CIIT pro-rector sacked over plagiarism of PhD thesis

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ISLAMABAD: The Board of Governors of Comsats Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) terminated on Friday its pro-rector Haroon Rashid who was proved to have plagiarised his PhD thesis.

The decision is second of its kind in the country in the last 15 years where one of the top figures of a university has been removed from service over plagiarism charges.

With this decision, Rashid is also likely to be removed from National Testing Service (NTS) which he was heading as Chief Executive Officer.

The government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) had removed Dr Azmat Hayat Khan as vice-chancellor of the University of Peshawar in 2011 when he was proved to have plagiarised his book.

According to sources privy to the development, the BoG took the unanimous decision in its meeting on one-point agenda in Islamabad that the pro-rector be removed from his post.

Rashid was given two chances to personally clarify his position. The BoG in its meeting on June 11 had suspended Rashid and also cancelled his three months leave.

The BoG gave him June 17 as the second chance to clear his position in personal hearing but he did not show up following which the members unanimously decided to terminate their pro-rector who has worked at CIIT for over two years. He was also ex-officio member of the BoG.

One of the sources in the meeting stated that a few members suggested his removal status be considered from 2006, the year the thesis was submitted with Preston University.

Some members, however, opposed the idea and then decided to consider his removal from June 6 as removal from such back date might raise questions about decisions taken by him since then.

On June 6, the Preston University’s Academic Council cancelled PhD degree of Rashid. The HEC in September 2015 found 72% plagiarism in his thesis on request of a complainant forwarded to Quality Assurance Agency through an email.

Probe

Later, the university formed a four-member probe body to inquiry into the charges independently. In its final report, the body concluded that the “thesis does not justify the award of a PhD degree.”

The thesis was submitted in 2006. The report carried a chapter-by-chapter analysis which included comments such as “very highly plagiarised”, “highly plagiarised” and “extremely plagiarised”.

The report says that most of the content has been lifted from an original submitted by Rafiqul Zaman Khan to Hamdard University, New Delhi, India in the PhD programme in 2004.

NTS

According to sources, the BoG members, like previous meeting also discussed fate of Rashid as CEO of NTS. He is heading the testing service since the beginning. The service has been blamed for misappropriations and has been part of discussion in different standing committees as well. The service has also been under criticism as five of its board members are employees of CIIT which includes its rector Junaid Zaidi.

Sources further said that the Board of Directors was also more likely to remove Rashid as CEO of NTS in coming weeks but interestingly it is registered with Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan with the name of Haroon Rashid while at CIIT he was known as Dr Muhammad Haroon Rashid.

Officials close to Rashid had been defended him stating that he had completed his degree in 2006 while the HEC’s plagiarism policy was implemented in 2007.

Preston’s fate

Preston University has also taken multiple hits to its reputation over the past few years. Recently, the HEC’s quality assurance team had directed the varsity to shut down their PhD and Mphil programmes, citing various lapses or glaring shortcomings, while warning that the degrees of students enrolled in or after 2014 would not be attested or verified.

The university has Kohat as principal seat in its charter issued by the government of K-P but despite repeated notices and reminders from HEC, the varsity had not bothered to develop its main campus instead kept focusing on sub-campus in Islamabad.

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