PESHAWAR: Seven public sector universities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have long been functioning without permanent vice-chancellors showing the PTI government’s disinterest towards the promotion of higher education in the province.

The government had amended the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities Act, 2012, as part of its reforms for education sector but didn’t ensure its enforcement.

The provincial assembly passed the amendments in question on May 8, 2015.

Govt says ordinance to be promulgated shortly to fill positions

According to the officials in the know, the higher education department has been unable to implement the amended law especially its provisions related to the appointment of VCs due to unavailability of suitable candidates.

They told Dawn that those who applied for those posts didn’t fulfil the selection criteria.

The officials said under those circumstances, the department neither fully implemented the law nor did it introduce fresh amendments to it to relax the criteria for the appointment of VCs.

Under Section 12(3) of the law, the process of selection of the new vice-chancellor is to be initiated six months prior to the expiry of the term of the incumbent.

However, the appointment of vice-chancellors to Gomal University Dera Ismail Khan, Hazara University Mansehra, Kohat University of Science and Technology and University of Engineering and Technology Peshawar.

Also, the newly-established Women University Swabi and Science and Technology University Abbottabad are awaiting the appointment of vice-chancellors.

The officials said the appointment of heads to the two varsities was delayed as the higher education department had decided to change the existing recruitment criteria.

Two days ago, the provincial government extended the tenure of UET Vice-Chancellor Imtiaz Hussain Gilani for three months in violation of the law, said officials.

The officials insisted Mr. Gilani holding the position for 12 years had already been given three term extensions for four years each.

According to them, Section 12(6) of the relevant law says, “The Vice-Chancellor shall be appointed for a single tenure of three years on market based salary and fringe benefits depending on qualification and experience of the candidate and his or her suitability to the task.

“The tenure of three years may be extended once for another such term on the basis of performance to be evaluated by government against the key performance indicators to be set up by government. The Vice-Chancellor may work in the same university for a maximum of two such tenures.”

The officials said the need for relaxing criteria for the appointment of vice-chancellors was felt in Sept 2015 when the top vacancies at Hazara University Mansehra and Kohat University of Science and Technology were advertised.

They however said the selection committee didn’t find suitable candidates as the criteria especially qualification required for the posts was ‘very high’.

The officials insisted the criteria was unlikely to be fulfilled by any academician in the province.

The relevant law also sets a tough condition for the top university appointments stating, “a Vice-Chancellor shall have minimum of forty research publication in peer-reviewed international research journals (with Impact factors of above 1.0 in the case of candidates in the fields of agriculture, science or engineering).”

When contacted, special assistant to the chief minister on higher education Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani said as the provincial assembly was not in session, an ordinance with amendments to the universities act would be promulgated within few days to begin appointment of vice-chancellors to public universities.

“We have relaxed the criteria for VC appointment by reducing the number of research publications,” he said.

Mr. Ghani said the vacant posts of VCs in the province would be advertised in newspapers soon after the promulgation of the ordinance.

When asked under which law or rules three months extension has been given to the UET vice-chancellor, he said the appointment had been made on the executive orders because the department had no other option.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2016