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LAHORE: The longstanding issue of appointing pro-vice chancellors (PVCs) in public sector universities has surfaced again, as the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) has sought the Punjab government’s intervention to get the officials appointed for sharing vice chancellors’ burden.

Though the post of PVC was already available in the calendar of respective universities, but their vice chancellors had always resisted such an appointment to ensure no one ‘shared their powers’.

The PHEC’s proposal for PVCs’ appointment sent to the Punjab government has again landed in the court of vice chancellors. Punjab Higher Education Secretary Irfan Ali told Dawn the department had forwarded the proposal to vice chancellors of public sector universities.

Proposal sent to vice chancellors of public varsities

“The government will take a decision in the light of VCs’ feedback,” he added.

Official sources said the government would have to take an administrative decision to implement the law as the VCs were not going to endorse this idea.

The PHEC had proposed appointing three PVCs in each public varsity primarily to share the burden in academics, research, funding and other policy matters – a kind of devolution of VCs’ powers. Each of the three PVCs appointed would be responsible for administration, academics and research affairs. According to the proposal, a PVC could also be hired from outside the varsity on merit.

Some VCs believed the appointment of three PVCs in the presence of registrar, treasurer, controller of examinations and deans could trigger “administrative confusion and power politics” on campus, and also cause financial hardships for the varsity.

“What will be the role of PVC academics in presence of deans, and of PVC administration in presence of registrar?” questioned a vice chancellor on condition of anonymity.

“If the government is planning another experiment in universities, it can be done with one pro-vice chancellor only,” he suggested.

A former vice chancellor said there was already a shortage of senior faculty in many universities of the country where most of the departments were being headed by assistant professors.

“In 90pc of the country’s universities, figures of full professors hardly cross single digit. Many universities do not even have all deans. And in such a situation, appointment of senior faculty on purely administrative posts of PVCs may further worsen the shortage,” he said.

A registrar of a university asked who would bear the burden of the three PVCs, including their personal staff, office boys, dispatch riders, computer operators, drivers and above all who would purchase the official vehicles for them.

He said the Punjab government should sanction a minimum of Rs30 million as additional grant to each university for appointment of three PVCs.

A source said the proposal for these appointments had been made last year after a rift among the Vice Chancellors Search Committee. He said two of the six members of the committee were dissatisfied with the selection of new VCs.

“The members wanted to reduce a VC’s tenure to two years. They however managed to add a condition of biannual progress review in the VCs appointments, and also proposed appointment of PVCs to be groomed as future VCs,” he added.

Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association General Secretary Dr Mahboob Hussain said: “This proposal is against the acts of universities and the PHEC should also take teachers on board in this regard,” he said. “Deans in a university are already performing similar duties the proposal is envisaging for PVCs.”

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2016