The new Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in Punjab has planned to turn the process of appointment of vice chancellors on its head, with the minister hinting at revamping the entire process to mimic the one in practice in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.
However, the Punjab government will have to face several hurdles, including change in current universities’ laws, previous verdicts of the Lahore High Court on the subject as well additional delays in the appointment of VCs at varsities where the appointment is already pending.
The newly-appointed higher education minister, Raja Yasir Humayun Sarfraz, announced the move in a tweet saying, “People concerned about vacant VC posts. Plz rest assured we are coming up with a transparent policy (similar to the one in KPK) and will nominate a high profile search committee to appoint the best possible VCs in all those universities by the end of the year.”
Though the announcement was lauded by many quarters, many have failed to take into account the complexity and the required time as well as legalities of implementing such a move. For one, the entire process is different in both provinces. The biggest difference is that in Punjab, separate search committees were appointed for a period of four years for each university. In KP, however, single Academic Search Committee is tasked with the same, which is appointed for a period of two years.
The previous PTI government in KP introduced the changes for the search committee in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities (Amendment) Act, 2016. To have similar procedures in Punjab, the government will have to make amendments to the existing laws governing universities and notify changes for each university separately. In the previous government, the same took months to get through all the legal hoops.
But the most pressing matter for the PTI government in Punjab would be a verdict on the matter by the Lahore High Court (LHC), which had directed that specialised search committees be constituted per law for specialised varsities.
Coupled with the fact that many of the universities in Punjab are awaiting appointments of a permanent vice chancellor, the decision to change VC appointment law and implement it across the board could prove to be a herculean challenge for the current government.
In Punjab, the Lahore College for Women University (LCWU), University of Home Economics Lahore; Women University Multan, University of Jhang, Information Technology University (ITU) Lahore, Punjab Tianjin University of Technology (PTUT), University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Taxila, Cholistan University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (CUVAS), University of Agriculture (UAF) Faisalabad, Pir Mehr Ali Shah (PMAS) Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi, Government College for Women University Faisalabad (GCUF), University of Narowal, University of Murree and Government College for Women University Sialkot are operating without a permanent vice chancellor.
Other universities soon to be without a vice chancellor are UET Lahore, Islamia University of Bahawalpur (IUB), Government College University (GCU) Faisalabad, and University of Gujrat (UoG).
Under the interim government, the Punjab Higher Education Department (HED) had completed the process of VCs’ appointment for ITU and the University of Jhang. However, the new government will scrap the recommendations of the search committees and suspend the matter until it amends the laws and forms a singular Academic Search Committee for the province.