By Farman Nawaz (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)
Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif has formed a committee to grant additional administrative and financial autonomy to state-owned universities. Hence Governor of the province will not remain the chancellor of universities, a search committee would be formed to find a suitable person for the job amongst educationists, retired bureaucrats and senior courts judges.
The provincial cabinet has taken this decision but still it is not known why this decades old tradition is changed. As politicians always pressurize the vice chancellors of the varsities to appoint their preferred ones on different posts so apparently it seems that PML-N wants to avoid confrontation with the governor of People’s Party. The decision is totally politically biased. This change has nothing to do with the sovereignty or autonomy or quality of education of the universities. Vice Chancellors will always remain under pressure either it is appointment of personnel or the issue of tenders.
Now questions arise what is the role of HEC (Higher Education Commission) in universities. Is it only a financial supporter of the universities or it is also a check on the appointments and allocation of funds too? Here let me give few examples of the autonomy of the universities and the so-called rules regulations of the HEC. Four years ago (I don’t remember the exact date) Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad announced few vacancies. Purchase Officer was also one of them. The qualifications set for the post was bachelor degree with two years experience in sale and purchase. Almost two years ago Bannu University of Science and Technology also announced the same post but with different qualifications. The qualifications were Masters in economics plus experience. Similarly last year Gomal University D.I. Khan announced the post of Public Relation Officer as PBS 16 and then converted it the post of Superintendent. This year Bannu University of Science and Technology announced the same post as PBS 17. Similarly the tenders’ procedures of universities are also subjected to the malpractices of contractors. One contractor pay commissions to all other competing contractors and fill their tenders forms as he likes and finally wins the tender.
Few months back when university students were protesting against the decision of dissolution of HEC, I saw a student of M. Phil Islamiyat of a public university who was completing his term assignment by copy and paste technique of computer. He is now toper of the class. I have also seen students making term papers for their professors. The same happens in selection of lecturers too. If HEC can not control these malpractices so why those protesting students were of the view that dissolution of HEC will affect the quality of education.
Now when universities are working under HEC as well as governors still there are a lot of matters which need reformation but when universities will become autonomous so what will be the criteria to monitor them. Secondly now who will be the members of this search committee? And who will propose the names of the members of this committee? And how it is possible to make it free of political influence? Selection of chancellor in this way will further make the universities subjected to political influence.
The autonomy of the universities is a deception with the nation. Before elaborating this point I will prefer to remind the people that boards of intermediate and secondary education are also autonomous in nature but it is also a fact that their topers often now show poor performance in entry tests for professional colleges. For years their autonomy has provided us incompetent doctors and engineers. The same is the case with universities. Almost sixteen years ago a student of computer science department of a public sector university was not able even to write the theoretical work of his software project. His group fellow who made the software also prepared the thesis, is now working in a software company in the US and the other incompetent student is now in charge of academics department in a public sector university.
Our universities whether autonomous or dependent have become the centers of politics. Cases of corruption in universities are pending in the court of honorable Chief Justice Iftikhar Chowdry. Pushing universities towards further autonomy will further make corruption easy for the politicians. Appointing bureaucrats and judges as chancellors will further aggravate the performance of this sector. Bureaucratic practices will also bring red-tapism and judges are in habit to prolong the matters in search of justice.
Autonomy is not the solution to hope of any boost in the performance of these educational institutions. This autonomy has made these centers of educations as autonomous states. Very recently governor KPK issued orders of termination of some officials of public sector university but surprisingly VC of the university appointed the same persons on different posts. Bringing these centers of education to strict central command will surely result in better management and high standard of education.