LAHORE: The vice chancellors of the public-sector universities have joined hands against the Punjab government’s decision of clipping their wings by bringing in a new legislation to “curb indiscriminate use of emergency powers” vested in them under relevant laws of their respective universities.
The vice chancellors are unanimous in saying that the Higher Education Department should refuse to approve the ‘wrong’ decisions of a vice chancellor and take him to task for going beyond his limits. They say the department should act wisely and not try to curb VCs’ powers which are actually lifeline to run the universities. A vice chancellor told Dawn that they believed that the bureaucracy had prepared the bill with a mala fide intention and stressed that it (bureaucracy) should not conspire to “make VCs serve under the guidance of section officers.”
Punjab Higher Education Department Secretary Dr Ijaz Munir had moved a summary for the Punjab Cabinet to amend laws of the public-sector universities. The summary had revealed that the bill proposed to amend public varsities’ laws and make it binding on the vice chancellors that “within seven days of taking an action under emergency powers, they shall submit a report of the action taken to the Pro-Chancellor (higher education minister) and to the members of the syndicate. The syndicate shall, within 30 days of such an action of the vice chancellor, pass such orders as the syndicate deems appropriate.”
The bill also provides that “Chancellor/Governor shall nominate the Pro-Vice-Chancellor in respective universities from amongst three senior-most professors of the university for a term of three years.” At a meeting with Chief Minister’s Adviser on Higher Education Zaeem Qadri and Higher Education Secretary Dr Ijaz Munir on Tuesday, the vice chancellors expressed their anguish over the preparation of the bill (to clip their powers) without taking them into confidence. The VCs said it was a matter of grave concern that the higher education department did not involve the stakeholders in the process of amendment to universities’ laws as well as in the preparation of the newly-established Ghazi University in Dera Ghazi Khan.
The Punjab Higher Education Council had constituted a three-member committee to propose amendments to the Acts of the universities.
The committee comprising the higher education department secretary and vice chancellors of the Government College universities of Lahore and Faisalabad was notified on April 10. It was de-notified within a couple of days.
The VCs even asked Higher Education Additional Secretary (Academic) Zarak Mirza, who was representing the department as Dr Munir had left the meeting for some ‘urgent work’, what was the motive behind unilaterally preparing the bill. They said they learnt about the move through a report (published in this newspaper on May 12).
The VCs said the higher education, law and finance secretaries were members of the syndicates of respective universities and they should object to VCs’ wrongdoings, if any.
Regarding reporting VCs’ actions to Pro-Chancellor (higher education minister), the VCs said the governor/chancellor had never objected to the decisions of the Syndicate and that Pro-Chancellor’s involvement would politicise the whole affairs of the varsities.
They said the VCs take action to run the university affairs smoothly. A stakeholder said the VCs normally use University Senate’s power once a year to operationalise the salary budget and then send the copy to the chancellor. He said a VC could appoint a teacher in BPS-18 and above for six months only and then ask the candidate to appear before a selection board for regular hiring. HEC Quality Assurance and Learning Innovation Adviser Dr Riaz Hussain Qureshi said some 80 to 100 PhDs were returning home almost on a daily basis and they needed to be appointed in Pakistan’s universities immediately to take benefit of their scholarship, for which the Pakistan government had invested a lot during the last 10 years.
He said the higher education department should take decisions with regard to universities after doing homework. Another VC (in the meeting) pointed out that putting sanctions on using emergency powers would convert autonomous universities into public-sector colleges whose conditions are known to everyone.
“Why the bureaucracy does not trust the VCs who have been appointed by the department through a rigorous selection process,” a VC asked. The VCs, however, agreed that the higher education department could go ahead with regard to appointment of Pro-Vice-Chancellors from within the senior-most professors. Still, they suggested, the PVCs should be appointed on the recommendations of the VCs to ensure that varsities’ affairs could be run smoothly.
Some VCs told Dawn that Zaeem Qadri understood their point of view and had pledged that the government would honour the authority of the vice chancellors. He assured the VCs that he would arrange a meeting for the VCs to present their point of view in a more subtle manner.
Additional Secretary Zarak Mirza did not respond to the phone call by this reporter
PakMed InfoForum contains more than 50,000 educational & biomedical articles/news items added in the recent two years making it one of the largest educational & biomedical information websites. In the following you can find the links to about 100 recently added articles or news items.