Save universities from ceremonial shackles | By Prof Naeem Masood

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Save universities from ceremonial shackles

AT the institutional level, universities are well positioned to contribute to the socio-economic development of the country by increasing the supply of skilled graduates, who in turn, increase the productivity of the companies in which they are employed.

Universities contribute to the production of graduates with critical thinking and innovation skills, which make them more employable in the national and international job markets.

They also provide vital services to the communities in which they are located. However, for years, poor administration, lack of interest by the government, political interference, personal revenges and grudges of high-ups have plagued Pakistan’s higher education system.

For around four years, the PTI government has been in charge, and it has said that it wants to get more people into school, make sure that Pakistan’s educational systems are the same across the country, improve the quality of administration and education, and make skill training more accessible and relevant.

But, what has happened to them is beyond my understanding. The most important sector of society is education, while all matters pertaining to educational institutions remained unaddressed with zero interest from the administration, including the Higher Education Department, Chief Minister’s Office, and the Chancellor’s Office.

Let’s have a real-time example: when a case comes to the Higher Education Department for the appointment of a new dean, it takes so long for HED to act.

It’s even stranger that a case like this has gone uninvestigated in the Chancellor’s Office and Chief Minister’s Office for so long, when the Governor’s House and the Chancellor’s Office are already ceremonial entities.

The files of dean’s appointment and vice chancellor’s cases take years to move from one location to another and then to the chancellor’s office.

And the major problem is when there are three individuals designated as number one, two and three, in the case of the dean’s appointment, the offices hold the umbrella of the PEEDA Act, which doesn’t say that this file will stay pending until it’s fixed.

What I don’t get is why these offices so long to act on cases brought to them by universities.

Even stranger is the fact that a case of this magnitude went uninvestigated for such a long time in the Chancellor’s office.

Consider the following scenario: In the summary, there are three candidates whose names appear at the top of the list for dean, vice chancellor, or whatever other position in the chancellor’s office needs to be filled. If you are found guilty or punished, you will be held accountable for your actions.

Why not consider someone you know or someone you interact with on a regular basis, and if he is out on bail or under investigation and you are not preventing him from performing his duties or terminating him, why not promote or re-appoint him in the same manner as before?

This is a hypothetical question. I would appreciate any advice from a senior teacher or an experienced attorney (I am neither an educator nor an attorney).

The executive summary has been pending in the chancellor’s office, and there is no question about which of the three people is the most important.

For the time being, the summary of all three has been put on hold. Let me tell you about people’s skills and how they become players.

When someone has the power to write an annual confidential report (ACR), he thinks if I write against the candidate, it might come out of my influence, and if I write in his favour, it must come out of my hand.

In both cases, the authority will disappear, so the game is to put this report into cold storage in order to keep the person on hand.

It is worth recommending inquiry officers, professors and vice chancellors not to become Munshi, SHO, or Patwari to make lame excuses, as in this universe, the Prime Ministers and Presidents of the States lose the confidence of the House when the truth is revealed, and officers like this are not big fish to be caught.

Politics and personal interests arise when there is power in the hands of humans. You cannot eradicate political thoughts and personal interests.

The most effective, but admittedly harshest, thing to do is to create a mechanism for prioritising issues in the higher education sector. Otherwise, this sector would also become like PIA, Steel Mill, PTCL, etc.

—The writer is associated with Bahawalpur University.

 

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