(EIILM) MAURITIAN BRANCH CAMPUS – FACT-FINDING COMMITTEES (10/03/15)
(No. B/188) Mr R. Uteem (First Member for Port Louis South & Port Louis Central) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Science Research whether, in regard to the Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning Management (EIILM) Mauritian Branch Campus, she will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Tertiary Education Commission, information as to –
(a) the outcome of the fact finding committees set up to inquire into alleged irregularities in relation to the operation thereof;
(b) if it has been allowed to enroll new students and offer new courses for academic year 2015, and
(c) if the qualifications awarded thereby will be recognised and accredited.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I am informed by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) that there has not been any Fact-Finding Committee set up to enquire on the allegation of irregularities in relation to the operations of the Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning and Management (EILM) University (Mauritius Branch Campus).
With regard to part (b) of the question, I am informed by the Tertiary Education Commission that EIILM has, on 03 December 2013, been instructed in writing by the Commission, not to enroll any students and not to offer new courses for the academic years 2014 and 2015.
I am also informed by the Tertiary Education Commission that EIILM has not enrolled any students though currently it has on its roll 68 students, out of whom 20 are following Year 2 programmes and 48 following are following Year 3 programmes. These two groups of students will complete their courses in the year 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Madam Speaker, as regards part (c) of the question, I am informed by the TEC that a communiqué was issued on 11 June 2014 stating that and I quote –
“As per TEC Board decision taken at its meeting held on 21 May 2014, all academic qualifications awarded by overseas universities relating to courses accredited by the TEC and offered by post-secondary educational institutions duly registered by TEC are fully recognised”.
However, Madam Speaker, strictly speaking, it would appear that this decision should not apply to EIILM. This institution cannot be recognised as an overseas university, as it has not been authorised to operate as an off-campus or offshore branch by the UGC.
Mr Uteem: Madam Speaker, answering to a PQ last year, No. B/152, the hon. Prime Minister stated, and I quote – “Mr Speaker, Sir, let me add that the Tertiary Education Commission has already instituted two Fact-Finding Committees to inquire into, one, the allegations regarding the clinical training of its students at D. Y. Patil Medical College, and also into the alleged irregularities in relation to the operation of EIILM University, that is, the Mauritius Branch Campus.”
So, is the hon. Minister telling us that when the Prime Minister answered the PQ, that was not correct?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: The information I have, Madam Speaker, is that no such enquiry has been carried out, no Fact-Finding Committee was...
Madam Speaker: Yes hon. Ganoo!
Mr Ganoo: I am asking the same question to the hon. Minister. Perhaps it is not a Fact-Finding Commission. But, has there been any body set up at that time by the previous Government with the help of British universities? This also we were told at that time. We have heard of certain British universities to make an investigation and to report on the workings of the Commission.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, no Fact-Finding Committee was set up to go into the irregularities of EIILM. However, at a point later in time, the Prime Minister did ask the UK audit agency for higher education to look into all our Mauritian institutions, and to come up with an audit of the standards of the University. But this has nothing to do with the Fact-Finding Committee.
Mr Uteem: Madam Speaker, I am very disturbed by the comment made by the hon. Minister who said that, according to her, the degree awarded by EIILM is not to be recognised and, at the same time, the hon. Minister said that there are existing students doing a course - second year, first year - to be completed in 2015-2016. So, is the hon. Minister saying that EIILM is allowed to operate and charge students for a degree that is not going to be recognised?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, this is sadly the case. But this has not been our doing; it has been the doing of the past Government. Yet, our Ministry is right now working out a way to help these students and safeguard their interests. We have been working with the institutions in Mauritius, our public institutions, to see how we can help them. By virtue of the fact that the University of Mauritius had refused to admit the students from EIILM to its postgraduate courses, due to programmatic gaps, as they stated, alternatives will have to be identified. And what we are thinking of, we are trying to work out with the students and with our public institutions that we have, to see how we can compensate for the programmatic gaps and help the students get a degree which would get eventually be recognised.
Mr Mohamed: Madam Speaker, I have taken note of what the hon. Minister has said regarding the flaws that were allowed at some stage, in the years before, with regard to EIILM. However, since students, as pointed out correctly by hon. Uteem, are still in second year and third year, the flaw and the wrong is continuing. Therefore, if the wrong is allowed to continue by the TEC vis-à-vis those students, could the hon. Minister consider ways and means of, as soon as possible, one, giving a guarantee to those students, right now, that everything will be done and without any doubt, to ensure that their degrees are recognised?
The second option being if that cannot be given, then measures be taken immediately for the courses that they are following to halt immediately, because we cannot continue to allow the courses go on if we cannot ensure that the wrong does not continue.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: Madam Speaker, I would like to stress on the point that this flaw has occurred in the previous Government, and I do agree, by no fault of the students. I have already met the students and their parents, and we are trying to see what we can do. I have no guarantee to give in this House, but I am already working out certain ways to help them out. And it is by no means our doing. What we are trying to do, we are trying to safeguard the interests of the students, taking into consideration certain humane considerations. As far as EIILM Institution is concerned, we have ensured that they are not enrolling new students. Those who are at present in the Institution were allowed by the former Government, and now we are having to come up with measures to help them out.
Mr Bérenger: May I ask one question? Has Government, the hon. Minister, the Attorney General looked at the possibility of claiming damages from those who have been guilty in that whole affair?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: We are trying, Madam Speaker, to see whether this can be considered.
Mr Ramful: I have heard the hon. Minister stating to the House that there was an Audit Committee that was set up by the previous Government. Can we know from the hon. Minister whether the Committee has completed its work, and if so, will she be tabling a copy of the report to the Assembly?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: In fact, we are awaiting their final report by the end of March.
Mr Jhugroo: Madam Speaker, being given that all the students of EIILM University had been misguided by the administration of the university, would she refer this case to the Police and legal action be taken against the Directors of this university?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: We are seriously considering this, Madam Speaker.
Mr Uteem: Madam Speaker, the hon. Minister mentioned that she has met the parents of the students. In fact, there is a lot of concern because she has not communicated to them since January. So, may I ask the hon. Minister whether she has a timeline as to when she is going to come with a solution to propose to them?
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: In fact, Madam Speaker, I met the parents and I have asked them, because they were telling me that there are students still going for the courses and still to sit for exams. We are waiting for these students to pass, and then, with their certificate in hand, whatever the worth of that certificate, we can then refer the case to our public institutions and try to see how we can make do with the gaps that exist in their programmes.
Madam Speaker: Hon. Ganoo!
Mr Ganoo: Thank you, Madam Speaker, for giving me one minute for this last question. Can the hon. Minister inform this House why is it the case that when we were in Opposition, be it MMM or MSM, we questioned even the legality of the promoters of this University - including Minister Bodha and the Minister herself - to set up these universities, and we even quoted from Indian authorities? If the House will bear with me, this is a public notice issued by the UGC on territorial jurisdiction of universities, and I am just going to quote – “The UGC has not granted any permission to Sikkim Manipal University and EIILM University to set up off- campus centre(s), study centre(s) or off-shore campus centre(s). As such, both, these universities cannot run courses in Mauritius through their own campuses or through franchisee agreement”.
This is very clear. Why is it now that the new Government - because this is what are all expecting: put an end to this illegal situation once for all.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun: May I, Madam Speaker, clear out something right away. We have not allowed EIILM to pursue its role, however, because of decision taken by the former Government the students were allowed to carry on with their course so that they end up with a certificate that we can afterwards try to upgrade by seeking equivalents or trying to make do for any shortcomings in the course. However, we could not just stop straightaway right now, because the students would be left with nothing in hand. With the certificate in hand, we can always upgrade and compensate for anything that is missing or lacking.
Madam Speaker: The Table has been advised that PQ. No. B/192 has been withdrawn. Time is over!
D. Y. PATIL MEDICAL COLLEGE - FACT-FINDING COMMITTEE – REPORT (10/03/15)
(No. B/199) Mr S. Rutnah (Third Member for Piton & Rivière du Rempart) asked the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Science Research whether, in regard to the D. Y. Patil Medical College, he will state if Former Chief Justice Arringa Pillay presided over a fact-finding committee in relation thereto during the tenure of office of the last Government, indicating if it has submitted its report and, if so, indicate the remarks, if any, made by the said committee on the International Monitoring Report on Accreditation.
Reply: Following numerous allegations made by two former students of D. Y. Patil Medical College that were widely echoed in the press, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) Board decided on 25 February 2014 to set up a Fact Finding Committee (FFC) with regard to the D.Y. Patil Medical College.
The composition of the FFC was as follows - Hon. Ariranga G Pillay, G.O.S.K, former Chief Justice (Chairperson); M. Vasdev Hassamal, former Chairperson of the Mauritius Revenue Authority, Member, and Dr Bhaye Dawood Jaufeerally, MBChB, FRCS, Specialist in General Surgery, Member.
The report of the FFC was submitted to the Chairperson of the TEC Board on 18 April 2014.
I am informed that, according to the provisions of the Clinical Training Framework for Medical Education, TEC is called upon to set up an International Monitoring Committee to recommend accreditation of programmes and ensure quality of same. The Committee has to monitor the Medical College on a yearly basis for the duration of 2 cohorts of students.
According to the FFC Report, four International Monitoring Committee meetings had been held between 2009 and 2013, each lasting for 2 days. In each meeting which included a visit to the premises of D.Y. Patil Medical College, a set of recommendations was made. A total of 62 recommendations had, thus, been made during that period.
The FFC had noted that many recommendations emanating right from the first IMC had not been implemented by D.Y. Patil Medical College at the time the Committee was carrying out its work. These related to provision of a hostel, mess facilities, lecture halls, a museum and an anatomy laboratory. Equally, short comings were noted concerning, inter alia, examination process, student attendance and the profile of lecturers. Despite these serious short comings, some of which still prevail as at now, the IMC in 2013 recommended full accreditation of programmes of the College for a period of 3 years.
The FFC also mentioned that the IMC in 2011 noted that there was no evidence of inspection or visit of the UTM to the College. The IMC equally noted that UTM should conduct regular inspections, document the findings and send reports to TEC.
I wish to further inform the House that the FFC had stated that the IMC in November 2013 did not mention in its report the amendment to the Medical Council Act passed in December 2012 which came into force on 01 August 2013 whereby students would be required to undergo and pass the Medical Council Qualifying examination prior to seeking admission to post graduate programmes. However, it is evident that it is the responsibility of the Medical College to keep the students abreast of any changes in the Medical Council Act prior to their admission.
The FFC also noted that the D.Y. Patil Medical College prospectus had not been updated on time to ensure that students of the batch of August 2013 would be aware of the changes prior to enrolment and prior to effecting any payment of fees for admission to the College. This resulted in students of that batch being recruited and made to pay the fees.