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January 28, 2020

Academics demand transparency in appointment of vice chancellors


January 28, 2020

After many candidates who were not shortlisted raised questions over the process for the appointment of the University of Karachi (KU) vice chancellor (VC), the association of varsities’ staffers and some academics have also raised concerns over the alleged flaws in the process and demanded that the Sindh government follow the rules in this regard.

A search committee formed by the provincial government shortlisted seven persons out of 22 candidates for the slot. The shortlisted candidates, who were called by the boards and universities department for preliminary interviews on Monday, also included the acting VC of the varsity, Prof Dr Khalid Mehmood Iraqi, who has been running the affairs of the varsity after the last VC, Prof Muhammad Ajmal Khan, died on May 4 last year.

The other six shortlisted candidates are Prof Dr Rukhsar Ahmed, the dean faculty at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto University of Law, Prof Dr Muhammad Yousaf Khushk, the pro-vice chancellor of the Shah Abdul Latif University Khairpur, Prof Dr Khalil Ahmed Ibupoto of the Sindh Agriculture University Tando Jam, Prof Dr Mehdi Hassan Kazmi, the chairperson of the KU applied chemistry department, Prof Dr Fateh Muhammad Burfat, the University of Sindh (SU) Jamshoro VC, and Prof Dr Abid Hussain of KU.

On Monday, the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (Fapuasa) Sindh Chapter demanded that the Sindh government ensure transparency in the process for the appointments of the VCs of KU, Shaikh Ayaz University Shikarpur and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University Shaheed Benazirabad.

In a press statement, the association raised questions over the scrutiny process of the candidates and stated that the Sindh Universities Act clearly defined that only a professor having 15 years of teaching or administrative experience would be able eligible for the post of VC.

The statement read that in the last two advertisements, the law was completely neglected and the candidates were asked to prove that they had 20-year teaching experience and 10-year experience of higher posts.

According to Fapuasa, firstly, the requirement of 20-year experience was in violation of the law, and secondly, the requirement of 10-year experience of higher posts was also ambiguous as it was not explained what was meant by the higher posts.

The association requested the Sindh chief minister to honour the Act which had been passed by his own party in the Sindh Assembly.

Fapuasa Sindh President Prof Dr Nek Muhammad Shaikh has also warned of protests in all the varsities of Sindh, if the ongoing process for the appointments was not stopped.

Among the academics who are protesting against the appointment procedure is Prof Dr Arfana Mallah, one of the senior professors at the SU. She said in the advertisement published on June 29, 2019, for the appointments of the VCs at the public varsities of Sindh, the Sindh universities and boards department invited applications from the candidates having a PhD degree from a recognised university with at least 25 research publications, 20 years of teaching experience along with the experience of working on senior administrative positions, and the candidates were to be under 65 years of age on the closing date of the applications’ submission.

She added that later on October 10, 2019, the universities and boards department issued a corrigendum for the advertisement and declared that the criteria for the applicants had been changed. As per the corrigendum, the candidates having 15 research articles in recognised national and international journals, and 20-year experience in an academic position, of which a minimum of 10 years were spent on senior administrative positions, were eligible for the post.

She said changing the criteria has resulted in objections to the transparency and merit of candidates as many people had this impression that some of the government officials or members of the search committee intended to favour the blue-eyed candidates. “All members of the search committee are retired VCs who worked at these varsities for a long time and many candidates applied from their respective varsities too. Thus, making them members of the search committee would surely [result in] the conflict of interest.”

She explained that there is a uniform criterion for the appointments of VCs in other provinces and those that come under the control of the federal government. The minimum criteria for VCs is equivalent to grade 22 professors and the same has been followed by the Sindh government since 2013, she maintained, adding that the latest changes in the advertisement that required 10-year administration experience on a high-level post showed that some officials of the Sindh government wanted to eliminate some candidates to accommodate their favourites.

She said when the Sindh government passed the universities act 2013, the powers of the appointment of VCs were vested in the CM and the government started to publish advertisements to appoint the VCs. She added that before the act was passed, the governor had the powers to directly appoint VCs in the public-sector varsities either directly or through a search committee and no definite criteria was set for the post of VCs. However, after the law was enacted, she said, a VC could only be a senior professor. She explained that by the senior professor, it meant that someone was a professor of grade 22 having 25 research publications, and a minimum of 20 years of teaching and research experience, whereas, the administration experience was not mandatory because as per the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan’s criteria for grade 22, the administration experience is already considered when someone becomes a senior professor.

She said that making a requirement of 10 years of administration experience would not allow many good academics to become the VC forever and only those would be selected who performed on administration positions on teaching and research.

Dr Mallah also criticised the reduction in the required years of teaching experience and the number of research publications from 25 to 15, alleging that such changes were made in the new advertisement to allow some favourite candidates to fit the criteria.

Earlier, around six candidates who were not shortlisted for interviews, raised questions over the scrutiny of the applicants by the search committee.

Through a letter, they informed the CM that “few of us have already been declared eligible for the post of vice chancellor of the Karachi University and the Federal Urdu University as per existing criteria of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan. Therefore not listing our names in the current scrutiny list is questionable.”

The letter further read: “we have serious reservations about the members of the search committee that have remained directly associated with the University of Karachi and there is a conflict of interest and nepotism”.