The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) on Wednesday ordered the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to close down campuses of private universities all over the country that are running illegally.

The SC remarked campuses of Preston University and Al Khair University have been set up illegally in Lahore and Karachi. Students sought help from the court about the HEC not issuing degrees to those who have studied from these universities.

The case was heard by a three-member bench headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial.

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The court gave directions to HEC to make special arrangements to award degrees to the students who had graduated from these illegal campuses. It also said that policies of HEC should be implemented with uniformity all over the country.

The bench gave remarks that there should be no compromise on the provision of higher education to all young students. Provincial and Federal governments need to work closely and cooperate to maintain the standards of HEC.

The SC noted that the issue was whether private universities are allowed to open sub-campuses outside their territorial limits or not. It added that HEC already made it very clear that they could set any sub-campuses and they issued many alerts as well.

Counsel for students, Ali Zafar said that the session court had ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to take action against these universities. However, Justice Bandial replied, “The HEC has the powers. There is no need for NAB to investigate the matter.”

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The court said that the federal government would be ordered to change the laws if HEC is weak.

“The students had approached the Lahore High Court (LHC) for their degrees. The LHC declared the [sub-]campuses of private universities illegal,” the counsel added.

Justice Bandial acknowledged the high court verdict and emphasised pursuing the shut down of illegal campuses at the earliest.