ISLAMABAD - The academic circles and vice chancellors have criticised the proposed amendments in the existing Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities Act 2012, especially composition of search committee for the appointment of VCs as well as method of extension of tenure of VCs.

The search committee will be led by KPK higher education minister, which can result into political influence in appointments. "The search committees should be autonomous and comprise eminent scholars and academics and there should be no interference of politicians in appointments at universities," maintained a VC of one of the leading KPK University. According to the proposed Act that is about to be tabled in the KPK Assembly, no vice chancellor can become member of any selection board, senate and syndicate of another public sector university as well.

They are of the view that the working groups, which were formed for suggesting amendments in universities act were manipulated by some vested interest groups of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) coalition partners. The focus of the reform appears to be the removal of some of the vice chancellors rather than on allowing greater autonomy to universities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Act that the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa passed in 2012 went through a series of consultative meeting involving all stakeholders.

"PTI seems sincere in its agenda of reforms; its ally in government however is pushing for regressive provisions in the Act to ensure status quo," said another VC of a KPK university requesting not to be named. One of its proposals is to have Representatives of Students Council which is contrary to the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1993. The PTI workers and leaders do not see through the regressive designs of its partner in government, he added.

In the name of reforms the KPK government is bringing legislation to control the appointments of VCs and Registrars so that they can appointment their own people in universities, remarked Dr. Jamil Chitrali, General Secretary of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA).  'Out of 17 proposed amendments, 13 are regarding the appointment and extension of VCs and Registrar and they say nothing regarding the real reforms that the universities actually need. There is a need to overhaul the administration of the universities and they need reforms in examination, and promotion system and fee structure but the proposed amendments have not addressed the real issues'. Any change in Acts for universities must not be initiated in haste and all the stakeholders must be taken on bard, said Dr. Chitrali. Legislation of any kind, especially for universities should be free from political interference and designs and agenda of certain groups which have a history of messing up educational institutions.

 The consultation should have a more holistic approach to ensure autonomous, transparent, accountable academic institutions for a better and new Pakistan, he added.