Dr Qaisar Rashid |
Education is a business. No one knows this reality better than the universities in the United Kingdom (UK). Even if the business is done by observing legal provisions and following ethical principles, it serves some purpose. Contrarily, issuing degrees of low academic/research quality to overseas students and deleting the definitions of key terms from the bylaws of the universities are not only a disservice to the cause of education but they are also a disgrace to the name of education. Educational institutes are business empires now, with a college or a university making the existence of a town or city possible.
Almost every year, the British Council in Pakistan issues letters to several Pakistani students on behalf of the British High Commission, making three main statements: first, we are dismayed to learn of your disappointing experience at this or that college/university; second, we are unable to take any action on this matter as this is not within our authority; and third, thank you for alerting us to this issue.
Educational institutes are business empires now, with a college or a university making the existence of a town or city possible.
Pakistani students who are keen on studying a course at a UK’s university suffer at the hands of shrewd British professors. This happens because every next lot of Pakistani students remains oblivious of the bitter experience of the previous batch. Secondly, this also happens because neither the British High Commission nor the British Council issues any alert to Pakistani students whether or not they should seek admission to a particular college or university. In this regard, the British High Commission acts like a procurer with wicked avaricious intentions.
That is, in the relationship between a university in the UK and a Pakistani student, the British High Commission gets its share in the form of the student visa fee. Similarly, the British Council, which entices Pakistani students into studying in the UK, holds no responsibility. When informed of any incident both bodies just express their dismay and withdraw to their refuge of inaction. If someone asks the British Council the meaning of “thank you for alerting us to this issue”, it observes complete silence.
The point is what does the British Council do when it is alerted by an overseas (Pakistani) student? Does it take any action or does it keep mum? To such questions, the British Council remains mostly non-responsive, but if it replies at all, it is a reiteration of its earlier statements: “we are unable to take any action on this matter as this is not within our authority”. If the British Council is devoid of any authority, why does it get “alerted” to the issue?
The broader question is this: how does the British Council correlate its two statements written in one letter? To such questions, the British Council never replies nor does it issue any advisory statement to overseas students. The British Council also makes two claims: first, the UK has an excellent reputation in its higher education sector, and second, the UK takes the pastoral welfare of undergraduate and post-graduate students very seriously.
No one knows this reality better than the universities in the United Kingdom (UK). Even if the business is done by observing legal provisions and following ethical principles, it serves some purpose.
If the UK has such an excellent reputation in its higher education sector, why does an overseas student lodge a complaint and identify grave loopholes in the education system? Several examples can be cited when the UK’s higher education sector rectified its faults and improved its system (to help the British Council declare the “excellence” of the education sector) at the cost of time, money, energy and career of overseas students.
There are the cases where overseas students took pains to gather evidence and made written complaints to their respective universities on the compromised quality of the courses. Their complaints were upheld but they were given degrees of one level lower to what they had sought admission for. Who is responsible for such iniquitous acts? If a system improves because of the efforts made by an overseas student, why should the reward (monetary benefit owing to the qualitative improvement) earned by the university be fetched only by the university?
Why should a complainant have no share in the gain of the university and why should the complainant be content with the loss of his time, energy, money and career? Does a complainant do all that to let the British Council claim an excellent reputation of its higher education sector, as it does so? Why are the bylaws of UK’s universities devoid of key definitions such as “compensation”, “types of compensation”, “reasonable and proportionate compensation”, “substitution of a degree”, etc.? This is despite the fact that the definition of a “complaint” is given and the word “compensation” is mentioned several times in the bylaws.
Do the bylaws of UK’s universities use “should” instead of “shall” in important legal provisions? Against their claim of excellence, what the universities are afraid of? Why do they construct their bylaws that necessarily favour the university and disfavour a complainant? There are several universities in the UK where a two-step system of investigation into a complaint (about the provision of low-quality education/research) is considered an internal university process.
The British Council also makes two claims: first, the UK has an excellent reputation in its higher education sector, and second, the UK takes the pastoral welfare of undergraduate and post-graduate students very seriously.
If a complaint is upheld, the university takes at least six months to complete its first stage of enquiry. In the meantime, the complainant is disengaged from studies and made to wait. The next stage of review takes at least another three months to finish the university’s internal process of enquiry. Why is this duration not mentioned in the bylaws of the university? Is it not a duty of the university to finish an enquiry quickly to save the time of a complainant especially if the complainant were an overseas student? In fact, by applying delaying tactics, a complainant is made a discouraging example for others who intend to report any similar injustice.
The first priority of an overseas student is always to compromise as much as possible to get the degree concerned, whereas to lodge a complaint is the last option. It is because an overseas student cannot afford (in the context of both time and money) to keep on waiting and filing review petitions at one forum or another. Against this background, one laughs at the second claim of the British Council that the UK takes the pastoral welfare of undergraduate and post-graduate students very seriously. If such is the level of seriousness, one wonders what could be non-seriousness.
Dr Qaisar Rashid is a political analyst. The views expressed in this are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.