As the tenure of Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed nears its end, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has approved a committee to look for a suitable candidate to man the post.

The incumbent chairman joined HEC as its chairman in April 2014 following his appointment by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. His term ends in April 2018. A notification regarding the newly formed search committee was issued on January 23.

The committee consists of six representatives from the health and education ministries as well as the parliament, including former minister Dr Sania Nishtar, former parliamentarian Shahnaz Wazir Ali, educationist Faisal Bari, Mirza Qamar Baig and secretary of the education ministry.

Noted educationist and philanthropist Syed Babar Ali has been named the convener of the committee.

According to media reports, a summary seeking the formation of the committee was forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat two weeks ago, while the notification regarding its formation was released on January 23 by the Ministry of Education and Professional Training.

Mandate

The notification includes guidelines for the committee to set criteria like age, qualification and experience of the candidates. Once the criteria for the vacant post has been finalised, the committee will advertise the job post, examine the applications received and shortlist candidates. The committee will subsequently interview all shortlisted candidates and recommend three names to the prime minister for approval. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi will finalise one name at his discretion.

Dr Ahmed is the third HEC chairman after Dr Attaur Rehman and Javed Laghari. Dr Attaur Rehman was appointed to the post by former president Pervez Musharaf in 2002, while Javed Laghari took charge of the office in 2009 during the Pakistan People’s Party regime.

During the last selection process in 2014, 103 aspirants applied for the position and only 21 names were shortlisted. Eighteen candidates were called for interview, with the post eventually going to Dr Ahmed.

The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan is an independent institution overseeing the higher education sector in Pakistan.

Dr Ahmed’s tenure as HEC chairman saw a number actions taken for the first time in the commission’s history. During his time, HEC prohibited four universities from admitting students because of academic mismanagement and irregularities. The HEC also decommissioned 450 MS and PhD programmes of various universities as they did not comply with set criteria. Moreover, the commission blacklisted 155 bogus higher education institutions and put their names on their website.

As a result, seven Pakistani universities made their way into the top 300 universities in Asia according to Time Higher Education’s 2017 ranking, up from two in 2016.

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