LAHORE: After the Punjab Higher Education Department (HED) notified revised criteria for the selection of vice-chancellors at government universities abolishing PhD degree condition, the university academic staff associations have strongly condemned this move.

They call the government decision an act of opening a door for the bureaucrats to be appointed as vice chancellors .

As the VC is an administrative slot so the search committee will look for highly qualified candidates for the position through from scholars, academicians or management experts that may be bureaucrats , the government document said, issued the other day.

Moreover, the search committee members may nominate potential candidates too that they lacked earlier.

A bureaucrat on anonymity said that it was not the issue that government wanted to appoint them a VCs. The academicians had badly failed to cope with the varsity matters so the government decided to scratch the PhD condition that was mandatory earlier. He said that in many of the leading universities of the world the condition of PhD was no longer required. Moreover, many of the officers are PhDs from foreign recognised institutions so it would be wrong to presume that the current move was made to benefit the 'baboos', he asserted.

Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA), Punjab University Teachers Front (PUTF) and several office-bearers of PU Academic Staff Association (ASA) already condemned the new policy. FAPUASA Punjab Chapter President Dr Javed Ahmed, PU TF President Prof Dr Sajid Rashid, General Secretary Dr Mahboob Hussain, Central vice president FAPUASA Dr. Shoeb, PU ASA’s treasurer Dr Azhar Naeem, executive members Dr Ayub Afiridi and Naeemullah said that the composition of Search Committee and the whole process reflected that private sector was being promoted and public sector was being ignored in the process. They said the representatives of the academic fraternity had been ignored in the whole process.

“How could a person supervise or encourage research activities without having any experience of research?” they questioned. They also questioned whether Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif would like to appoint any professor as Punjab chief secretary or on any other administrative slot? They rejected the opening of a way for bureaucrats .

A PU faculty member Rana Ayyaz in his letter to the CM wrote that the appointment of VCs is a matter of grave concern. Therefore, seriousness is call of the day in the prevailing circumstances to make universities a higher seat of learning.  We have been facing great difficulties in the Universities owing to the high handedness of the past VCs with dubious characters either they were from civil or military bureaucracy or from academics.

“In the Punjab University, last Vice-Chancellor Dr Mujahid Kamran had piloted the varsity for nine years with insincerity and dishonesty and ruined the merit and transparency relentlessly,” Ayyaz wrote.

He politicised the university while the incumbent VC Dr Zafar Moeen Nasir was doing his best to depoliticise it but facing resistance, the letter read.

The Punjab government had in the past made such attempts to open doors for the officers for the lucrative slots in the Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISEs) like chairman, controller and secretary.

The teachers of government institutions in 2008 and later had strongly reacted to the Punjab government’s move to invite applications from the DMG/PMS officers for appointment against top slots of examination boards of the province.  They also conducted the press conference at Lahore Press Club on the matter. They had then flayed the move saying it was an effort to induct bureaucrats in the boards against posts of chairmen, secretaries, and controllers of examination. “The bureaucrats are eyeing these posts as if they had eliminated corruption from other departments they were chairing,” they questioned.

The teaching community had resisted ever since the Punjab Higher Education Department moved and advertised that DMG/PMS officers could also apply for the top slots at Boards of Intermediate & Secondary Education (BISEs) in the past.

Muhammad Yaqoob, a retired headmaster of a school, said that the officers had also been eyeing the lucrative slots of the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) in the newly created authorities in the districts. He said that the government should discourage them and encourage the competent teachers on these positions.

A public sector varsity VC requesting anonymity said that the teaching community was shocked over the abolition of the PhD condition for the top slot of the university. How a person, having no experience of research, could run the affairs of the researchers in the education field? he questioned.

He said that the government could instead appoint pro-VCs, Registrars, Treasurers, Controllers of Examination and on other important slots instead of creating new controversies. He said that many circles had already questioned the government selection criteria for the VCs and many challenged it the courts of law as well. He said that the new HED Secretary Nabeel Awan should address such grave issues and focus on filling the administrative slots, as well as the teaching environment, was suffering since long.

The HED secretary was not available for comments, however, a senior official said that government move eliminating PhD was not to accommodate bureaucrats in the universities. He said the purpose was to invite competent administrators from the circles other than the teaching community who have the capacity for mobilization of financial resources from national and international organizations which the present VCs lacked. The other object may be to depoliticise the university environment and create a learning-friendly atmosphere in the esteemed learning places, he asserted.