The Senate on Monday unanimously passed a private member’s bill for the establishment of three universities in the capital despite objections by the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
Senator Saeed Ghani presented three bills for the establishment of My University, South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) University and Darul Madina International University which were approved unanimously. The bill was passed in the National Assembly without debate in January and by the Senate Standing Committee on Education last week.
HEC Chairperson Dr Javaid Laghari expressed concern that the commission was not been taken on board and told The Express Tribune that first you come up with the name, aims and objectives of the university and write to the HEC, which asks for the society papers (containing details about owners and shareholders) to check whether the party is credible and whether they have the capability. There is no mention of the subjects to be taught at the varsities, he stated.
“The land for the university has to be specified, (HEC’s minimum criteria is 10 acres) which we verify and then give tentative approval.”
The draft is vetted to examine the syndicate and the criteria for vice chancellor’s appointment after which the university’s premises are inspected, he said. “The HEC sends the draft to the law ministry and a no-objection certificate is issued, forwarded to the Cabinet and finally to parliament.”
Laghari said, “Surprisingly, the HEC has not been consulted. The passage of this bill means that anybody can do anything without any check or balance.”
Ruling party MNA, Yasmeen Rehman, who presented the bill in the National Assembly questioned, “Why is the HEC creating hurdles in the establishment of universities when its mandate is to check violations?”
HEC’s standards should be followed in operating universities but the HEC should not think the National Assembly will seek their guidance on the establishment of varsities, she added. Reacting to HEC’s concerns, she said, why did the chairman and ED not object in the committee meetings?
Rahman’s remarks are in contrast to the commission’s mandate spelled out in the HEC Ordinance 2002, which empowers it to take decisions for the evaluation, improvement and promotion of higher education.
One of its functions is to advise the government on proposals for granting a charter to award degrees by both public and private sector universities. Additionally, the criterion for the establishment of any university is the same and everyone has to follow the set rules and procedures, reads the HEC Ordinance .
Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2013.