The new Sindh Universities Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, appears likely to wage a split between academicians in the government universities in Karachi and their counterparts in rest of Sindh – the point of contention between the two sides was and remains the admissions policy.
The first reflection of this divide manifested at the general body meeting of the Karachi University’s teachers. More of the same will presumably ensue as the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA), Sindh chapter, convenes its meeting on August 29 in Karachi.
The law sent ripples of anxiety as the universities fear curtailment of autonomy and greater politicisation.
“We support the objections raised by the KU teachers against the bill but we have diverging views on the enrollment policy,” said Dr Arfana Mallah, president of the Sindh University Teachers Association. In her opinion, there should be a more uniform admission policy which provides equal opportunity to all the domicile holders of the 27 districts in the province.
Under the 1972 Sindh Universities Act, the academic councils were empowered to formulate the admission policy. The new law, however, hands over this authority to the provincial government.
“Like the KU teachers, we object to the appointment powers over the administrative officers which have been given to the chief minister. But as far as the admissions are concerned, there shouldn’t be any discrimination for the students belonging to any part of the province,” said Sindh Agriculture University President Dr Liaquat Jamali.
At the heart of the controversy is the KU’s admission policy based on the KSP formula – Karachi, Sindh and Pakistan – which gives preference to students who have completed their matriculation and intermediate education from the institutions in Karachi. Students from the rest of Sindh are given admission on two criteria – on the seats which are not filled by Karachi students and on 30 reserved seats, but only for the courses not taught in the public sector universities outside Karachi.
“This is a biased policy which denies the right of higher education to the people of Sindh,” said Jami Chandio, who heads the Center for Peace and Civil Society. According to him, in a recent meeting with the Sindh Education Minister Nisar Khuhro, he suggested that the government should ask the universities to end discrimination in their admission system. But if they do not comply, he added, the Sindh Assembly should legislate a law to ensure no resident of Sindh was treated differently.
“In the past we didn’t protest against KU’s policy. But why should we raise our voice in it’s favour?” remarked Dr Arshad Memon, general-secretary of the teachers association of Mehran Universities of Engineering and Technology (MUET).
FAPUASA Sindh President Dr Asad Abidi hoped that the chief minister would be able to play a greater role in helping the universities with their finances.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2013.