For many engineering students around the world, a degree at a reputable university gives them accreditation to work in the engineering profession.
This is not necessarily the case, however, for some who graduate in Pakistan. According to a report in the Express Tribune, a significant number of students in Pakistan are graduating from university courses only to find out that their course has not been accredited by the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC), a statutory body set up in 1976 to safeguard and regulate engineers throughout the country. As such, the students themselves are not recognised by the council as engineers.
The problem is so widespread, according to the report, that the PEC has felt compelled to issue an advisory warning for students and parents suggesting they check to ensure that any degree programs for which they apply are duly registered by the council. If the institution is not accredited, the council says, it will not recognise the students as engineers upon graduation.
Attending accredited schools matters, as unregistered engineers are excluded from government jobs. They can work as private consultants and contractors, but these positions typically earn far less than government jobs.
Outside of government work, landing a position with a private firm can also be difficult for unregistered engineers since private firms themselves have to register with the council and follow its rules when hiring people.
Making matters worse, the problem is not just restricted to universities with lesser reputations. The first batch of students enrolled in the well-respected Karachi University’s chemical engineering course, which began in 2007, were recognised upon graduation in 2010 – but only after the students protested for three years after finding out that that Karachi did not have PEC approval. Thus far, the PEC has refused to recognise subsequent batches of students.
One root of the problem, according to the registrar of NED University, Javed Aziz Khan, relates to the introduction of new engineering courses. When introducing a new engineering course, he says, some public universities have not had sufficient funds to purchase all of the necessary equipment for the entire course prior to starting a program, meaning the university will be unable to obtain accreditation from PEC at that point.
Kahn explains that much of the study tends to be generalised over the first two years, meaning the university does not need much specialised equipment until the first batch of students enters its third year. This means that early batches of students must simply hope that by the time they reach third year, the school has been able to purchase the necessary equipment and subsequently gain accreditation. If not, these students will be left without accreditation upon graduation.
A further problem, says NED University student Usama Murtaza, is that many universities in Pakistan hold PEC accreditation for core engineering programs but run unrecognised programs as well, meaning that students who are unaware of this may unknowingly enrol in unrecognised programs believing that all of the programs run by their university were duly accredited.
Engineer Ghulam Rasool Bhatti, PEC’s consultant at its Karachi branch, believes universities which offer unaccredited programs are playing with the futures of their students.
“Once the students are enrolled in an unaccredited programme, the council reserves the right to refuse them membership [as engineers], which is [essential] if they want to get jobs in Pakistan or abroad” he says.