KABUL (Pajhwok): Officials of the Shifa Higher Education Institute, a private university in Kabul, claim the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) deliberately lowered the institute’s evaluation score and revoked the license for its medical faculty in a biased manner, a claim the ministry rejects.
Shifa Higher Education Institute obtained operation license from MoHE in 2014 and currently its students are taught in three faculties including pharmacy, stomatology and law.
Officials of the institute say they had previously 1,520 students but all of them left after their evaluation score was reduced by the ministry.
Documents of the case
Shifa Higher Education Institute has documents regarding their evaluation by MoHE. The docs show the first Evaluation Committee of the ministry granted 74.07 score to the institute while the second score was decreased to 42.
However, the ministry says the institute’s actual score was 38.
In another document, submitted to Pajhwok by the institute, the institute claims the actual marks given to it by the Evaluation Committee had been reduced by Quality Assurance director of the ministry.
According to the document, the Quality Assurance director penned down a score of 41.755, but the institute claims the score was actually 44.04.
The documents show that after evaluation by the ministry, the score of the institute was deliberately decreased to 38.5 before the evaluation report was submitted to the Cabinet and it led to revocation of licenses for pharmacy and stomatology faculties of the university.
Shifa Higher Education Institute officials say Ajmal Yasin, head of the delegation sent by the ministry for evaluation of the institute had no government job at the time.
However, he did not provide any documents to Pajhwok to prove that Yasin came from a private organization.
After the institute’s score was reduced, officials of the institute complained to the MoHE to send another delegation for reevaluation of the institute. The ministry first agreed that a special committee would follow the matter.
However, the ministry later in a letter to the institute said that there was no need for another team for evaluation and no changes would be made to the institute’s score.
Conclusion by the cabinet
The Cabinet on December 5, 2018 in its report said, “After a comprehensive meeting, the Cabinet approved evaluation reports of 45 private higher educational institutes and directed the MoHE to give one year chance to institutes with poor performance and cancel the licenses of institutes with serious performance issues or close their medical faculties.”
The Cabinet also directed the MoHE to evaluate the performance of all universities including private institutes and then share their results with the Cabinet.
Claims of Shifa Higher Education Institute’s officials
Abdul Bari Khpalwak, the institute’s deputy director and director of student affairs, claimed that the MoHE punished the institute in agreement with other universities, so their students would be shifted to their institutes and the ministry had signed deals with them.
He said that in 2018, their institute was evaluated by a delegation led by Ajmal Yasin, director of student affairs at another private university.
Yasin deliberately reduced the institute’s marks and revoked the medical faculty’s license by giving false information to the Cabinet, Khpalwak claimed, adding that Yasin had no government job at the time of evaluating their institute.
However, a spokesman for MoHE, Hamid Obeidi, said that all the committees and commissions of the ministry had members from the private sector and Ajmal Yasin was part of the team.
However, Khpalwak said, “When we sought reason for the cancellation, the director of Quality Assurance at the ministry did not provide a convincing answer.”
He said Yasin reduced the score of the institute without any valid reason.
Despite the institute’s score was higher than 40, a standard mark for higher education institutes, but the Quality Assurance misreported to the Cabinet and cut short the score to 38, he said.
“If there is no corruption in the ministry and there were valid reasons for cancelling the license, then why it was not done so since 2018”, he said.
He said when he complained about the matter, the ministry appointed a committee, but the committee’s head, Balakarzai, said it was not their responsibility to create a committee for the matter and said it was up to the Cabinet to decide.
Khpalwak added the ministry did not have the right to revoke any university’s license that has the score of more than 40 points in the assessment, but their license was revoked.
According to the law, there are five steps for cancellation of an institute’s license which include instruction, warning, cash fines, suspension and cancellation, which is the last decision, but none of these steps were followed for cancellation of the license of Shifa Higher Education Institute, he said.
“Some of our students who were in the second semester, have been admitted to the sixth semester of another university by the ministry without any certificate or documents,” Khpalwak added.
He claimed that most of his students had been shifted to Ajmal Yasin’s Private University.
He said the standard of his institute was higher than set by the Ministry of Higher Education and suggested that their institute needed reevaluation in presence of media.
He accused the ministry of corruption and said there was also need for a transparent probe into his institute’s closure. “We will hold civil movements if our voice is ignored,” he warned.
Evaluation Committee’s views
Ajmal Yasin, head of the Evaluation Committee, told Pajhwok Afghan News that he had worked with the Quality Promotion Committee of MoHE and was a member of the department in the ministry.
He said there were documents with all the relevant committees of the ministry to prove he had been appointed to evaluate Shifa Higher Education Institute.
He said it was the ministry that appointed him as head of the committee and the ministry in agreement with Private University Union appointed representatives from three private universities (American University of Afghanistan, Kardan University and Cheragh University) for a neutral judgment.
Yasin said Shifa Higher Education Institute was not alone that he evaluated, but there were many other institutes he assessed on behalf of MoHE.
Views of Shifa Higher Education Institute’s students:
Zishan, a medical faculty student of Shifa Higher Education Institute, said that when the institute’s license was revoked, they were told the problem would be solved and then they were told the issue had been settled.
However, he said that MoHE later changed its mind and announced that the institute’s license had been cancelled.
He said Ahmad Zia Yousafzai, former director of student affairs of private universities at the Ministry of Higher Education, had said at the time that students who wanted to shift from Shifa Higher Education Institute to other private institutes would be given 50 percent discount in fee.
However, he said when he referred to the ministry to fill the discount form for shifting to another university, the ministry refused to give the forms to students of Shifa Higher Education Institute.
Another student, Zabihullah Humayun, said he approached the ministry to resolve the issue, and officials assured him that the problem would be resolved.
However, he said after the institute’s license was cancelled, Yousafzai told him that the students of the institute would not be shifted to other universities.
Views of legal experts:
Sharifullah Wayand, a legal affairs expert, said that evaluation of universities should be based on facts and transparency.
He said that MoHE was responsible to provide explanation about the matter if it had committed any mistake. He said if the ministry had not committed any mistakes, then it should defend its dignity otherwise it would lose credibility of its evaluation.
Sayed Faroq Hashemi, another legal expert, said if the score of Shifa Higher Education Institute was higher than the standard mark and was shown lower to the Cabinet, then it was a crime.
He said that Shifa Higher Education Institute had the right to defend its right and lodge a complaint.
Comments from MoHE
Hamid Obeidi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Higher Education, rejected claims by officials of the Shifa Higher Education Institute that the assessment scores had been tampered with or deliberately reduced.
He told Pajhwok that the evaluation of medical universities was carried out in accordance with international standards.
Obeidi said the Evaluation Committee should convince the Quality Assurance Board regarding the scores of universities, otherwise the board has the authority to reduce the marks.
He said problems of the Shifa Higher Education Institute students had been addressed and their shifting to other private universities was underway.
Obeidi said he had sent several requests to the Ministry of Interior to stop activities of the institute, but the ministry was yet to take any action.
Mohammad Karim Naseri, spokesman of Private Universities Union, also said that MoHE had misreported the evaluation of Shifa Higher Education Institute to the Cabinet.
He said that the report was also rejected by the Higher Education Commission of Meshrano Jirga, second vice-president and they had asked for a neutral delegation to resolve the issue.
Shifa Higher Education Institute officials said they had complained to the Meshrano Jirga about the matter and the upper house’s Higher Education Commission evaluated the institute and sent its report to the Cabinet on May 2, but the report was intentionally stopped from reaching the Cabinet.