The Punjab government has initiated the process of appointment of vice chancellors at public universities in the province, beginning with Punjab Higher Education Department (HED) advertising a request for applications for the vacant post of University of Sahiwal VC.
However, the advertisement and the requirement of qualifications therein haven’t gone down well with faculty members across the province, with a leading body of academicians threatening to shut down varsities across Punjab in protest.
In the latest advertisement, the Punjab government has removed the criteria of a candidate having a minimum PhD degree for being eligible to be appointed as a VC. Members of the faculty have been raising their voice against the new criteria set by the provincial government for appointment of VCs for a while now, fearing that ground was being created for appointing favourite bureaucrats as VCs in public universities of the province. The apex teachers’ body, Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA), has announced that they could call a province-wide strike that could result in the shutdown of varsities across Punjab.
In an emergency meeting, FAPUASA Punjab President Prof Dr Javed Ahmad, Central Vice President Prof Dr Shoaib Ahmed, UET TSA President Prof Dr Sohail Aftab Qureshi, Vice President Prof Dr Zafar Noon, PU syndicate members Prof Dr Sajid Rashid and Dr Mahboob Hussain and others expressed serious concern over the attempts to appoint non-PhD candidates as VCs in public universities.
The members termed the advertisement tantamount to contempt of court, claiming that it had violated Lahore High Court’s decision on the eligibility criteria of appointment of vice chancellors. They said that in a meeting between FAPUASA, HED and Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC), it had been decided that FAPUASA would submit their reservations in writing and later a meeting would be held in which controversial matters would be sorted out with mutual understanding.
However, FAPUASA claimed the bureaucracy had managed to get controversial criteria approved without taking relevant stakeholders into confidence and ran the advertisement regardless. The members said the new eligibility criteria had ignored some very basic and vital parameters of measurement of professional excellence of an academic leader.
For instance, FAPUASA said no marks had been reserved for post-doc experience, no credit for PhD and MPhil research supervision, no weightage had been given for university-level teaching experience, no credit for membership/fellowship of national/international academic organisations/bodies and neither weightage for academic research projects had been considered.
According to FAPUASA, a systematic criteria had been crafted to make way for non-academic managers, which was unacceptable, adding that management experience must be relevant to academic/research experience.
Pointing out technical deficiencies, the members opined that the basic qualification for the post of VC must be PhD in relevant field of university instead of ‘preferably PhD’. They added that the additional marks for MA degree and lowering the basic qualification of vice chancellorship was ridiculous and unacceptable.
FAPUASA also came down hard on the disregard for law in the advertisement. The body said the criteria in question was unsustainable and in violation of the judgment of The Lahore High Court PLD 2017 Lahore 289 (DB). Citing the judgment, the body said the federation could set standards in institutions of higher education under entry 12 of part II of Federal Legislative List. It said the HEC Ordinance 2002, as it stood today, set minimum and non-binding guidelines for the appointment of vice chancellors in public sector universities. They members reminded the government that the judgment stated that provincial legislature had the power to set standards that was procedure and criteria for the selection of vice chancellor as long as they were not below the minimum and baseline standards set by the federation.
FAPUASA said the criteria was contemptuous and against the spirit of the law laid down regarding the appointment of VCs , adding that the search committee also flouted the judgment of the Lahore High Court on the qualification and the appointment of the search committee.