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Universities in Pakistan: The Urgent Need for Effective Leadership

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The All Public Universities Teachers Association (APUBTA) in Pakistan has approached the Supreme Court with a petition highlighting the lack of regular and effective leadership in public sector universities nationwide. The petition points out that a vast number of these institutions of higher learning are functioning without tenured vice-chancellors, raising concerns that this is part of a de facto policy to “control” the universities through acting VCs.

The governance system is at the heart of the issue, and the prolonged absence of legally tenured VCs is wreaking havoc on the administrative structure of public sector universities. The crucial role of VCs in all major decision-making bodies is being undermined by ad hoc appointments, leading to a drastic deterioration in the quality of education.

The Chairman of the Higher Education Commission, Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, has acknowledged that there are around 70 public sector universities in need of VCs. While the necessary hiring procedure for most of them has already been established, he has clarified that the HEC’s role is to facilitate the process, with the actual appointments being the responsibility of the relevant committees and provincial governments.

The vacant positions must be filled as soon as possible based on merit in a transparent process. This approach, if implemented effectively, can bring about a positive change, promoting academic freedoms and making public sector institutions of higher learning centres of unfettered learning. The selection of the right people for the job can generate social capital essential for socio-economic progress in the country, instilling hope for a better future.

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