Challenging reform agenda: ‘K-P has become a lab rat for experiments’

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Vice chancellors (VC) of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) 19 public sector universities have voiced reservations over “unilateral” amendments planned for the K-P Universities Act 2012, drafted by the provincial government.

A meeting of VCs was held at University of Peshawar on Saturday where the attendees protested over being ignored in the drafting of the final version of the amendments. The VCs reaffirmed their commitment to uphold the autonomy of varsities and vowed to safeguard public interest as well as the milestones achieved in the last 12 years.

The VCs stated they were involved in the preliminary deliberations over amendments, however the final document going to the K-P Assembly was not shared with them.

“The final document is completely different from what was discussed in the working group of VCs,” said one of the VCs present at the meeting. “We disown these reforms that have been manipulated at the behest of a few politically motivated individuals who are hell bent on settling personal scores with some VCs at the cost of the province’s higher education sector.”

Another speaker added, “In addition to administrative reforms, the working group had also proposed comprehensive revisions in both financial and academic spheres, but only matters concerning the appointment of VCs have been changed unilaterally. It has made the entire process dubious.”

According to these university administrators, K-P has become “a lab rat for experiments undertaken by those who wish to enforce change at all cost”. Changing existing structures without addressing concerns and sufficient consultation will render the whole exercise futile, they said. Lobbying by individuals in restructuring the higher education sector has made the entire process murky, they added.
Speakers at the meeting rejected the impression that the VCs have vested interests and are against reforms that are for the better
In a rush?

The government had initiated a comprehensive reform programme to strengthen the higher education sector of the province.
About 17 consultative meetings were held between all stakeholders. Proposals for enhancing administrative, financial and academic systems in varsities were then tabled.

VCs of public sector universities had raised concerns over certain minutes and written to the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Governor Mehtab Abbasi. Chief Minister Pervez Khattak was also requested again to intervene.

A working group of three VCs was formed and they put forward their concerns. However, without further consultation, the final draft was processed, claiming to have approval of the working group. It was reported the law department was pushed to draft the amendments within days and to side-line its own reservations.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2014.