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UMEF admin raps accuse MoHE over vindictive behaviour

UMEF admin raps accuse MoHE over vindictive behaviour

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Jan 16, 2017 - 17:43

KABUL (Pajhwok): The government has put at stake the future of hundreds of students by revoking the licence of a private university, issued by the administration of former president Hamid Karzai.

The issue was raised after the higher education minister said at a meeting with Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Abdullah that they did not recognise the UMEF University campus in Kabul and the degrees it awarded were illegal.

Foundation & functioning of UMEF

Syed Mohammad Baqir Kazim, the Kabul-based UMEF spokesman, told Pajhwok Afghan News the university was founded four years back in line with an agreement with the main campus administration in Geneva.

A formal letter of approval was also issued from the embassy of Afghanistan in Switzerland to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).  Investment in the Kabul branch was made by Javed Sangdil, an Afghan citizen.

The approval letter was then dispatched to the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) for further procedures, the spokesman added.

Foreign Ministry’s role

Letter No.3547 from Desk-5 of the Cultural Affairs Department at the ministry asked the MoHE that a letter from the Afghan embassy in Switzerland requested the opening of a UMEF branch in Kabul.

The project would have a positive impact on development of professional and creation of job opportunities, says the letter, which was signed by then deputy foreign minister Javed Lodin.

It added: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) expects cooperation from the authorities concerned to help in founding of the UMEF branch in Kabul.”

Licence from MoHE

Another letter from the private universities’ department to the higher education minister reads: “The issue of the UMEF branch suggested in letter No. 336 on Feb. 11, 2012 and the launch of its master’s programme was discussed and certain decisions were taken.”

The letter says: “Necessary documents for the registration of the branch have been produced.”  Two days later, MoHE told the private universities’ department: “The independent master’s programme met the required standards. Go ahead with the legal procedure.”  

Two governments, different approaches

According to the documents submitted during the Karzai government, MoFA facilitated and MoHE provided approval for the UMEF university branch, but sitting officials call the campus illegal.

Two days back, Higher Education Minister Farida Momand said the UMEF campus was not a registered educational institute in Switzerland and had no legal or academic credentials.

She said the Foundation Commission, a body that checks documents for new higher education institutes, had found the university failing to meet the required formalities. Hence it was not permitted to operate.

The acting higher education minister stated under the commission’s decision, the UMEF University branch in Kabul had to be closed for being an unlawful educational institute.

The commission ignored the above documents in the process of approving the university. But Faisal Amin, spokesman for MoHE, said the decision was based on information from current diplomats in Switzerland.

He added: “The first step was taken after a letter from the Afghan embassy in Geneva was received in late December, saying the UMEF University has no formal approval from Swiss authorities.”

As per an MoFA letter No. 13325, UMEF is not formally registered with the government of Switzerland. Its logo and title were provided by EduQua under education programmes and were valid for UMEF only.

The MoFA letter alleges the promotion of UMEF by co-educational institute Dunya in commercial ads on television and billboards was an act of plagiarism to deceive the public. The UMEF has no legal status with the government of Switzerland.

Complaint to Wolesi Jirga

After the matter of UMAF being an illegal educational institute was raised, officials of the university complained to the Wolesi Jira.  The house tasked a commission comprised of officials from MoHE, the lower house panel on higher education and UMEF to investigate the matter.

Members of the body also travelled to Switzerland as part of the investigation. But Faisal Amin said no MoHE official visited Switzerland and the ministry completed its work independently.

The university should be closed, he insisted. The Wolesi Jirga commission, however, allowed the campus to function until its legality or otherwise was known. The Attorney General Officer could not be reached for comments.

UMEF main office and Swiss officials’ reaction

Walter Mareovich, the head of UMEF main office for student affairs in Geneva, told Pajhwok that the agreement on UMEF branch in Afghanistan had been shared with the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) by the Afghan Embassy and the MoHE had approved it.

The agreement allowed Dunya Private University to function in Afghanistan as part of UMEF University, he said.

“UMEF University in Geneva can provide bachelor level education to only those Afghan students who are able to meet the requirements, pass a comprehensive test and meet MoHE conditions in Afghanistan,” he said.

He added the students after receiving bachelor’s degrees would be provided diplomas by the UMEF in the subjects concerned. UMEF professors also supported masters in administration and business in Dunya Private University and students could continue their education in master’s degrees, Mareovich said.

He added \the UMEF was a private education institute founded in 1984. Hundreds of students had so far received their graduation certificates from the university.

Manjula Bhatia, a Swiss citizen and reporter of RSI, Swiss’s national radio television, said the UMEF University had received official authority from the country’s higher education ministry.

She said Silvia Studinger, deputy head of private universities affairs of Geneva, had confirmed the UMEF receiving the license for business activities in education.

“All private universities functioning in this country should obtain their credentials and confirmation letters following a procedure between 2016 and 2013,” Silvia Studinger said.

Isabella Brunelli, deputy higher education policy unit head in Switzerland, confirmed in an email to Pajhwok Afghan News that the UMEF was a registered university. “The UMEF is an active university in this state and its business activity’s documents are registered.”

Unclear condition of UMEF in Afghanistan and students confusion

Meanwhile, the MoHE called the UMEF activities in Afghanistan as illegal and the Afghan Embassy in Swiss in a letter said no documents of the university would be processed.

“The Afghan Embassy plans to send all the cancellation documents which the UMEF has hidden from the central government,” the letter said.

MoHE also in a statement released on January 5 said Dunay Private University would be shut in consideration of the letters from the Swiss based Afghan embassy. The ministry said all the documents of students would be closely reviewed and then properly decided.

However, Dunay Private University remains listed 46 among universities and private higher education institutes on MoHE official website.

According to UMEF spokesman, 93 students of administration and business received their master’s degrees from the university last year. All the documents of graduates had also been approved by the MoHE, he said.

Sayed Mohammad Baqir said 80 other students of the university were working on their thesis right now.

“This higher education institute has several times assessed by high MoHE delegations who also approved its performance, but it is questionable when its license was considered as illegal,” he added.

“If we have committed any mistake or our license is fake then we are ready to accept all responsibilities, if there is problem in the process of documents of the university then the MoHE is responsible for that. It should not play with the fate of youth,” Baqir added.

After Dunya Private University was called as illegal, its students said they were worried about their future.

Wiasuddin, one of the students, said he was currently working on his thesis and was not sure whether they would receive certificates or not.

“I paid 148,000 afghanis for each semester but now we are informed the university is illegally operating,” he said.

“The government should clarify why it raised the issue after four years of the university’s operation, why did the government not shut the university before it was opened,” he grumbled.

He said he and his class mates had requested the Presidential Palace for a meeting with the president about the issue, but failed to elicit a response.

The Presidential Palace did not respond to Pajhwok contact for comment on the issue.

mds/ma/nh/mud

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