- By Dr. Shaukat Ali Khattak
The Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has introduced a bill regarding the ‘The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities Act, 2012 (amended 2016)’ through ‘The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities Amendments Bill 2020’.
The Higher Education Department (HED) sought the perspective of the concerned stakeholders through a survey. Presumably, several stakeholders had responded to the survey, here few points of the survey are worth discourse.
Role of the Pro-Chancellor: according to the universities act 2012 (amended 2016), the Pro-Chancellor of the university shall aid and advise the chancellor in the matters he/she asks for and preside over the convocation of a university in case of the absence of the chancellor. This role can be enhanced by delegating all power to him/her in the absence of the chancellor. Since the essence of the seat is to assist the chancellor, curbing his/her power is not instructive. The survey has rightly pointed out the hardship the chancellor has been facing in presiding over the meetings, given the fact that there are around 30 universities in the province: hence a plethora of Senate meetings for the Chancellor. The burden has been lightened by empowering the pro-chancellor to conduct the Senate meetings.
Reconstitution of Statutory Bodies: One of the major issues with the universities’ statutory bodies is their composition where the number of stakeholders versus non-stakeholders is disproportionate. For example, there are representatives from different provincial departments in the statutory bodies with benign stakes, but none from the students, one of the main stakeholders of the institution, leading to the flawed policies when it comes to the interests of the latter. Therefore, this might be perceived as naivety and sounded weird in prima facie, students’ representation in the statutory bodies is imperative as they face wide-ranged problems but often go unaddressed.
It is pertinent to mention that the reconstitution of the Syndicate and Senate (apex forums of a university) has been recommended by the Provincial Investigation Team (PIT), proposed by a provincial parliamentary committee which was triggered by students’ strikes against the increased fees of Peshawar University in 2018. But ironically, rather than increasing the number of relevant stakeholders in the body, the PIT has suggested ‘reconstitution of Syndicate having a balanced composition to avoid conflict of interest, especially regarding allowances’ as presented in the Vice Chancellors’ Conference held on 25/01/2022 at Governor’s House, Peshawar. It’s not hard to comprehend what has been alluded to: if decoded, it is argued that due to the presence of several employees of a university in its respective Syndicate, various allowances get approved seamlessly, which these members are beneficiaries of. Hence, this ‘conflict-of-interest’ warrants reconstitution of the body by reducing the members of the university’s employees in it. Rather than increasing the number of stakeholders, the decrement has been suggested. Weird indeed.
Curbing the Incentive of University’s Employees: The PIT has recommended also stopping different ‘lavish’ expenditures such as Orderly Allowance, M.S./M.Phil./Ph.D. allowance, conveyance allowance during vacations, computer allowance to teaching staff, extra POL charges per month for BS-21 employees, medical allowance @ 35 % of Basic Pay, extra duty allowance, honorarium, house requisition and house subsidy, residential telephone, and to reduce contingent 70 % paid to staff/daily wagers budget and recover income tax. All these expenditures have been termed by the PIT as ‘unjustified’. One wonders if such nominal ‘privileges’ are unjustified for the genius and smart brains who have left their luxurious lives abroad and chosen to serve their homeland, how the perks and privileges available to the officers of other departments are justifiable? For instance, reportedly, some of the Deputy Commissioners, DC, live in around 110-Kanal Houses. Similarly, the provincial government has recently approved a bill where the ministers, advisors, special advisers, and top officials have been allowed to use the govt choppers. Furthermore, the government has been allowed to hire private helicopters when required. But on the other hand, it is recommended to deprive the most qualified brains of pity incentives. Expecting that by disincentivizing university professors, they will impart their knowledge to the students effectively is a misconstrued approach, to say the least. No wonder the brain drains.
By Dr. Shaukat Ali Khattak
- The writer serves as Associate Professor at the Department of Physics, Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan. He can be reached at [email protected].