Islamabad - Chairman Higher Education Commission (HEC), Dr Mukhtar Ahmed has urged the vice-chancellors to pay heed to governance issues which beset their universities and ensure quality education at the sub-campuses of the universities.

“There is no doubt regarding the need to increase access but not at the cost of quality, ” he said while addressing the 17th vice-chancellors’ committee meeting held here on Saturday where over 65 vice-chancellors of public sector universities were present. In his address he also pointed out that many of their woes were due to governance issues which needed serious attention urgently.

The vice-chancellors showing concerns over the Axact scam — wherein an IT company was reported to be selling foreign fake degrees — said the universities should be careful in the wake of such scams. They were of the view that the universities must remain united and collectively devise a policy to deal such malpractice plaguing the higher education sector.

After detailed deliberations, the vice-chancellors agreed on the need to curtail MS and PhD programmes at sub-campuses and allow them only to offer under-graduate programmes after ensuring strict compliance with HEC prescribed eligibility criteria. The HEC has issued multiple warnings to educational institutions to follow the criteria set for them.

The meeting also reviewed the public-private partnership model, which is a contractual agreement framed between public and private sector partners. Many heads expressed their reservations at the model.

Various proposals whether to legalise or end the public-private partnership ventures were discussed, as various public sector universities have set up campuses in collaboration with private partners  without taking NOC from the HEC. However, after deliberations it was decided that a committee of selected VCs would review and report back to the forum for further decisions.

The vice-chancellors were united in their demand for review for autonomy of their universities after different provinces have amended laws that govern their universities. The government of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has taken lead in amending the law that has compromised the autonomy of universities.

The head of leading educational universities also passed a resolution saying, “We the vice-chancellors of public sector universities are of the opinion that recent changes in laws governing universities are attempts to usurp their autonomy, although the argument was ostensibly to improve governance…the changes will be a death knell for higher education in the country.”

Earlier, the chairman HEC also informed the gathering that the HEC has received an additional Rs 7 billion development grant for completion of projects that were pending due to lack of funds in previous years and Rs 3 billion recurring grant to facilitate operational expenses.

Through these additional funds, over 80 projects would be completed by the end of the year. It is important to note that the commission was allocated about Rs 63 billion in outgoing financial year.

The VCs appreciated the federal government, federal ministers Ahsan Iqbal and Ishaq Dar, and Chairman HEC Dr Mukhtar Ahmed for increased funding and its smooth release within each financial quarter.