The Higher Education Amendment Bill 2012, proposed by National Assembly Standing Committee on Education and Training, is likely to be quashed due to reservations from vice chancellors (VCs) and educationists about its impact on higher education.
On Tuesday, the only agenda item for the 11th VCs meeting was to share apprehensions and reservations before the members of the committee who proposed it.
Committee chairman PML-N MNA Sheikh Rohail Asghar and seven other members sat down with 25 VCs of different universities to come up with an acceptable solution. VCs from Quetta, Karachi and Lahore attended via video conference.
The VCs strongly opposed the amendments and stated that it would have detrimental effects on higher education and revert back all achievements the HEC gained during the last decade.
The standing committee passed the proposed amendment bill on January 23. It includes two amendments — one cutting the tenure of the HEC chairman from four years to three, and another revoking the status of the chairman as equivalent to a federal minister — which created a ruckus among educationists across the country.
“These amendments are coercive and are aimed to push the HEC to the wall and curb its independent role,” said Government College University Faisalabad VC Dr Zakir Hussain.
University of Gujrat VC Dr Nizamuddin said that any changes in the HEC Act 2012 should come after the recommendations of the task force established by the prime minister in 2011.
Dr Nizamuddin remarked that the higher education sector has played a remarkable role in the socioeconomic development of Pakistan. “It will prove disastrous if any such step is taken at this point without any consultation with all the stakeholders,” he concluded.
Sheikh Salahudin, a member of the committee from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, refused to go with the amendment bill recommendations. “We will oppose any such move against the HEC, which has delivered [what it promised] to a great extent,” he said.
Rukhsana Jamshed, a PML member, said that most of the members who agreed to pass the bill, will now be opposing its move into the NA.
Asghar was of the view that if the stance seen at the meeting was expressed at the time the bill was being debated, “we would have withdrawn it.” The chairman of the committee sent a letter to all the members on February 1 to resubmit their proposals about the bill.
Asghar said he is now awaiting members’ recommendations and whatever they decide will be the final decision. “We will move further either to quash or withdraw the controversial clauses,” he said. “We will not table any bill damaging performance or curtailing the autonomy of the HEC. We need to strengthen such institutions,” Asghar added.
Other members included Surraiya Jatoi, Tasneem Siddiqui, Qudsia Arshad, Donya Aziz, Rukhsana Jameshed, Shaikh Salahuddin and Sufyan Yousaf.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 6th, 2013.