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HEC chairman urged to help stop Faculty victimisation

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FAPUASA also expresses concerns on budget cuts by PTI govt

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD (Monday, June 24, 2019): The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) representatives Monday called on Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairman Dr. Tariq Banuri and presented their concerns regarding victimisation of faculty by universities’ managements. They argued that people were being fired, suppressing their right to freedom of speech. “We do not raise any objection if actions are taken against faculty on basis of financial or moral corruption.” FAPUASA requested HEC to set up a grievance council, which would adjudicate on such matters through a transparent judicial process.

Dr. Tariq Banuri

Speaking on this occasion, Dr. Banuri said that HEC was striving for strengthened autonomy of universities with fairness and accountability. He said that HEC strongly supports a timely, fair resolution to the issues of faculty as well as all other academic community members. He promised to examine the pros and cons of a Grievance Council from the legal as well as practical perspective, and consult with other stakeholders, especially the Vice Chancellors’ Committee.

In addition to this, he drew attention to the urgent need was to build a consensus over a formal “Charter of Rights” of faculty members, especially with regard to the need to protect intellectual freedom on campuses.

In response to a number of comments regarding harassment and maltreatment of faculty members, the Chairman HEC suggested that all stakeholders, including FAPUASA, the VC’s Committee, and HEC develop a Code of Conduct for academia. This would not only create consensus over a desirable framework for interaction among academics, it would also be a model that could be presented to the rest of society.

On other matters, all participants agreed that government funding for higher education should be enhanced rather than slashed. Dr. Banuri said that nobody in the government disagrees with this proposition. Yet, the funding for higher education continued to be low, and had recently been slashed even further. As against the global norm of an allocation of 1 per cent of GDP for higher education, the proposed funding in fiscal year 2019-20 would amount to only 0.18 per cent, which was the lowest ratio since the establishment of the HEC. The government funding per student was also one of the lowest in the world. “We academicians have the reasons and facts on our side, and we should use these to convince government authorities.”

In response to a question regarding research funding, he assured the delegation that no HEC programme had been stopped, and that the allocation for research and research-related expenses (including conferences, research travel, start-up grants, anti-plagiarism software, and access to digital libraries) was being enhanced significantly. In addition to the NRPU, HEC was also launching two major new initiatives, namely the National Challenge Fund (NCF) and the Local Challenge Fund (LCF), which would support consortiums of universities to contribute to the resolution to national and local challenges respectively. He said that universities would be encouraged to spend at least five per cent of their budgets on research related expenditures.

In response to demands by faculty members, Dr. Banuri said that HEC was supportive of enhanced benefits to faculty members, including tax rebate and higher retirement age. He said that the demands of the TTS/ BPS Committee had been received and was being examined internally at HEC. He assured the FAPUASA delegates that HEC will seek to provide relief, as much as possible, to all groups of faculty members.

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