islamabad - A local chapter of Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) has showed concern over interference in universities’ affairs by the Higher Education Commission (HEC), advising it to act within its legal mandate.

The elected representatives of Academic Staff Associations of International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI), Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) and Quaid-i-Azam University unanimously passed a resolution to jointly counter all future attempts of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) ‘undermining the autonomy of the universities,’ said a statement issued by the representative body of university teacher after a meeting.

A tug of war has been going on between the HEC and some QAU faculty members over controversial appointments made in the university without following the set rules.

The HEC, university administration and QAU ASA have issued statements over the issue blaming one another. The HEC says QAU administration without the endorsement of the HEC had appointed some five assistant and associate professors on Tenure Track System (TTS) who did not meet the set criteria for the appointments but the concerned faculty members who are office-bearers of ASA deny this.

The university administration has distanced itself from this wrangling and sided with the HEC through an official statement.

Over the issue, a meeting of local chapter of FAPUASA was called the other day that maintained that the decisions of the statutory bodies of the universities such as selection board, academic council, and syndicate cannot be overturned by HEC as per rules and regulations. They were of the view that the HEC has its role as facilitator not at all a regulator or law-making body or an administrator controlling all the activities of the universities. “Under the HEC Act, it is a recommendatory body and therefore cannot dictate or overrule decisions of the statutory and law-making bodies of the universities.”

The representatives of various associations “condemned the tactics of HEC under a self-invented condition of so-called ‘endorsement’ of appointments made by statutory bodies of the universities which has no roots even implied in any version of TTS.”

They reviewed all the issues faced by the faculty including irregularities by HEC officials in distributing travel grants, making unjustified cuts after approval of research projects, changing status of HEC approved research journals time to time and especially tackling issue of publications on case to case basis, keeping fate of TTS faculty hanging for years on the illegal practice of so-called endorsement after their appointment by lawful authorities and statutory bodies.

They decided to meet regularly every month and hold emergent meetings as per need to discuss and undertake joint actions to protect their legitimate rights and take all-out measures to counter any action against undermining autonomy of the universities.

It was unanimously agreed upon that ASAs of Islamabad universities would offer HEC to resolve the longstanding issues of the teaching faculty through a meeting between them and HEC chairman next week. This would allow the rules, regulations, logic and reason to prevail; otherwise, the teaching faculty knows how to protect the public awarded autonomy of universities.