Without VCs

Published March 3, 2024

THE delay in appointing vice chancellors across Pakistan’s universities has mushroomed into a crisis, with one third — 51 out of 154 — lacking regular VCs. Among those affected are the capital’s Quaid-i-Azam University, Allama Iqbal Open University, and International Islamic University Islamabad, where the posts became vacant in November 2023. The leadership vacuum has persisted for over one and a half years in the case of many institutes. The Punjab University Council of Professionals has criticised the Punjab government for its failure to fill the vacant posts, highlighting the detrimental impact on 25 universities within the province, including Punjab University. In the absence of permanent VCs, students are not only experiencing a decline in academic standards but also an increase in tuition fees. The HEC’s call for a transparent appointment process has largely gone unheeded, with patronage, nepotism, and political influence continuing to overshadow merit and qualifications. Instances of highly qualified candidates being overlooked to accommodate politically favourable ones indicate a selection process marred by lack of integrity and transparency. Meanwhile, the decision to launch the PU Gujar Khan/ Potohar Campus without adequate feasibility studies exemplifies the politically motivated decisions that prevail in the absence of strong academic leadership.

Universities are the bedrock of higher education, tasked with nurturing the intellectual growth of future leaders. The absence of permanent leadership hampers academic research and development, leading to a decline in educational standards and research output. This debacle could have been avoided through proactive planning and action. The caretaker set-up’s failure in the matter underscores a lack of commitment to the educational sector’s stability and growth. It is imperative for the new administrations to prioritise the appointment of qualified individuals to these critical positions. All stakeholders involved must reaffirm their commitment to education and ensure that such lapses do not further jeopardise the nation’s academia and global competitiveness.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2024

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