Higher education experts on Tuesday reaffirmed their resolve to uphold meritocracy, accountability and transparency in the sector through openness and merit-based selections.

These and several other issues were the subject of discussion at a meeting of a working group made up of leading industry experts held at the National Democratic Foundation (NDF) secretariat. The meeting was chaired by Election Commission of Pakistan former secretary Kanwar Muhammad Dilshad.

All the stakeholders engaged in a meaningful dialogue about all tiers of governance in higher education. Issues discussed during the meeting included fundamental governance problems, issues of illegal university land occupation, separation of problems of ranking, quality assurance, funding and administration issues of individual institutes.

The participants of the meeting agreed upon monitoring key appointments like chairperson(s) of provincial and federal HECs and vice-chancellors of public sector universities. They decided to form a committee consisting of representatives of civil society, the private sector, Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association and media at large to take stock of such appointments.

According to details, all members agreed that without accountability and transparency, desired results of improved teaching standards and research could not be achieved. The committee emphasized the dire need of checks and balances on responsibilities and roles both at the federal and provincial levels through revised federal acts and in accordance with provisions of the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

The members were unanimous that in order to ensure transparency and merit, the search committee of key appointments in the higher education sector should not have any internal or external influence, and all members should be notified to maintain their independent and disinterested role.

Moreover, it was suggested that the search committee should conduct a public demo method of selection of candidates through open door procedures.

In his final comments, Dilshad praised the committee members for their keen interest in addressing issues facing the higher education sector in Pakistan. The meeting also decided to forward a references on merit and transparency in the higher education sector to the prime minister, president and all provincial governments.

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