‘Discussion determining the role of HEC, PHEC dropped from agenda item’
LAHORE: The federal Higher Education Commission (HEC) and both the provincial higher education commissions of Punjab and Sindh are at loggerheads with each other as the Vice Chancellors (VCs) of public and private sector universities hailing from these two provinces avoided participating in the ’21st Vice-Chancellors Committee Meeting’ held here on Thursday, Pakistan Today has learnt.
According to the details, a letter was issued by the Higher Education Department (HED), Punjab on Wednesday — just one day before the all Pakistan VC’s conference barring the VC’s of Punjab not to participate in the moot that was arranged by the federal HEC on the pretext of an issue related to the role of federal higher education and provincial higher education/provincial governments regarding the status of higher education that is under discussion in the Council of Common Interest (CCI), the body having the representation of all the provinces in the aftermath of 18th amendment.
Therefore, all the public officials of universities from Punjab were barred to give any statement over the issue and they were also barred to attend any official proceedings on the matter without getting a formal approval from the government.
It has been learnt by Pakistan Today that the discussion on the roles of the federal HEC and provincial HEC was also on the agenda of issues during the moot but it was dropped at the eleventh hour and there was no discussion over this issue at all during the conference because of no participation from the VCs of Punjab.
“The Punjab government wants an autonomous HEC for the province and the Punjab government itself wants to take any decision regarding the role of PHEC on its own instead of allowing the VCs to discuss the matter with the Federal Higher Education Commission,” a VC from one of the public sector universities of Punjab told Pakistan Today exclusively.
Meanwhile, federal HEC Media Director, Ayesha Ikram confirmed while talking to us said that no VC from Punjab participated in the moot.
Punjab HEC Spokesperson, Shahid Imran avoided giving any statement over the issue as he told this scribe that he was not allowed to speak on the matter.
However, it has been learnt that VCs of King Edward Medical University (KEMU) and Fatima Jinnah Medical University (FJMU) took part in the moot as both of them do not come under the jurisdiction of the HED as their appointing authority is the Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Department (SHMED).
VCs hailing from Sindh also avoided physical participation in the moot and preferred to take part in the conference via video links. It is worth mentioning here that both Punjab and Sindh have their own HEC’s but Balochistan and KPK have yet to establish their own HECs.
Meanwhile, the moot was chaired by Vice-Chancellors Committee Chairman Dr Masoom Yasinzai and it was attended by HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed and issues related to the governance and quality of higher education in universities and their affiliated colleges came under discussion.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Mukhtar Ahmed said that HEC accords high importance to governance and the quality of educational institutions and their affiliated colleges. He said that despite having made significant development in the quality of teaching, there still remains a lot to be corrected. He stressed the need to set up quality enhancement cells for affiliated colleges to monitor and ensure their performance.
VC’s from Balochistan said that they are making progress owing to the judicious and generous support of HEC. They observed that Balochistan was not ready for a provincial HEC and asked for at least 4-5 years to build the capacity to take the responsibility.
VC’s from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) said that the credit for the current state of universities in the country goes to HEC. They said that the 15 years of HEC speak volumes of the commission’s success and role in the development of the higher education sector.
They also emphasized that higher education should be a federal issue as universities bear the brunt of provincial bureaucratic tussles. They admired HEC for judiciously distributing funds among all the universities. It was agreed that the next VC committee meeting would be held in Gwadar (Balochistan) next month.