The two-day 36th Meeting of the Commission, the governing body of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), concluded on Saturday. Chairman Tariq Banuri chaired the meeting, which was conducted online. The Commission unanimously deplored the sudden cut in the higher education budget by another Rs.5.90 billion from the committed Indicative Budget Ceiling of Rs.70.00 billion for FY 2020-21, and emphasized that the move will dismantle the country’s higher education systems by forcing the shutdown of universities, which are already suffering from historically unprecedented budgetary shortfalls and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. The Members stressed upon the Government to reconsider its decision, and take immediate steps to appropriately fund the universities in order to protect access to and quality of higher education. The Commission stressed that without adequate investment in higher education, the youth of Pakistan will never acquire the competencies needed to develop and compete internationally.
Meanwhile, the Commission thoroughly reviewed the HEC funding formula for universities, took into account various proposals, and decided that for FY 2020-21, the actual total allocation of FY 2019-20 will be treated as base plus need grants, accounting for 85 percent of the total allocation, while the remaining 15 percent will be treated as a performance grant, allocated on the basis of the number of publications, the number and amount of research grants received, as well as a number of PhD faculty and students. It was also agreed that for FY 2021-22 and beyond, a new funding methodology will be developed on the principles of equity, needs, and credit for performance.
The Commission amended the Tenure Track Statutes by indexing TTS salaries to the comparable BPS scale plus a 35% TTS Premium, thus introducing automatic adjustments of future TTS salaries in line with increases in BPS salary scales. Consistent with the international practice, the Commission increased the maximum time limit for the tenure decision from the current 6 years to 9 years, and endorsed collection of granular data of TTS faculty separately in HEMIS (Higher Education Management Information System) to help universities and HEC maintain proper oversight over the progress of TTS faculty, and improve transparency and fairness of recruitment, promotion and tenure.
The Commission appreciated the comprehensive work done by the HEC in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, to minimize academic disruption, develop and guide universities to acquire online readiness, provide supplementary resources of Rs.1.20 billion, deploy live dashboard to monitor quality of online delivery, build free online academic content and resources, and motivate students to continue learning. The Commission impressed upon the Government to support HEC initiatives viz. Taleem Bundle, University Support Package, etc., and advised HEC to resolve connectivity issues faced by students, and use platforms such as virtual think tanks to carve out imaginative solutions.
The Commission also approved revised HEC Policy on Protection against Sexual Harassment in Higher Education Institutions 2020, which reflects significant improvement from its 2011 anti-sexual harassment guidelines in terms of enforcement, simplicity, scope, definition of prohibited conduct, consistency with national act for Protection of Women against harassment at work place, and appellate process. The Commission also adopted the “Safe Campus Acceptable Usage Policy 2020” to protect the privacy of students and avoid possibilities of harassment because of the installation, placement or use of security cameras within the universities and campuses.
The Commission appointed Mr Kamran Rasool, former Interior Secretary and former Chief Secretary Punjab in an honorary capacity as the Chairperson of the Board of Governors of the Education Testing Council (ETC) considering his professional eminence and implacable integrity.
Some items could not be taken up because of the shortage of time, and will be considered at the next meeting in July.
The meeting was attended by Mr. Mohyuddin Ahmad Wani, Additional Secretary, [representative of Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training], Dr. Tariq Masood, Joint Scientific Adviser [representative of Ministry of Science and Technology], Dr. Suhail Shahzad, Special Secretary [representative of the HED, Government of the Punjab], Prof. Dr. Shafiq ur Rehman, Adviser (QAP), [Representative of the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa], Mr. Abdul Saboor Kakar, Secretary, Ministry of Environment, [Representative of the Government of Balochistan], Mr. Shamsh Kassim – Lakha, Former Federal Minister for Education and S&T, Ms. Shahnaz Wazir Ali, President, SZABIST Karachi, Prof. Nisar Ahmed Siddiqui, Vice Chancellor, Sukkur IBA University, Engr. Ahmed Farooq Bazai, Vice Chancellor, BUITEMS, Quetta, Prof. Dr. Javeid Iqbal, Former Vice Chancellor, University of Balochistan, Quetta, Dr. Naveed A. Malik, Former Rector, Virtual University of Pakistan, Lahore, Lt. Gen. (Retd) Asif Mumtaz Sukhera, Former Surgeon General, GHQ, Rawalpindi, Prof. Dr. Bhawani Shankar Chowdhry, Former Dean & Adviser, Faculty of Electrical, Electronics and Computer Engineering, MUET, Jamshoro, Dr. Faisal Bari, CEO and Senior Research Fellow (Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives), Associate Professor, LUMS, Lt. Gen. (Retd) Muhammad Asghar, Consultant (CPEC), HEC, and Dr. Fateh Muhammad Mari, Executive Director (Acting), HEC.