The News International
Published Date: Jun 30, 2020
Academia opposes appointment of ex-bureaucrats, judges as head of universities’ syndicates
ISLAMABAD: The draft Punjab Public-Sector Universities Amendment Act 2020 undermines the autonomy of the universities by allowing the appointment of retired bureaucrats and judges as chairpersons of the syndicates of the universities depriving the vice-chancellors and teachers of their right.
This was stated by senior academicians including the vice-chancellors of various universities while addressing a webinar on “The Autonomy of Higher Education Institutions in Pakistan” organised here by Sustainable Development Policy Institute.
They said that the university teachers’ fraternity and the vice-chancellors of the universities in Punjab are resisting the draft amendment demanding that the autonomy of the universities and VCs should not be compromised in the interest of higher education in the province.
The academicians were of the view that the proposed Act was drafted without taking the stakeholders on board. They said that instead of curtailing the powers of vice-chancellors of the universities in Punjab, they should be given autonomy to appoint their teams including deans, chairpersons of departments and centers, pro vice-chancellors etc.
The university teachers’ fraternity feels that such an attempt will end intellectual freedom and harm independent academic research once the university syndicates will be headed by retired, non-academician bureaucrats or judges and others who do not know what is higher education and academic freedom. This may be a conspiracy to curtail intellectual freedoms, they concluded.
Dr Fateh Mari, Executive Director, Higher Education Commission, was of the view that any kind of law-making requires a wider debate among the stakeholders before a formal draft is finalised. Besides, he said, the draft should come in the public domain for a consultative process. “We have witnessed amendments in various university acts but the basic framework always remained intact,” he said, adding that the freedom and autonomy are important for quality higher education.
Earlier, Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI, presented an overview of the situation that has been emerged after surfacing of the proposed draft. He said any such effort if allowed to get materialised would have a disastrous impact on the autonomy of the universities. The civil society and think tanks would lend their complete support to academia to highlighting crucial issues. Dr Suleri said that the collective voices of the stakeholders would be duly shared at the relevant forums.
Dr Syed Muhammad Ali, Vice-Chancellor, Quaid-i-Azam University said that any amendment in existing law should be aiming at bringing some improvement in the system. However, the proposed draft, if implemented, would render the universities completely ungovernable.
Dr Shahid Siddiqui, Dean Social Sciences, National University of Modern Languages, termed it quite unfortunate that even the institutions of higher education are dragged into politics of power. He said that we cannot expect a VC to deliver when he/she is left to face undue and consistent pressure in the name of appraisal twice every year.
Dr Rukhsana David, Principal, Kinnaird College University, Lahore, said that when we compare our universities with the institutions of higher education of other countries, we also need to learn about their systems that are based on a higher level of autonomy.
Dr Iqrar A Rana, former Vice-Chancellor, Agriculture University, Faisalabad, said that the presence of a powerful vice-chancellor is imperative to expect him/her to deliver. He said that we may amend the act with a view to improving the governance of our higher educational institutions with accountability but not by compromising their autonomy.
Dr Naseer Pasha, Vice Chancellor, University of Education, said that the vice-chancellors of the universities are major stakeholders that have not been consulted before the preparation of the said draft. Dr Uzma Qureshi, Vice-Chancellor, Women University, Multan, said that the insinuations of higher education need more autonomy rather than comprising whatever is available.
Dr Athar Mehboob, Vice-Chancellor, Islamia University, Bahawalpur, was of the view that the proposed draft is just a reflection of the institutional decay we are witnessing at every level in our country.