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Ministry’s letter to 14 varsities causes a stir

ISLAMABAD: Vice-chancellors of 14 public sector universities have expressed serious concern over the government’s move to bring these institutions under the control of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training.

A letter, recently forwarded to as many as 14 universities, stated that the universities should process all campus matters, including appointments, through the education ministry.

The letter also informed the management of the universities that all 14 institutions had been placed under the ministry’s direct control.

According to the letter, all future appointments and removal of vice-chancellors, rectors, presidents, deans and members of governing bodies should be processed through the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Trainings.

Other activities, it stated, such as chairing convocations and meetings of the governing bodies also needed prior approval of the ministry.

The surprising move comes at a time when the status of the education ministry is uncertain because education is now a provincial subject.

Many VCs and heads of educational institutions question the government’s intent as the move comes six years after the devolution.

“The letter has surprised everyone … It seems to be an attempt to curb our authority, making us subservient to bureaucracy,” maintained the Rector of the International Islamic University Masoom Yasinzai.

These universities, he said, were autonomous and such actions were earlier carried out through the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

A meeting of all heads of the universities was held on December 16 (Friday) to discuss various issues, besides addressing concerns of the VCs and the HEC on the advice of the education ministry.

According to a vice-chancellor, who attended the meeting, everyone in the huddle was critical of the move and termed it an attempt to restrain their autonomy.

Majority of the participants believed that the universities followed a well-set course free of red-tapism.

Vice-Chancellor of Rawalpindi-based Fatima Jinnah Women University, Samina Amin Qadir, also attended the meeting and was invited to share her experience with the government of Punjab where the governor forwarded approvals regarding appointments at universities via the chief minister.

She said that the new set-up was problematic for the VCs and heads of other universities in Punjab. “It is time for everyone to take a stand and scuttle the move,” she suggested at the meeting.

An HEC official stated that apparently the move was an attempt to bring a number of universities under the federal education ministry’s control as currently it did not control any institution.

“So the federal government is taking such steps, making the affairs of universities more complex,” he added.

Some VCs also suggested holding a meeting with President Mamnoon Hussain to highlight their concerns.

Interestingly, a similar attempt was made in 2014 when the then secretary education suggested that HEC’s principal accounting officer should be appointed by the education ministry. The move was strongly opposed by the HEC.

HEC Chairperson Dr Mukhtar Ahmed said the education ministry had sought their comments and a comprehensive reply would be submitted after the universities responded to the commission.

Courtesy : Express Tribune

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