HYDERABAD: University of Sindh (SU) went ahead with its controversial appointments on Monday despite clear instructions from the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to not violate standards.
The SU selection board, which continued its proceedings for the third day on Monday, conducted interviews of even those candidates for 71 posts of BPS-19 assistant professors whose academic credentials do not meet HEC's criterion.
In letters written on July 18 and again on July 29, the HEC elaborated the requisite qualification standard for the post. The letters clarified that the HEC does not consider conversion of Master's of Philosophy (MPhil) and Master's of Science (MS) studies to Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) as acceptable qualification.
"It is, however, reiterated that the MPhil/MS leading to PhD scholars converted into PhD phase cannot be considered equivalent to MPhil/MS degree holders," read the July 29 letter written by HEC quality assurance division consultant Muhammad Ismail to SU registrar. "If UoSindh appoints such scholars as assistant professors, it will be a clear violation of the HEC policy conveyed [recently] through [a] letter of July 18, 2016."
The letter went on to assert that the HEC will not support the appointments of assistant professors on the conversion basis. These appointments were also opposed by many deans and directors who, at a meeting over a month ago, suggested the SU administration to seek clarification or approval from the HEC once again. The SU faculty pursuing PhD degrees in foreign countries also feel discriminated while many faculty members also disregard conversion instead of MPhil or PhD degree as appropriate qualification.
The latest correspondence influenced the board's members who, on the meeting's first day, declined to take interviews from the conversion candidates, which are around three dozen in number, said a university official.
However, their reluctance drew Sindh University Teachers Association's (Suta) pressure in favour of the candidates and the members caved in. "Their [members'] objection was based on the HEC letters which were conveyed to them when the meeting began," a top official of a SU's faculty, who requested anonymity, told The Express Tribune.
Suta vice-president Zulfiqar Laghari confirmed the development and the association's intervention. "The candidates had been waiting for the interview for the last one-and-a-half years," he said. "They were greatly disturbed when they suddenly came to know that the board was going to deny them this opportunity."
According to him, Suta representatives as well as elected members of the syndicate approached the board to review its decision citing the SU's statute, which allows these appointments. "The varsity can't stop the appointments on such a short notice," he said. "The HEC directives will be taken to the senate and syndicate for approval followed by a change in the statute [before MPhil degree rather than conversion is made the acceptable qualification]."
The other side
Suta and the SU faculty supporting the conversion cases for the appointments argue that this criterion was made a part of the SU's statute before the posts were advertised. Suta's former president Dr Azhar Ali Shah, who spearheaded the move to accept MPhil conversion to PhD as a qualification for assistant professor, said he and his supporters will oppose a change in the statute.
"Although we would want to accommodate the PhD students [who are not being considered qualified for the posts] by amending the statute, making MPhil degree a condition for the appointments can't be accepted," he said.
A senior professor, who requested not to be named, deplored that these appointments are actually affecting merit. "Absolutely wrong," he said, describing the current process. According to him, a student enrolled in an MPhil programme has to give two seminars and submit a thesis of 20,000 to 25,000 words before getting the degree. In contrast, a student converting MPhil to PhD gives only one below-par seminar along with submission of a mere research proposal.
Members’ list: Who makes SU’s selection board?
This 165th selection board of SU comprises MPA Kulsoom Chandio, Justice (retd) Syed Deedar Hussain Shah, former Sindh law secretary Syed Ghulam Nabi Shah and Sindh Public Service Commission’s nominee Baz Muhammad Junjeo.
SU’s acting vice-chancellor Prof Dr Muhammad Siddique Kalhoro and registrar Ghulam Mohammad Bhutto are also its members. In addition, the deans, directors, chairpersons and experts also sit in the board for interviews of the candidates from their respective teaching departments.
The SU announced appointments on 197 posts of professors, associate professors, assistant professors and lecturers through an advertisement in January, 2015. But only the post of assistant professor has become contentious because of the conversion of MPhil applicants to PhD.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2016.
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