The proposed Higher Education Amendment Bill 2012 has to wait for a landing in the National Assembly after Education and Training Minister Sheikh Waqas Akram sought consensus of all stakeholders following a meeting with university vice-chancellors (VC) at the ministry on Thursday.
On Thursday, the university vice chancellors and shared with Akram their reservations over the bill which was expected to be tabled later in the National Assembly.
The VCs represented Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, University of Gujrat, Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi, National University of Science and Technology and others.
They discussed their apprehensions about the proposed amendments as the minister was not present in the February 4 meeting of VCs and the National Assembly committee members at the Higher Education Commission.
Following consultations, the minister assured the university representatives that the bill would not be taken up by the National Assembly without the consensus of all stakeholders.
They told the minister that a 24-member task force constituted by the prime minister in 2011 was aimed at identifying issues and was tasked with coming up with solutions acceptable to all. Consequently, Akram asked for full documentation of the task force.
Later in the day, several VCs, accompanied by HEC Chairman Javaid R Leghari, said in a news conference that they were hopeful that the bill would not be tabled.
Leghari said he would send the task force’s draft to the ministry within a few days.
He asserted that the HEC was an independent body which was not answerable to anybody but the controlling authority was the prime minister.
“And,” he continued, “the 17-member commission of the HEC is to look into all the affairs and decision making process.”
The HEC chairman was of the view that the bill was aimed to quell the autonomy of the HEC and bring it under the radar of the ministry and bureaucracy. “If this happens, it will be called a University Grants Commission (UGC) which the HEC was before its inception.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2013.