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Teachers give govt 15 days to review varsities law

Updated August 30, 2013

KARACHI, Aug 29: Forming an alliance to oppose certain clauses of the recently approved Sindh Universities Laws (Amendment), 2013 at a meeting held at the NED University of Engineering and Technology on Thursday, teachers’ associations representing Sindh universities decided to give a 15-day ‘deadline’ to the government to review the law.

The alliance came into being after the Karachi University Teachers Society (Kuts), which had earlier outright rejected the law, changed its stand and decided to support its counterparts in the interior of Sindh on the issue of vice chancellors’ appointment.

The protesting teachers gathered under the banner of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) on the NED campus.

Later, top leadership of the association spoke at a press conference and said that it had decided to adopt a ‘cautious approach’ instead of issuing a warning to the government in case its demands were not met.

“We have formed a six-member body to look into the matter and expect that the government will look into our concerns. If the government fails to take notice of our concerns within the given deadline, we will meet again and decide a future course of action,” said Prof Asad Raza Abidi, president of the FAPUASA which organised the press conference on the NED campus.

When pressed to give a hint about options regarding a future course of action and explain whether the deadline should be taken as an ‘ultimatum’, Dr Azhar Ali Shah, representing the Sindh University Teachers Association, said: “We are launching a movement and after 15 days, we will meet again.”

Earlier, the protesting teachers briefed the media about the consensus reached in their meeting. The representatives adopted a strong stance over what they described as the “controversial clauses of the law that have overstepped universities’ autonomy”.

“Though we appreciate the government move of giving powers to the chief minister to appoint vice chancellors as it is very much in line with the spirit of the 18th constitutional amendment, we have strong reservations over the articles relating to transfer of the powers to make key appointments — which are the prerogative of the university syndicate —to the government,” said Prof Abidi.

These appointments included those of the registrar, controller of examination, chief accountant, resident auditor, bursar and finance director, he added.

He called upon the government on behalf of the association to include teachers’ long-standing demands in the law especially the one relating to adopting the criteria suggested by the Higher Education Commission on appointing a vice chancellor.

“According to this criteria, a vice chancellor should be a senior in-service teacher who must not be above 65 years of age, have a sound academic background and must not be allowed more than two terms,” he said, pointing out that there were instances that the vice chancellors too old to do their job properly were still working.

In reply to a question regarding admission policy, he said that there was a consensus among teachers that such a policy was the prerogative of the university’s academic council.

“Though teachers from the interior of Sindh have serious reservations over admission policy of universities in Karachi, we do believe that it’s the academic council that should devise a policy,” said Prof Abidi.

According to Prof Abidi, the association also supports the government move of terminating employment of vice chancellors who had completed two terms.

FAPUASA leaders expressed displeasure over words like ‘control’ that the government had used in the law for management of universities. They also identified contradictions in the law.

“It’s unfortunate that the government didn’t consult us while preparing such a piece of legislation. We intend to draft some changes in the law which we will forward to the government,” said FAPUASA-Pakistan general secretary Prof Jameel Chitrali.

Financial and administrative autonomy of universities was essential for society’s growth and progress, he said, adding that the government must not take it away.

Prof Abidi also asked the government to take notice of the financial crisis being faced by the NED varsity and provide it a bailout package immediately.