ISLAMABAD - The prime minister has turned down the request of Higher Education Commission (HEC) to lift the ban imposed on appointments in the universities.

Chairman HEC Dr Mukhtar Ahmed said this while talking to Dr Waheed Chaudhry, president of Federation of All-Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA), and other office-bearers of the association who met him along with representatives of Punjab University, Allama Iqbal Open University, International Islamic University and National University of Modern Languages.

The HEC chairman informed FAPUASA that summaries for general relaxation of the ban moved by HEC as well as university-specific requests had been turned down by the prime minister’s office. Instead, the PM’s office has raised numerous objections and is demanding case-by-case elaboration of why a specific position needed to be filled. On the other hand, a large number of ad hoc appointments on daily wages are being made by university administrators. This, all agreed, was unacceptable.

The chairman informed that HEC is releasing within a few days fiscal support for universities over and above the recurring amount. Of these funds, Rs 80 million are earmarked for QAU, Rs 64 million for IIUI, Rs 110 million for Punjab University, and Rs 256 million for Balochistan University. On the matter of high-level appointments in the higher education sector, the chairman HEC stated that the government had indeed reconstituted the search committee. However, the appointment process for VCs is going to reach a conclusion within 2-4 weeks as the new committee will take up from where the previous ones left off.

He did not comment on the composition or any instructions of the government regarding appointments but he assured the FAPUASA delegation that those incumbent VCs who were not performing well would not be shown any preference as far as the HEC was concerned.

On the matter of tax rebate withdrawal/reduction and proposal to tax earnings of universities, the HEC Chairman observed that no actual decision had been taken on the former issue while the latter idea had been dropped by the government. He also assured the FAPUASA representatives that if such a proposal to reduce or eliminate the tax rebate was brought to a decision-making stage, the HEC would fight it alongside the faculty and researchers of Pakistan.

On Tenure Track System issues, the HEC chairman informed the gathering that a fresh summary for increasing TTS pays was being prepared and was going to the be moved in two weeks. Regarding endorsement and other problems with TTS, the HEC chairman took serious note of the arbitrary manner in which universities were abusing the exceptionality provisions to punish deserving faculty members and promote undeserving ones.  The chairman HEC asserted that each university should formulate a detailed policy on exceptionality against which cases could be properly evaluated in terms of quality and quantity. The HEC chairman was of the view that maladministration of TTS within each university by the senior faculty and concerned offices, rather than any inherent flaw with the statutes, was the real source of problems with TTS.

The HEC chairman advised that all universities should launch special coaching programmes in English, research proposal writing, and mathematics, for social sciences faculty so that they could successfully compete for admissions abroad and then avail of funding.