Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) Chairman Prof Dr Nizamuddin has started visiting universities of the province to share his vision with the vice chancellors, dean of faculties and faculty members. Recently during his visit to Punjab University and Lahore College for Women University, Dr Nizam spelled out his commission’s priorities which comprise making universities hub of research, restructuring of colleges, introduction of best education system and infrastructure improvement.
Nizam said looking at the performance of public sector institutions, people were giving preference to private institutions. He said training institutes for teachers and some model colleges would be opened across Punjab on experimental basis where four year degree programs would be offered after matriculation.
No doubt Dr Nizam’s vision is very broad being an eminent academician, who has also served as Vice Chancellor University of Gujrat and won the distinction of Sitar-e-Imtiaz. At the moment Dr Nizam faces two major challenges and coming out of these challenges would prove how the PHEC would contribute in the future.
The first challenge is the half-hearted acceptability of the establishment of PHEC. A majority of the teachers’ community believe that HEC was working effectively for the promotions of education and there was no need to establish provincial HECs because education system is already very complex and divided, and any further division would further divide the nation. There are already many educational systems between the two extremes, the seminary education and the O/A-level education.
Even many vice chancellors believe that separate curriculum in all provinces would create serious issues and there could be colossal damages to the federation and the nationalism due to different curricula. Many seasoned educationists and legal experts including Senator SM Zaffar believe that there is no room for establishment of provincial higher education commissions in the 18th Amendment because education is still a national responsibility.
The second challenge is the composition of PHEC with high level of political and bureaucratic control. Out of 16 members eight would remain under direct political influence, including four provincial secretaries. Other members including three vice chancellors would be under indirect influence. Three eminent academicians and two members representing industry and civil society will be nominated by the chief minister, and obviously it would be difficult for them to resist political pressures. Hence the real challenge is to make PHEC acceptable keeping in view the nationalism concerns and keeping it free from the influence of politicians and bureaucrats, otherwise there would be no difference between the governance of PHEC and a Punjab government department where universities’ representatives have to run from the pillar to the post for issuance of their grants and other matters.