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VCs role, politics and autonomy

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Universities of the country are autonomous bodies meaning that they have the freedom to take decisions by themselves and govern themselves. As a matter of policy it is accepted on paper; however the situation is very different. Inter-university, provincial and in some cases federal politics play a vital role in the day-to-day affairs of these institutions of higher learning. It is not a matter of providing better education standards, but money, jobs, international funds and local politics. Local, and more often than not provincial and federal politicians have stakes in public universities. They often press the administration for their own ends such as hiring a particular individual or as in the case of Punjab, getting land for pet projects like the Orange Line Train.
Another aspect that should be considered is that there can’t be autonomy if the decision to hire the top-most job is to be taken by the chief executive of the province. The Chief Minister constitutes a committee, made up of bureaucrats, educationists and others; who then submit names after a ‘selection’ process and then the CM takes the final decision. In the whole process, the CM has all the powers. The whole process is a show put up and the decision solely rests with the CM. And it should also be noted that CM is not an expert or an authority on education. So, naturally a decision based on political considerations is expected.
What this does is that it pushes the people looking for the top spot – the Vice Chancellor – to cater to the political needs of the incumbent political parties. This has ruined the administrative setup of the seats of higher learning in the country. It should be of no surprise that Pakistani universities rank lowest in the world and also don’t have much to show in the regional landscape.
This practice needs to be changed if we want to provide better education to our youth and make universities look beyond petty politics. There are better models available in the world and also in Pakistan. Private sector universities posses a better working model that can be adopted in the public sector. Committees consisting of experts evaluate applicants, in a long process, by taking into account all aspects required for the job. This model has worked for the private sector and can help rid public universities of bureaucrats and politicians.

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