HR (mis) management in higher education sector

Muneer Ahmed Mirjat

HIGHER education (HE) sector comprises all regulatory bodies, academic and research Institutions, Donors of the sectors, Government organizations, etc. All these are playing various roles under their domain for the entire eco-system of Higher Education. Human Resource Management (HRM) of all departments is responsible for developing the system of the institution as per authority. The operations of the institutions are dependent on the structure, roles, and responsibilities defined by the HRM.

The management of the Universities will expect that individuals and academic and operational departments are responsible enough for performing their duties without any formal follow up. However, on the document, everything is according to the instructions though in practice it is quite different. The Administration, Examination, ORIC, QEC, Finance, Transport, Security and other departments are there to support all academic and research activities in the universities. Most of the universities develop academic calendars without consulting or taking on board other departments in the loop. The result is departmental unrest and disputes due to various mismatches in their plan.

Some local events and activities need to be planned in consultation with the rest of the internal stakeholders or departments. As far as events that are initiated due to external actors of the university need the same type of agreement among the departments. The administrative approvals for expenses, transport, stay, travel, etc may be in place before the actual event. Focal persons of the respective departments should be informed of their role during the planned activity. Most of the universities conduct mock sessions for program review or institutional review type of exercises for better professional reflection to external visitors.

All this ideal arrangement of activities and events requires qualified professionals in all departments with relevant skills and experience. Hiring for each cadre is carried out through HRM at each institution and its role is important for recruitment, training and then timely promotion of the employees. It is observed that the HR section is most of the time headed by a like-minded person of the head of the institution. This helps the institutional head to appoint people of his choice and bring changes in the current structure for his convenience.

At Universities, finance, planning and development, admissions, examinations, services and transport are key departments where all heads of the institutions will install loyal persons for the smooth working of their task, not of the institutions. As all heads of the institutions are aware that their tenure is a maximum of four years and most of them are retired personnel, therefore, they are not in the mood of taking any risks. The job assigned as ahead of the institutions is considered as a bonus to their career and during this period, they would try to make happy all near and dear ones who remained annoyed during regular employment.

Short-sighted employees of the institutions join the ranks and opportunists make their circle for the free ride during the tenures of such head of the institution. Such administrative behavior develops the culture of favouritism at all levels and professional working staff suffers a lot and over the years such approach destroys the institutions. Resultantly, these institutions develop bad repute and after two or three tenure of such heads, the institutional decay starts, and funding, as well as other crises, comes to the surface. Then the people who have good repute are given the charge to save the institution which is more for saving those souls who have destroyed the foundations of the institutions.

The same practice is adopted in the academic departments, teachers who have good repute will be assigned subjects which they are not expert of and the continuous dictating style of the academic head will destroy the career of good and punctual teachers.

Most of the heads are highly qualified but their working style remains of more local punchayet style than of professional nature. Involving students to disrepute those who do not bow before the head of the department for following his policies is the widespread practice nowadays when harassment policy is exercised in a reverse manner. To avoid such practices, there is a need for establishing a grievance platform in the institutions and all statutory bodies should have regular meetings with relevant agenda.

There is a need for the proper job description, hierarchy, work distribution at all levels along with professional support, training and guidance in various task delivery. In our case, most of the public sector universities expected to follow rules and regulations given in their Charter or directives of the Higher Education Commission and directives of the government given from time to time for smooth functioning and achieving their objectives.

The self-evaluation mechanism given by HEC and other councils needs to be carried out during and after the academic year. There is a need to involve external reviewers for sharing an unbiased view of the activities carried out.

The evaluation made by the students of their teachers should not be made public which may demotivate and destroy the career of such a teacher. There is no harm to raise concern if such practice persists over time. We should remember that Higher education institutions are going to shape the future of this nation, therefore, the same may be considered as our strategic asset as the nature of conflicts and international wars is changed.

In such a scenario, the strategic institutions need to be safeguarded and that is only possible if all stakeholders are committed to playing their role.
—The author is Dy Director at Higher Education Commission, H-9, Islamabad.