University administration excluded students’ assignment marks.
The annual report does not make clear how many students were affected by this practice of the AIOU. STOCK IMAGE
ISLAMABAD: A large number of students at the Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) who had initially failed their final exams were given passing grades after the intervention of the Federal Ombudsman in 2013.
This disclosure was made in the Ombudsman’s annual report for 2013, which stated that the students were failed by the university because university officials failed to count the grades for their pre-exam assignments, which resulted in them having a lower grade, and pushed many students below passing. Once this practice was pointed out by the Ombudsman’s office, the university corrected the grades and issued passing grades and degrees to the affected students.
The annual report does not make clear how many students were affected by this practice of the AIOU, though the Ombudsman’s office states that 1,311 complaints about the AIOU that were admitted in 2013, 825 related to degrees and exam results, of which a large percentage were related to the failure to include assignment grades. The university administration has been advised by the Ombudsman to improve its grading system to avoid non-inclusion of assignment marks in the future.
The total number of complaints against the AIOU received in 2013 was slightly lower than the 1,369 received in 2012, but much higher than the 897 admitted in 2009. The total number of complaints received by the Ombudsman about the AIOU was the fifth largest total, behind only the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), the state-owned gas utilities, Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines (SNGP), and the state-owned electric utility companies.
The AIOU, established in 1974, was at the time of its establishment the only university that employs distance learning as its only method of teaching. Since then, the internet-based Virtual University has also joined the ranks of state-run universities providing distance learning.
When it was set up, it was meant to provide promising students who lived in rural or inaccessible areas the opportunity to gain a tertiary education at low cost without having to move away from where they lived. In a conservative society where many families are reluctant to send their daughters out for tertiary education, it has provided many women with the opportunity to pursue higher education while not having to go against family traditions.
The university has a total enrolment of around 500,000 in its bachelors, masters and PhD programmes, and has an annual intake of close to 100,000 students, making it the largest institution of higher education in the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2015.
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