PESHAWAR: The number of universities functioning without regular vice-chancellors rose to 24 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as five more vice-chancellors completed their tenure on March 16, according to sources.

“It is alarming that out of 34 public sector universities in the province, 24 are not headed by a regular vice-chancellor,” an academician at University of Peshawar told Dawn. He said that absence of regular vice-chancellors was affecting the universities administratively and financially.

Sources said that 19 public sector universities were already functioning without regular VCs while the tenure of five more heads of universities completed on March 16. They said that the VCs of Fata University Dara Adamkhel, Islamia College University Peshawar, University of Buner, Women University Mardan and University of Chitral completed their tenure on March 16.

They said that eight universities had been functioning without regular VCs for the last one year.

They said that the public sector universities working without regular VCs for the last one year included Abbottabad University of Science and Technology, Gomal University Dera Ismail Khan, Khushal Khan Khattak University Karak, University of Agriculture Dera Ismail Khan, University of Lakki Marwat, Hazara University Mansehra, University of Engineering and Technology Mardan and Women University Swabi.

Academician says absence of full-time heads affects performance of higher education institutions

Similarly, seven universities including Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, Bacha Khan University Charsadda, Shuhada-i-APS University of Technology Nowshera, Kohat University of Science and Technology, University of Peshawar, University of Science and Technology Bannu and University of Engineering Peshawar have been functioning without regular VCs for the last three months.

Sources said that the newly-established universities including University of Agriculture Swat, University of Engineering and Applied Sciences Swat, University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences Swat and University of Shangla were also working without regular VCs.

They said that the process for appointment VCs of 19 public universities had been completed two months ago. They added that provincial government was reluctant to notify the names of VCs without any justification, prolonging the unnecessary delay.

The academic search committee for the appointment of vice-chancellors has conducted interviews of aspirants for VCs of 19 universities from January 22 to 26.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities Act, 2021, has empowered the academic search committee to conduct interviews of candidates for the post of vice-chancellors and recommend to the government a panel of three persons for selection of a VC from each panel.

Sources said that in light of the interviews for VCs of 19 universities, the academic search committee had recommended to the government a panel of three candidates for each university. They added that the recommended panels were also approved by the previous caretaker cabinet and signed by the caretaker chief minister.

However, instead of notifying the appointment of VCs, the authorities at the helm of affairs forwarded the names of the shortlisted candidates to intelligence agencies for security clearance, they said. “Security agencies have given clearance of potential VCs a month ago but despite that the government is reluctant to appoint regular VCs of universities,” they added.

Section 12 of the law states: “The vice-chancellor shall be appointed by the chancellor on the advice of government from a panel of three candidates recommended by the academic search committee.”

When asked about the government intentions regarding the possible changes in the panels shortlisted and recommended by the academic search committee, an official at higher education department said that as per decision of Supreme Court of Pakistan, the chief minister was required to recommend the name on top of the panel as VC to the governor, the chancellor of the public sector universities in the province.

The judgment of Supreme Court of Pakistan issued on July 28, 2018 states: “The person, who stands first in the merit, shall be appointed as vice-chancellor except if the government has any reason not to appoint him, which reason(s) shall be recorded in writing. Such reasons and validity thereof shall always be justifiable by the court of law.”

Minister for Higher Education Meena Khan was not available for comments.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2024

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