Stakeholders higher education sector of Punjab have been taken by surprise by a news item published in an Urdu daily that claimed that the new PTI government, under Punjab Higher Education Minister Raja Yasir Humayun Sarfraz, has decided in principle to abolish the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC). The news item, however, proved fake when a clarification was issued by the minister’s office and PHEC.
The claim that the PHEC was being abolished generated a strong reaction from academic circles in the province, including a clarification from the office of the minister that said that the news item was false and no such meeting had taken place. Furthermore, the minister also said that the PHEC enjoyed full support of the government and in light of the 18th Constitutional Amendment and the decision of the Council of Common Interests (CCI), education was the responsibility of the federal as well as the provincial governments.
In a separate statement, vice chancellors of public sector universities of Punjab voiced their concern over news reports and propaganda regarding the abolishment of PHEC, saying such these reports were causing deep resentment in the academia in the province.
In the statement, the Vice Chancellors Committee of Punjab Public Sector Universities said the commission needed to be further empowered and strengthened to improve the quality of education and research in the province.
Committee chairman Professor Dr Hassan Amir Shah said the provincial universities cherished the existence of PHEC and the additional funding they received from the commission for foreign post-doctoral fellowships, faculty development trainings, split PhD programme, international travel grants, career counselling centres and indigenous post-doctoral programmes.
Shah said the VCs Committee welcomed the statement by Punjab Higher Education Minister Raja Yasir Humayun Sarfraz that the government had no plans to abolish PHEC and hoped that the clarification would bury the propaganda against the commission once for all.
The committee chairman said they had high expectations from the new government for promotion of higher education in Pakistan, and support for smooth and efficient running of the universities. He added that the quality of education and autonomy of universities were interrelated.