Wednesday, 6 April 2011

No constitutional provision to dissolve, devolve HEC

(By Usman Manzoor and Muhammad Saleh Zaafir, The News April 5- 2011)


ISLAMABAD: Though preparations for burial of Higher Education Commission are almost complete the serious question being asked is if HEC’s functions have been covered in the Federal Legislative list then why it was being devolved.

Chairman, Higher Education Commission along with the Vice-chancellors of various universities have given a presentation to Mian Raza Rabbani and his committee giving a clear picture of HEC’s status but of no avail.

“They do not give any reason but only say that they are devolving HEC”, said one source privy to the recent developments regarding HEC.

Chairman HEC Javed Leghari had written to Mian Raza Rabbani on March 30, 2011 saying: “HEC fully supports the 18th Amendment and the devolution process. We believe that items 16, 17 and 32, in Part-I of the Federal Legislative List, and items 6, 7, 11, 12, and 13 in Part-II of the Federal Legislative List fully support the current functions of HEC, including higher education, research, scientific and technical institutions, regulatory role, planning, professional education and inter-provincial matters. To implement the 18th Amendment, the way forward would be to jointly review the current functions of the HEC, and how they relate to the Federal Legislative List, and maintain the current status of HEC as a national organisation.

The HEC and the vice-chancellors’ representatives would be glad to meet the implementation committee anytime so that the 18th Amendment is implemented in its true spirit and key functions of the HEC, as defined in the 18th amendment including, but not limited to, higher education policy and planning, standards, accreditation, quality assurance, knowledge sharing, university-industry linkages, linkages with international educational and research organisations, research, foreign students and federal universities and retained with HEC.”

Sources in HEC say what the government was going to do was not devolution but segmentation of HEC as key functions of HEC would be gifted to various federal ministries. Chairman HEC when approached said that HEC supports 18th amendment but the function that are covered in the Federal Legislative List should remain with HEC. A recent cabinet meeting has decided to pass on the HEC’s functions to the Cabinet Division, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, documents available with The News reveal.

More importantly, no roadmap has been devised how to step into the shoes of the HEC dealing with academic matters of significant nature, especially when the departments being assigned this task have no experience of dealing with education.

The affairs relating to the equivalence of degrees, verification of degrees, standard of doctorate etc will be dealt with by Cabinet Division.

Likewise, the universities situated in Islamabad and its vicinity would be looked after by Islamabad Capital Territory for the first time in history. Foreign scholarships will now be administered by the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination. By this way the process of degree verification of lawmakers and public servants will now be handled by the cabinet division.

Former chairman of the HEC, Prof Attaur Rahman, says corrupt politicians, having their eyes on Rs40 billion annual budget of the HEC and on prime lands worth billions, are out to destroy it (HEC), but Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are against its dissolution. Well-placed government sources told The News here Monday that all HEC research functions would cease to exist including some 1,000 research projects on the most important issues confronting Pakistan. The Foreign scholarship programme for nearly 5,000 scholars in 28 countries would be moved to the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination.

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