ISLAMABAD: Vice Chancellors (VCs) of public sector universities of Sindh in their recently held meetings supported the idea of Provincial Higher Education Commission, saying that in the light of 18th constitutional amendment formation of provincial HECs is imperative.

On Thursday, after the concluding session of the two-day vice-chancellors meeting, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) had claimed that vice chancellors of public and private sector universities unanimously adopted a resolution saying that HEC should continue performing its role as a central authority. However, sources refuted this claim saying that VCs belonging to Sindh provinces advocated for formation of provincial HECs.

They said Sindh and Punjab had already formed provincial HECs while the remaining two provinces - Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - should also form their provincial HECs in the light of 18th constitutional amendment.

Talking to Dawn, Professor Dr Zafar Iqbal, VC Federal Urdu University, said: “I myself attended the meeting but I don’t know anything about this unanimous resolution. I never signed any resolution.”

He added that a large number of VCs never attended this meeting.

Dr Iqbal said that the HEC chairman came up with the proposal that provincial HECs should be given a role of looking after the affairs of college education. “After hearing this, I said the H in HEC stands for higher education that means university education,” he said.

He added that the parliament is the supreme body of the federation, which authorized provinces to form provincial HECs and the decision of the parliament should be implemented in its true letter and spirit in the greater interest of the federation.

Another participant of the meeting said that VC of Karachi University and him also strongly advocated for provincial HECs. He said that VCs belonging to Punjab neither strongly advocated nor opposed provincial HEC while VCs of Balochistan and KPK supported central role of HEC.

On the other hand, HEC on the conclusion of the two-days conference issued a press release that said that heads of higher education institutions across Pakistan had gathered in Islamabad to deliberate on the role of higher education sector in the post 18th amendment scenario as well as discussing various issues related to the quality of education and research.

The press release said:

“The Vice Chancellors’ Committee Meeting, after two-day detailed deliberation, unanimously adopted a resolution which said that the HEC Ordinance be implemented in letter and spirit and let HEC, Islamabad continue performing as central controlling authority to ensure quality, relevance and access to higher education through its existing policies.”

The resolution further recommended that the universities, especially the ones from smaller provinces are passing through critical transition and they will take at least another 10 to 15 years to stabilize.

Any change in the Higher Education governance, structure and system will impact their performance adversely. It said universities can perform well only if they are autonomous, while HEC can develop instruments to hold universities accountable for all that they do. The university leadership needs to be trusted and supported.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2014