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National

January 13, 2018

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VCs express reservations over higher education devolution

PESHAWAR: The vice-chancellors of the public sector universities on Friday expressed reservations over the government’s failure to take the input of the universities on the devolution of higher education before the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

The Senate Standing Committee on the Devolution Process with Senator Mir Kabeer Ahmed Muhammad Shahi in the chair held discussion with vice-chancellors of the 16 public sector universities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at the historic Roos-Keppel Hall of the Islamia College Peshawar (ICP).

Other members of the committee included Senator Ilyas Ahmed Bilour, Senator Taj Haider, Senator Dr Muhammad Ali Khan Saif and Senator (R) Lt. Gen Salahuddin Tirmizi. The discussion started with a delay of more than an hour as senators could not reach the venue on time. Senator Mir Kabeer Ahmed had to apologise to the participants and explain the causes of the delay.

In his opening remarks, the committee chairman said that education was among the 18 subjects that devolved after the amendment to the constitution in 2010. He said the government was facing difficulties in the devolution process with regard to higher education, adding the committee was holding meetings with expert to this effect.

However, he said he was glad that the vice-chancellors had desired implementation of constitutional amendment at a meeting in Islamabad. He said it was decided at that meeting that consultative meetings would be held with educational institutions.

“Our visit has two purposes. First, we want to know about your problems. Second, we want to know your views on the devolution of the higher education,” he elaborated. Senator Taj Haider said problems in the devolution of higher education emerged due to the passage of National Finance Commission Award before the18th amendment.

He said the next NFC award had not been approved for the last four years and this had caused the financial problems at the universities. He suggested establishment of provincial Higher Education Commissions to address the financial issues of universities.

Senator Taj Haider said the universities would need to find sources of revenue without raising fee. “Fee-hike would eliminate the difference between the public sector and private universities,” he added.

He opined that HEC budget distribution among the provinces would enable provincial governments to have more resources. Vice-Chancellor, Khyber Medical University, Dr Arshad Javed initiated the discussion from the vice-chancellors’ side. Although he was talking about the implementation of the amendment, some participants appeared clueless about his views.

The KMU VC said that HEC must remain as the main body governing higher education in the country. During his presentation, some of the vice-chancellors were passing notes to each other with meaningful smiles on their faces.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor, ICP, Prof Naushad Khan urged the committee members to save the education system of the country. He argued that education could be a driving force for integration of society. He said the educational institutions had played a role in the independence of Pakistan and these institutions would strengthen the country.

“The educational system in Pakistan is polarised. Please revisit the educational system of Pakistan and reform the examination system,” he said, adding that it had no point of convergence.

Dr Iftikhar Hussain, VC, University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar, said that if the research of the two provinces had improved after forming their HECs then the rest of the provinces should follow or else avoid the idea.

Senator Muhammad Ali Saif suggested that the participants should take the issue towards conclusion and avoid a generic discussion on it. He said superficial suggestions would not be beneficial. He recommended making suggestions in writing to the committee to achieve the objective of devolution and address the reservations of the provinces.

He believed that education was among the subjects that could not be exclusively devolved to provinces as it would create more problems than solutions. Majority of the vice-chancellors including Imtiaz Khan of the University of Swabi, Iftikhar Ahmed of the Abbottabad University of Science and Technology, Gul Zaman of the University of Malakand and Dr Sarwar of the Gomal University opposed devolution of higher education.

Some of them said that universities’ input should have been taken before the 18th amendment. The only supporter of the devolution of HEC was the vice-chancellor of University of Agriculture Noor Payo Khan, who offered his services for the implementation of the parliament decision.

The committee chairman reminded the participants that the constitutional amendment was a unanimous decision of the parliament and that its reversal required two-thirds majority in the parliament.

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