Several university associations and academic bodies have shared with political parties a comprehensive plan to reform the country’s higher education sector. Their 18-point agenda is a timely invitation to political entities to rethink their strategy on higher education based on the recommendations of experienced and concerned varsity teaching staff and professionals. By reordering their priorities and attuning those more with today’s needs, political groupings have a lot to gain from the proposed reforms. Prudence demands careful consideration and early adoption of some, if not all, recommendations into the manifestos of political parties. The focus of the agenda — and a vital ingredient for the reform process — is merit-based, transparent appointment of vice-chancellors through independent academic search committees consisting of eminent academicians. This will perhaps serve as a deterrent to both adhoc appointments and the culture of extensions. We can hope to improve the state of higher education by spending at least a quarter of the entire education budget on this sector.
Other measures such as promoting quality teaching and research and ensuring the autonomy of universities and academic freedom on university campuses have the potential to transform the landscape of higher education for the better. Sufficient attention must be paid to the principles of governance of universities and maintaining a balance between internal and external members. The agenda drawn up by university associations and academic bodies calls for steps towards building peace, tolerance, culture of dialogue and co-existence on university campuses by propping up student societies. This is important because university graduates serve in the public and private sectors, as well as industries and other institutions. The biggest challenge however is to find ways to integrate research studies in an effort to resolve the country’s indigenous problems and boost the national economy. There is no time to lose on this count.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2018.