LAHORE: The Punjab government is not happy with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) because of its alleged non-cooperation with the provincial higher education body and wants the premier’s intervention to solve the issue.
“Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is not happy with the HEC for not extending cooperation to the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) in different matters and will request Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (on his return from London after recovering from a heart surgery) to intervene,” a Punjab government official told Dawn.
Recently, despite the Punjab government’s request, the HEC refused to engage the PHEC in its annual three-day conference of vice chancellors in Lahore.
The official said the chief minister wanted the HEC should fully support the provincial commission in different initiatives and both must go along.
CM to seek premier’s intervention
Unlike the Sindh HEC, the PHEC says it wants no confrontation with the HEC and wants it to accept its existence after the 18th amendment and work along with it.
“We believe the PHEC and HEC can work together to promote research culture in Punjab. A lot of work needs to be done on quality in higher education which can be achieved through collaborative monitoring and evaluation,” a PHEC official told Dawn.
He said decentralisation was necessary for efficiency and the PHEC would be helpful in achieving objectives of the HEC. In the light of the 18th Amendment, it is now the responsibility of respective provincial governments to manage and provide financial, technical and logistical resources for improving quality, enhancing access and ensuring relevance of research and development on a par with national and international standards.
The official said the HEC should not perform those functions which were under the domain of the PHEC such as regulation, funding, planning and policy of higher education institutions. And it should look after the matters related to the federal universities, not provincially chartered universities, which are already under the administrative control of the provincial governments.
“Besides, the federal government should directly provide all the funds pertaining to higher education to Punjab as per the NFC award,” he added.
On the other hand, the HEC sticks to one point - there should be only one federal body responsible for formulating higher education policy and quality assurance to meet the international standards as well as accrediting academic degrees, development of new institutions and uplift of existing institutions in Pakistan.
An official of HEC told Dawn that after the 18th amendment, only Punjab and Sindh formed their HECs while Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir had shown ‘least interest’ in forming their own higher education bodies.
The tussle between the institutions has landed in the Council of Common Interests (CCI). A committee under the chairmanship of Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal has been constituted to look into the matter. It has been directed to prepare a ‘comprehensive report’ for the redress of the grievances of the provinces and submit the same in the next CCI meeting.
The HEC is of the view that unless the HEC Ordinance 2002 is amended or modified by a new federal legislation, the powers and functions of the HEC cannot be rescinded or modified through a provincial legislation or an executive order. A decision thereof in national interest and in accordance with the provisions of law/constitution is required.
Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2016