• Dr. Imtiaz Ahmad

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) holds the pivotal responsibility of guiding, monitoring, facilitating, evaluating, and providing timely recommendations to ensure the effectiveness of higher education in autonomous Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

This mandate has been the cornerstone of the HEC since its inception in 2002. Encompassing a wide array of functions outlined in its comprehensive ordinance of 2002, the commission embarked on its journey with a mandate aimed at fostering academic excellence.

However, the initial days of its establishment saw the commission exercising its authority without transparently sharing its ordinance, marking the beginning of a period where the autonomy of universities began to be overshadowed. While the era of 2002, under the presidency of Pervez Musharraf, holds historical significance, it is tangential to the main discussion, serving only to underscore the impact of HEC’s monopoly on university autonomy. Despite the beneficial provisions of its ordinance, the misinterpretation and forceful imposition of its directives led to challenges across the higher education landscape, rather than fostering growth.

The introduction of new criteria for appointments, the imposition of the Tenure Track System (TTS), and attempts to enforce compulsory adaptation without transparent guidelines, all served to disrupt the autonomy of universities, contrary to the spirit of the ordinance. Regrettably, the lack of pushback from Vice Chancellors further rooted this monopolistic approach, preserving a climate of uncertainty and unease within HEIs. Consequently, the quality of higher education suffered, a fact acknowledged by the HEC itself on multiple occasions. The adoption of discriminatory policies, segregating faculty into TTS and Basic Pay Scales (BPS), further worsened the situation, deviating from the principle of uniformity in higher education.

Faculty members found themselves subjected to harassment, deprived of their rightful recognition for outstanding service, and compelled to undergo repetitive recruitment processes for promotions, in contradiction to the provisions outlined in section 10(1)-q of the ordinance. This fundamental issue has led to disappointment among the teaching community, disrupting the educational ecosystem and necessitating a delicate balance between teaching and research endeavors.

The persistent issue of irregular re-reappointments within HEIs has been a longstanding concern raised by teacher associations yet remains unresolved. While a draft agreement was jointly endorsed by the HEC and teacher associations in 2022, its implementation has been suspended, illustrative of the entrenched monopoly of the HEC. Acknowledging the gravity of the situation, the incumbent Chairman of the HEC issued a Notification NO. 10-01/2020/Coord/HEC/202, dated March 01, 2024, urging Vice Chancellors to expedite the appointment process and warning against delays and no endorsements.

Furthermore, the notification recommends the withdrawal of all advertisements issued before March 2022.

However, this directive raises several pertinent questions:

  1. Has the HEC assessed the genuine need for new appointments versus the promotion of existing faculty members?
  2. What factors contribute to the persistent delay in processing advertisements for positions?
  3. Would the cancellation of advertisements not unfairly penalize applicants, without addressing the root causes of the issue?
  4. Does this intervention not encroach upon the autonomy of universities?
  5. Is this directive a personal stance of the Chairperson, or is it based on the recommendations of the Commission?
  6. How would the withdrawal of advertisements affect senior faculty members awaiting promotion?
  7. Is it logical to cancel advertisements, instead to process the same retroactively?
  8. Could this decision be taken as a means to promote long-serving faculty members who have remained in the same position for an extended period or more than 20 years?
  9. Does this action prioritize the rights of faculty members seeking legitimate promotion, or does it serve to suppress their demands?
  10. Should this decision by the Chairman of the HEC, made without thorough investigation and potentially in violation of the HEC ordinance, be withdrawn or upheld by Vice Chancellors?

In conclusion, while HEIs and Vice Chancellors are not bound by directives, they are encouraged to adopt only the beneficial recommendations and policies in accordance with statutory requirements, not against the fundamental rights, not violating the constitutional and general rights, ensuring the protection of the rights of faculty members and enrolled students. Any policy implementation should uphold fundamental rights and not contravene existing laws unless demonstrably advantageous.

  • The writer is a PhD from the University of Essex, UK, and working as an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Malakand.

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