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SAHIWAL: The BZU sub-campus which is supposed to be converted into University of Sahiwal. — Dawn
SAHIWAL: The BZU sub-campus which is supposed to be converted into University of Sahiwal. — Dawn

SAHIWAL: It has been a year since the Punjab government passed The University of Sahiwal (UoS) Act 2015 on June 10, 2015 to convert the Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU) sub-campus here into an autonomous chartered university, the University of Sahiwal, but the transition has still not begun.

Though the Punjab government promulgated the act and officially notified the UoS in Punjab Gazette (Extraordinary) issue of June 16, 2015, but even after a year there were several grey areas hindering the transition process.

Among the main hindrances were appointment of a permanent vice chancellor (VC), non-allocation of Rs1.28 billion development budget in the financial year 2016-17, formation of a Chancellor’s Committee, regular allocation of budget in Provincial Annual Development Programme, status of degrees of 3,500 students enrolled in BZU and shifting of revenue/expenditures -- academic, visiting and administrative staff salaries -- from BZU Multan’s account to the new head of UoS.

Interestingly, instead of approving development budget for an official notified UoS, the Punjab government asked the Higher Education Department (HED) to prepare a feasibility report of the university. They also allocated Rs20.5 million for the study in the 2016-17 financial year, sources told Dawn.

The sub-campus was opened here in 2005 initially in a rented academic block of Government Post Graduate College, Sahiwal (GPGCS). Later, the university established its own campus on 57 acres and started classes there in 2012.

In 2010, when Sahiwal city was declared the divisional headquarters of the Sahiwal division, a need was felt for an autonomous public university to meet educational needs of the big city.

“The youth have to travel to either Multan or Lahore for higher education,” Dr Mirza Moeed, head of the Punjabi Department, said.

Around 2012, there was a proposal to convert GPGCS into a university but it was met with strong resistance from 130 college teachers who argued that this was the only public college in the city and should remain so for students from lower and middle classes.

Later, it was decided that the BZU sub-campus would be upgraded to a standalone university. The then vice chancellor Prof Dr Alqama, after getting an approval from the BZU syndicate, authorised the provincial government to convert the campus into a university. After the Punjab Assembly passed the UoS Act 2015, the chief minister signed a notification on March 24 this year for establishment of a public sector university in Sahiwal by upgrading the BZU campus.

Commissioner Babar Hayat, who is also the project director, said the Punjab government passed a law to establish two independent universities -- University of Okara and UoS, which were currently functioning as sub-campuses of the University of Education Lahore and BZU Multan, respectively. He admitted that the transition process got delayed.

Development Director Habib Jillani said in April 2016 a PC-I of Rs1.2 billion was prepared and approved both by HED and planning department, but unfortunately it failed to attract budgetary allocation in the fiscal year 2016-17.

Answering a question about the delay in vice chancellor’s appointment, the commissioner said a summary had been moved to the chief minister. It has been proposed that Prof Dr Tahir Amin, BZU Multan VC, would be given additional charge of the UoS VC till appointment of a new vice chancellor.

“The moment the summary is approved, the appointed VC will form a Chancellor’s Committee, which will run the university’s daily affairs till formation of a syndicate,” Commissioner Hayat said.

Dr Moeed Ahmed, the campus director, said technically it is the UoS, but salaries of regular, administrative and visiting staff were coming from the BZU Multan campus.

Jillani explained the government had issued a notification and bound BZU Multan to pay regular salaries to all staff till a full transition. The commissioner added that after a full transition, salaries would come from the Punjab government.

A source in the BZU Multan accounts department said over anonymity that the Sahiwal sub-campus was running on “no profit, no loss” basis.

Several students feared for their academic future. They asked which name would appear on their degree transcripts.

“Is it going to be a UoS or BZU degree?” Aleem, a student of MBA evening programme, asked.

Dr Ahmed said until the transition, the degrees would carry BZU Multan’s name because fees were paid in that head.

Hayat said the planning department rejected the possibility of reversal of the UoS decision following the proposed feasibility study. “The feasibility study is actually PC-II. Allocated feasibility amount of Rs20.5 million is not for UoS only, but also for University of Okara,” he further said.

He also dispelled the impression that non-allocation of Rs1.2 million in the current budget did not mean reversal of the decision on UoS.

Provincial Minster for Ushr and Zakat Malik Nadeem Kamran while talking to Dawn admitted that due to many “administrative inefficiencies” the transition to UoS has been delayed.

“The UoS was formed by an act of the provincial assembly and it is not going to be rolled back,” he said.

Local academicians, students and parents demanded the chief minister immediately appoint a new VC and allocate development funds.

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2016