Published On: Wed, Jan 1st, 2014
Published in Category: Islamabad

IHC seeks reply from Govt on appointment of Chairman HEC

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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) seeks reply and updated status from federal government regarding appointment of permanent/regular chairman Higher Education Commission within two days.

While hearing the case on Tuesday, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddique directed federal government to submit the reply till 2nd January, 2014.

Umar Hanif Khichi, advocate appearing on behalf of Prof. Dr. Atta ur Rahman stated that as per HEC Act, the federal government has to appoint regular chairman within 90 days. The office of permanent chairman HEC is lying vacant for last more than four months.

The hearing adjourned till 2nd January 2014.

It is significant to recall that renowned educationist, Founder Chairman of Higher Education Commission (HEC) and President Pakistan Academy of Sciences Prof. Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman filed a writ petition on Monday through Umar Hanif Khichi Advocate in Islamabad High Court for the appointment of permanent and regular chairperson of HEC without any further delay through a transparent and merit based mechanism.

The petition says that since former Chairperson’s first four year term ended on August 26th, 2013, therefore, since to the present, the office of the Chairperson HEC is vacant, which is a statutory office and most significant in role .It has been explicitly laid down in Section: 8(3) of the HEC Ordinance 2002 that the position of HEC Chairman to lie vacant for a maximum of three months and it is mandatory that after 90 days, regular Chairperson must be appointed.

The HEC is the Pakistan’s sole higher education regulatory authority responsible for accreditation of new and existing universities, degree awarding institutions, institutes of higher education, and academic programs, and is also responsible for funding (both development and recurring), planning and development, establishing new universities, recognition and equivalency of degrees (both local and foreign), setting policy guidelines, such as in the appointment and promotion of faculty and professors, research, quality assurance, faculty development programs, and in improving the standard of university education in the country.

The academic circles, Vice Chancellors, Academic Staff Associations, students and the public at large, who are the key stakeholders, have already expressed reservations on non-initiation of process for appointment of permanent/regular Chairman HEC.

The education experts and stakeholders believe that delay in the appointment is badly damaging the higher education sector as HEC chairman along with the 17 member HEC board called the “Commission” takes the key decisions regarding all policy matters as described in above-stated paragraphs and in the functioning of national universities and higher education institutions.

The said issue has also been highlighted from time to time in print and electronic media but till date government has failed to take any decision and due to lack of interest of Government, HEC is working without any regular Chairman.

The regular Chairperson, HEC has not been appointed by the government and due to non-appointment of regular/permanent Chairman, HEC is hampering important decisions, policy matters and its implementation and the higher education sector, comprising of over 150 universities, 258 campuses, 1.2 million students, 32,000 faculty members, including over 7600 PhD faculty, and administrative/support staff of over 100,000.

The meetings of the “Commission” has also not convened due to vacant position of Chairperson, HEC as well as vacant positions of seven board members of HEC is also delayed owing to non-availability of permanent chairman. HEC Ordinance 2002 requires the “Commission” to meet at least twice in a financial yea. The “Commission” has not met even once in the last six months due to non-availability of a regular/permanent Chairman.

The education experts believe that delay in the appointment is badly damaging the higher education sector as HEC chairman takes the key decisions regarding the regulation, accreditation, recognition functioning, and funding, of more than 150 national universities and higher education institutions. The non-appointment of regular/permanent Chairman HEC has also affected day to day functioning and affairs of HEC which has been reported in national media from time to time.

As per HEC Ordinance 2002, all the key decisions related to higher education has to be taken by the Commission’s board which is headed by its Chairman and the Secretariat acts as the executing wing of the Commission which is responsible for implementation of all the orders, decisions, directives of the board as per Section: 1 and 2 of the HEC Ordinance, 2002.

It is also important to point out that Pakistan is the only South Asian country where, its Higher Education regulatory body, is currently working under acting Chairperson instead of permanent Chairman, HEC as compared to Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, whose Chairmen hold the following qualifications: PhD, person of international eminence and significant contribution to higher education, etc.

Through petition it has been prayed that the respondents (Federal government) may be directed to appoint a qualified person of international eminence and proven ability who has made significant contribution to higher education as teacher, researcher or administrator, as regular Chairperson, HEC for a period of four years, on such terms and conditions as it may determine in a transparent manner, immediately as prescribed under the Law.