Mukhtar Ahmed and British Council Worldwide CEO Martin Davidson signed the LoI. "This commitment covers a range of issues such as leadership and economic," said the CEO, adding "we need to constantly ask ourselves to make things better by sharing to get the best out of an explosion of opportunities."

The HEC and council introduced Higher Education Links Programme in Pakistan. It began with 15 linkages that were completed in three years. Currently 35 links between higher education institutions (HEIs) of Pakistan with UK's universities are operational.

"Institutions gained exposure to high quality facilities in the UK benefiting from curriculum development and improvement. The linkages brought the HEIs into a wider network of international partnership and it helped them develop their research capabilities," Dr Ahmed said. Dawn

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Extension in principals services rejected
Rawalpindi: Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif has rejected the applications of political personalities to extend the services of principals of girls colleges. Some MNAs and MPAs have requested the chief minister regarding extension in the services of principals of three girl colleges.These principals included principal of Government Waqar-u-Nisa Postgraduate Girls College, Government Khyaban-e-Sir Syed Girls Degree College and Government Girls Degree College B block.

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Swatis await economic, academic reconstruction
Mingora: Coming out of the trauma of Talibanisation only recently, inhabitants of Swat now want the government to help restore their businesses, construct schools at the earliest and remove the security barricades at least from the city of Mingora.

Majority of the people are satisfied with the security situation and believe the Taliban will never be able to stage a return despite a recent call from Fazlullah, who was so far believed to be seriously injured and almost under siege, regarding his presence at a safer place in Afghanistan and launching of guerilla war in the valley.

Though some people are upset about the call, a majority say Fazlullah is a history now as the people of Swat would no more be conned in the name of Islam or other catchy slogan as done by the fugitive Taliban leader or his jailed father-in-law, Sufi Muhammad.

However, what the people want the government and the army troops to do was to compensate those who lost their near and dear ones, suffered businesses, farm and orchards losses; start the reconstruction process with a special focus on the rebuilding of schools for boys and girls and remove or at least decrease the number of the security barriers.

According official figures, nearly 300 schools have been destroyed or partially damaged during the wave of militancy in the valley over the past two years. None of those has been reconstructed so far and the boys and girls are studying in open sitting on the bare ground despite the prevailing cold weather.

"We're happy that bombs are not going off in our city now and the security forces have successfully defeated the militants, but the most needed thing is the reconstruction process at this stage, which is yet to be started," said Muhammad Roshan, a college teacher in the two of Saidu Sharif.

Launching of the much-needed reconstruction process could also generate employment for the people who had run out of the available cash during their days in camps, rented house or with host families before July this year, he added.

Educationist Ziauddin Yousafzai, an ardent voice for the people of Swat during the days of turmoil as well as today, is equally concerned about the plight of education in the valley.He says most of the government-owned schools had been destroyed and the students were studying in the razed buildings. "Hence, the government must start the reconstruction of schools at the earliest," he argues. However, to the dismay of Swat people, not a single school has been reconstructed despite the lapse of nearly five months. The news

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