Appoint next HEC chief on merit, faculty body writes to premier

ISLAMABAD: The head of Higher Education Commission (HEC) should be appointed on merit and selected by a professional and non-partisan body in a transparent manner, said a representative body of university teachers.

The Federation of All Pakistan University Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) has called on the prime minister to form a transparent committee for merit-based appointment of next HEC chairman and university vice chancellors.

In a letter to the prime minister, the body also recommended not to include irrelevant members in the selection team to ensure appointments of qualified and professional heads of the institutions.

The tenure of current HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmad is going to expire on April 15 for which FAPUASA has urged Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to constitute an apolitical search committee.

Interference by outsiders had brought a culture of extension, nepotism and non-transparent appointment of top leadership at HEC and those of vice chancellors, the letter signed by FAPUASA Central President Prof Kaleem ullah Bareach and Islamabad Chapter President Dr Shehzad Ashraf Chaudhry said.

They said the HEC was the supreme body established primarily for funding, overseeing, regulating, and accrediting the higher education institutions in the country.

With more than Rs90 billion budget, the HEC plays an important and leading role towards building a knowledge-based economy in Pakistan through quality assurance, development of new institutions and uplift of existing institutions, they added.

They said since its inception, the HEC had been praised by a number of international higher education observers. The United Nations Commission on Science and Technology had applauded HEC’s reforms in the words: “progress made was breathtaking and has put Pakistan ahead of comparable countries in numerous aspects”.

They said nowadays higher education sector was facing some problems of severe nature, which had damaged its image and progress.

They claimed that working without its governing board since 2015, the HEC had not published its annual report. The commission had even failed to utilize approximately 50 percent of its development budget, which had deprived the universities of critical infrastructure like labs, faculty blocks and hostels.

Moreover, they alleged, contractual and ad hoc appointments were rampant in HEC and varsities. Critical and policy decisions were being made by the contractual employees who did not have any stake at all. Such contractual appointments were also violation of the Supreme Court verdicts, they added.

Increase retiring age

FAPUASA president, in a meeting with IIUI Rector Prof Masoom Yasinzai, said the retirement age of university teacher should be increased.

He argued that at the age of 60 a teacher is at the peak of research and excellence. By this age teachers are getting the fruits of the research work they have done and have formed strong groups of disciples.

Prof Barech said teachers should be allowed to work and continue to furnish better results to the society.

However, he did not mention the retiring age for teachers.

Dr Yasinzai assured his support to the proposal of president FAPAUSA if presented before the decision making body.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2018.

Syed Zafar Ali Shah was speaking at the 1st International Conference on Quality Assurance in higher education

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