ISLAMABAD: Khyber Pakhtun-khwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti has fixed April 11 for a meeting with the vice-chancellors of universities in the province to adopt a consensus stance on the hot issue of the Higher Education Commission’s future.
The vice-chancellors earlier had a meeting with ruling Awami National Party (ANP) Senior Vice-President Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel during which they had strongly opposed the devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to the federating units.
“The chief minister will have a brainstorming session with the vice-chancellors (VCs) of the province so that a collective stance can be adopted on this extremely important issue,” said Senator Haji Adeel when The News approached him on telephone for his party’s viewpoint on the matter.
Senator Haji Adeel pointed out that HEC Chairman Dr Javed Leghari had attended proceedings on the thrashing out of the 18th Amendment and proposed that the HEC and the scientific education should be made part of the Federal Legislative List Part-II.
The legislator noted that the panel on thee constitutional amendments had accepted the proposal, which clearly meant that HEC was supposed to be a subject of the Council of Common Interests. He said when other departments were sending their recommendations and proposals to Raza Rabbani-led panel such as the lawyers, why had not the vice-chancellors done so and instead kept silent.
About the funding of HEC if it was to be devolved, the ANP legislator contended that till the next National Finance Commission (NFC) award, the federal government should finance the commission. He noted that when the new NFC was agreed upon, the 18th Amendment was not yet enacted. Hence there was no question of HEC being funded under the existing NFC award, he said, adding: “The centre may release funds to the provinces under NFC award or directly distribute them among the federating units.”
The ANP senator said recently a federal government representative had stated that the provinces would have to fund the devolved HEC from their own resources, as the centre had already given them additional Rs300 billion under the new NFC.
Talking to this correspondent, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Deputy Convenor Dr Farooq Sattar, who is also the party’s parliamentary leader in the National Assembly, strongly opposed the HEC devolution and said that the commission was a success story of higher education. “There is no doubt HEC has been playing a key role in education sector and considerably improved the country’s image abroad so far as higher education is concerned,” he said.
The entire world, the MQM legislator pointed out, had acknowledged the new standards of higher education set by HEC, pushing upward Pakistan’s rating. “Our models are being copied by others and this is exceedingly appreciable and this shows how important HEC is,” he said.
The MQM legislator said today thousands of Pakistani students were studying abroad and thousands of others were doing PhD at home as well. He said that HEC was a strategic national asset, which should continue its functions in its present capacity. Answering a question, he proposed that even if it was to be devolved, its devolution should be deferred at least for five years, enabling the provinces develop the required infrastructure, as presently they were not in a position to run provincial HECs.The news