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LAHORE: The Punjab government has plan for abolishing the pro-chancellor designation in all the public sector universities of the province, which if executed will be a great relief for the vice chancellors.

The provision for the pro-chancellor’s designation was included in the Universities Charter 2012. Under the new charter, designed by the Punjab government, the provincial higher education minister chaired the varsities Syndicate meetings, official sources told Dawn on Sunday.

The 2012 charter also provides for inclusion of three provincial assembly members as Syndicate members. However, presently vice-chancellors chair the Syndicate meeting and only one member of the provincial assembly has been given representation in the top body of the varsities that work under the Universities Act 1973.

The purpose of placing public representatives on the varsities Syndicate is to ensure supervision of the affairs of these institutions being funded through tax-payers’ money.

At least nine public sector varsities -- Women University Multan, Women University Bahawalpur, Home Economics University Lahore, University of Jhang, University of Okara, University of Sahiwal, Government College for Women University, Faisalabad, and Government College for Women University, Sialkot and Ghazi University Dera Ghazi Khan --- are working under 2012 charter.

In a recent Tweet, expressing his dissatisfaction over the situation Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar has clearly said, “I am not happy with the performance of public sector universities. Vice chancellors and senior officials have been appointed on an ad hoc basis and little focus is on co-curricular activities/research and development. Designation of “pro-chancellor” will be abolished soon!”

The sources say that after introduction of the Universities Charter 2012 political intervention in the varsities affairs increased with an increase in the number of assembly members on Syndicate to three (from one under the 1973 Act) and it also introduced pro-chancellor slot to be occupied by provincial higher education minister.

They said abolishing of the pro-chancellor slot would be a great relief to the vice chancellors of the public sector universities established under Universities Act 2012. Most of these newly-established universities had not conducted their Syndicate meetings for the last years due to non-availability of the higher education minister who was supposed to preside over, they added.

They also pointed out that most of the new universities were working without permanent vice chancellors. These include, Lahore College for Women University, Women University, Multan, University of Home Economics, Lahore, University of Jhang, Information Technology University (ITU), Lahore, Punjab Tianjin University of Technology, University of Engineering and Technology, Taxila, Cholistan University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, PMAS-Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, University of Narowal, Government College for Women University, Faisalabad, Government College for Women University, Sialkot and the Government College University, Faisalabad.

The VCs of three other public sector universities will complete their four-year tenure during the current year. They are: Prof Dr Qaiser Mushtaq of the Islamia University, Bahawalpur, Prof Dr Fazal Ahmed Khalid of the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, and Prof Dr Ziaul Qayyum of the University of Gujrat.

Punjab Minister for Higher Education Raja Yasir Humayun Sarfraz confirmed that the government had plans to abolish the pro-chancellor slot to ensure autonomy of the universities.

Meanwhile, the sources said, the universities working under the Universities Act 1973 had not been appointing their pro-vice chancellors (PVCs). The Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) had sought the government’s intervention to get these officials appointed for sharing vice chancellors’ burden in the past, they added.

The sources said though the PVC slot had always been in the charters of public sector universities, their vice chancellors had been resisting such appointments to ensure no one shared their powers.

The VCs, they said, were of the view that the appointment of the PVCs in the presence of registrar, treasurer, controller of examinations and deans could result in administrative confusion and power politics on the campus.

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2018