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National

October 7, 2018
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Appointment of VCs: Govt’s vague criterion raises questions

National

October 7, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Three federal government universities are soon going to have new heads but the appointment process adopted by the government seems to be untransparent and in contraction with its manifesto, as the criterion has neither been shared with the public nor with the candidates.

The three universities are Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU), Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) and International Islamic University (IIU).

The purpose behind the move is to improve the declining standard of education.

In its election manifesto, the PTI had promised to appoint vice chancellors through a transparent mechanism free of political influence. “We will remove political influence and create an independent, transparent mechanism to select vice chancellors and senior administrators,” says the PTI election manifesto.

However, Minister for Federal Education Shafqat Mehmood defended the process and said the interviews of shortlisted candidates had been completed and the names would be sent to the prime minister on Monday (October 8, 2018).

Last week 30 out of 200 candidates were shortlisted for appointment (to three top universities) but the criterion was neither shared with the public nor with the candidates, creating doubts about the transparency of the process.

It has also been learnt that some of the shortlisted candidates are facing corruption charges in the NAB while some face charges of plagiarism.

According to an official notification, no former vice chancellor is part of the six-member search committee constituted by the government. This is a major deviation from the KP model which the PTI had promised to replicate in the center and provinces.

The former PTI government in the KP had constituted a search committee comprising HEC chief Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, former LUMS VC Dr Suhail Naqvi and former director IBA Dr Ishrat Hussain.

Previously, the search committee for federal universities also included three reputed former heads of top ranking higher education institutions of Pakistan including former director of IBA Karachi, Dr. Ishrat Husain, former founder Comsats Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad and former vice chancellor Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad Dr. UAG Isani. But the new federal search committee includes Minister for Federal Education Shafqat Mehmood, Secretary Federal Education Arshad Mirza, Chairman HEC Dr Tariq Banuri, former minister Dr Sania Nishtar and former civil servants Salman Ghani and Syed Javed Hasan. None of them has ever served as vice chancellor or has experience to manage educational institution.

Also, all the 30 shortlisted candidates have been considered for posting in either of three universities, which is again a deviation from the process, as all three universities have different charters requiring different kinds of experience.

Experts believe the government should have shortlisted separate candidates for each university, as the AIOU was a distant learning institution with different requirement than the QAU which was a traditional university. President FAPUASA Dr Mehboob Hussain said the search committee should have people having relevant experience. “The composition of search committee is highly questionable. People with both academic and administrative experience should have been made part of the committee,” he said. He also expressed serious concern about the constitution of committee mostly comprising non-academicians and shortlisting of controversial candidates facing serious charges. Former secretary ECP Kanwar Dilshad has already raised this issue in a letter addressed to the prime minister.

The appointment raised many an eyebrow, as the standard of higher education has already declined in the last few years. Given this fact, it was hoped that the PTI would curb further decline by making merit-based appointments to the top posts of universities. QAU stood at position 401 among top 500 universities but now it is not even in the list of top universities. In his version, Shafqat Mehmood dismissed criticism of the search committee.

“People will continue to talk but the search committee comprises highly respected professionals, former civil servants and the HEC chairman. I am heading the committee which has people from various backgrounds,” he said.

He said the criterion for shortlisting was academic record and experience and no one was shortlisted on the basis of personal like and dislike.

While asked about shortlisting of candidates facing NAB probes, he said, “Mere allegations or NAB inquiry against a person does not make him a convicted person. There is a process in the NAB where an inquiry is started and investigations are launched and only then a case is sent to a NAB court which is followed by conviction. A person facing an inquiry cannot be called criminal,” adding, “No convicted person has been shortlisted.

He said three names would be proposed for each post and the summary would be sent to the president on Monday through the Prime Minister’s Office for final appointment.

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