ISLAMABAD -  Incomplete legislation on devolution of higher education has created confusion, as provincial Higher Education Commissions (HECs) challenges mandate of federal HEC while the latter claims its role as constitutional .

After the 18th amendment, the higher education has been declared the provincial matter; however, the devolution of HEC was challenged in Supreme Court (SC).

And the court had ordered HEC to continue discharging its functions and duties as it had been doing in the past unless and until a fresh legislation is promulgated.

According to documents available with The Nation Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) was established in 2015 through Act 2014 but it has remained in conflict since then challenging the mandate of federal HEC in university vice chancellors (VCs) appointment and funding.

PHEC has also opposed establishment of Education Testing Service (ETC) introduced by federal HEC declaring it violation of HEC Act. Sindh (SHEC) established through Act 2013 has also written a letter to Ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination and proposed that federal recurring and development funds of the universities operating in the province handled by federal HEC should be transferred to SHEC to discharge its functions in an effective manner.

Balochistan government in its letter written to the ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) had also proposed the transfer of funds of the universities to provincial HEC.

“After the 18th amendment, the scope of the functions of the Federal (HEC) has been marginalized in terms of Federal Legislative List Para-II providing only for standards in institutions of Higher Education, Research Scientific and Technical Institution,” the letter states.

Talking to The Nation Chairman Standing Committee National Assembly (NA) on IPC, legislature Qahar Ali Khan said that after the 18th amendment all kind of education has been devolved and the committee suggested all provinces to establish their own HECs.

“HEC is a devolved department and the implementation on the legislation is required while federal HEC must provide assistance to establish provincial HECs,” he said. According to Qahar Ali Khan there is no constitutional confusion that HEC should devolve its power to provincial HECs.

President Academic Staff Association (ASA) Islamabad chapter Dr Asif Ali talking to The Nation said that implementation on the constitutional amendment by federal HEC is deliberately being avoided.

He said HECs role in appointments in the university and launching test services in contradiction with its own act while, universities are autonomous entities after the 18th amendment.  “Education has been devolved but government itself wants to concentrate the power in centre because it involves billions of funds,” he said.

Meanwhile talking to The Nation official from HEC stated that federal HEC stands on legal and national grounds. “SC had directed the legislative bodies to complete the legislation on devolution of HEC but they have not succeeded in it,” official said.

According to him till the legislation process is complete, powers could not be transferred to provincial HECs as it was a legal process and up till now National Assembly (NA) has not proceeded on it.

The official also informed The Nation that SHEC is still inactive because of its administrative issues while it also adopted the constitution of federal HEC in its establishment. Similarly, PHEC also holds ambiguous status and is in conflict because till now government has not devolved the federal HEC, while BHEC has not been established yet.

“Devolution involves a legal process and until it is completed HEC cannot transfer the powers overnight,” he said. Official also stated that federal HEC is paying services on national level and students have trust on it from verification of degrees to other matter.

“Provincial HECs and some universities seek all financial aid from federal HEC but, don’t want any accountability of the funds,” he said.