Devolution woes: Higher education must be a federal subject, Senate told

Published: May 26, 2014
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According to a reply submitted by the HEC, it said that only Sindh government has passed the “Sindh Higher Education Commission Act 2012”. PHOTO: HEC.GOV.PK

According to a reply submitted by the HEC, it said that only Sindh government has passed the “Sindh Higher Education Commission Act 2012”. PHOTO: HEC.GOV.PK

ISLAMABAD: 

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has informed the Senate that the national regulatory body will lose effectiveness and functionality if provincial higher education bodies were allowed to be set up.

This came in reply to a question from Senator Syeda Sughra Imam about the current status of the provincial higher education commissions and their effect on higher education, research and innovation.

According to a reply submitted by the HEC, it said that only Sindh government has passed the “Sindh Higher Education Commission Act 2012”, while the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has formed a working group for deliberation, the Balochistan government was reviewing the matter and the Punjab government has also held a meeting to discuss the issue.

About the possible effect on the overall higher education at the national level, the HEC has said that the mandated scope and working of the commission would be “greatly affected” if it was devolved to provinces.

“For instance, if variable standards at the provincial levels are set for degrees award, faculty appointment, university accreditation and recognition, research output and scholarships, of higher education will lose effectiveness and international recognition.”

It further stated that the HEC was a role model federal organisation which has full participation of provinces and universities in higher education policymaking for national development.

“In most federations around the world, higher education is a federal subject with a say from the federating units,” said the HEC, adding that for national integration, it was essential that the HEC must continue to perform its functions which it has been doing for the last 12 years.

About the question of the HEC’s role after establishment of the provincial bodies, it said that powers and functions of the HEC, as defined in Section-10 of HEC Ordinance 2002, have been extended to the whole of Pakistan, but through the act, the Sindh government has assumed the entire functions of the HEC and has replicated the same section of the ordinance.

Similarly, the act has also been challenged in the Sindh High Court. “If validated, the HEC would have no role related to the higher education in Sindh,” it replied.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2014.

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