The Edition
facebook icon twitter icon instagram icon linkedin icon


Higher Education Act amendment: Accusations and praise for Qasim

The parliament today discussed on a bill proposed to the Higher Education Act, which if passed would relax the requirements of colleges becoming universities.

Ameera Osmanagic
10 July 2024, MVT 10:41
[File] MP of Maamigili Constituency and leader of Jumhooree Party (JP) -- Photo: Nishan Ali | Mihaaru
Ameera Osmanagic
10 July 2024, MVT 10:41

Some members of the parliament today made indirect accusations against Jumhooree Party (JP) leader and MP of Maamigili constituency Qasim Ibrahim over the amendment proposed to the Higher Education Act to relax the conditions for granting university status to colleges.

The bill, which was put forth to the parliament by ruling party People's National Congress (PNC) member and MP of north Maafannu constituency Abdulla Rifaau (Bochey), would allow colleges to be granted university status after sustaining operations for 15 consecutive years, instead of the 20 years currently mandated.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members who spoke on the bill today indirectly accused the bill to be by MP Qasim, who is also the owner of Villa Group. Passing the bill would allow Villa College to become a university, they alleged.

MP of Vaikaradhoo constituency Hussain Ziyadh (Fitte), speaking on the subject, said that the bill seems less like an amendment and more like "a coat tailored for a specific person."

He also added that previous parliaments decided against relaxing the duration requirement to ensure the quality of universities and that the decision remained unchanged despite the bill being proposed multiple times back then.

"This is not a big amendment as being told. The only thing missing in this [bill] is the location and company name. Everything else is included in these conditions," he said.

MP of south Galolhu constituency Meekail Naseem said that the bill was drafted and escalated to the parliament at such a fast speed to promote the business interest of certain individuals.

"This is truly something [I] am very saddened about," he said.

In response, MP of north Thinadhoo constituency Saudullah Hilmee came to Qasim's defence and said that accusations being thrown about the bill being beneficial for a certain individual are aimed at Qasim who has done so much for education sector of the country.

Qasim sent students to study abroad even before the inception of Villa College, he said, condemning the accusations against the MP.

"Bringing this change would benefit many Maldivians," he also added.

MP of Baarashu constituency Ibrahim Shujau also sung Qasim's praises saying that Qasim had spent his entire life to develop higher education.

As such, the government should do things to benefit the private sector and even allocate land for those who want to promote colleges, he said.

Maldives Development Alliance (MDA)'s member for Velidhoo constituency Mohamed Abbas also stood by Qasim, saying that he does not believe that the bill is tailored for a specific person, and that both Maldives National University (MNU) and Villa College have produced many academics in the country.

"I do not believe that it is [Qasim's] fault he provided educational services for students for such a long time via Villa College," he added.

MP Rifau (Bochey) who submitted the bill to the parliament also added that most colleges in the country already fit the criteria to become universities, taking the example of Avid College, Cyryx College and Clique College, who will fit the conditions this year.

"Today, the top private colleges in Maldives are the ones that will cross the 15-year mark this year," he said.

While the debate saw both accusations and praise aimed at Qasim, a similar amendment to the Higher Education Act was also proposed to the 19th parliament by the then ruling party MDP, who also held supermajority at the parliament. However, the bill did not pass the committee stage.

Back then Qasim's party JP was in coalition with MDP's government.

Share this story