* Former chairman says 18th Amendment safeguards HEC existence
By Asad Farooq
Pakistan Academy of Sciences President and former chairman Higher Education Commission (HEC) Prof Dr Atta-ur-Rahman has said that devolution of HEC is tantamount to crush the national integrity of Pakistan.
He expressed these views on Friday while addressing a press conference organised by the Save HEC Committee, at a local hotel. He elaborated that HEC is working autonomously, not under the federal government. So 18th Amendment does not insist to split HEC, he added.
He said that the HEC devolvement was not only illegal but unconstitutional as well. He said that the HEC is being devolved on the pretext of the 18th Amendment, while the amendment through the 4th schedule (Article 70.4, Federal Legislative List, Parts 1 & 2) fully protects the higher education sector, which is a federal regulatory authority and an autonomous body reporting directly to the prime minister.
He said that in most Federations around the world including China, Japan, Turkey, Malaysia, South Korea and other, higher education is a federal subject. India has a UGC with a federal secretary of higher education, United Kingdom has a minister for universities and research, while in Korea the status of deputy prime minister had been given to the minister to higher education, he added.
Dr Atta was of the view that HEC is being punished over the issue of fake degrees. He told media that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had given the responsibilities to HEC to verify the degrees of all Parliamentarians. With the devolution of HEC, this body will no longer be able to fulfill the orders of the Supreme Court, he said.
He said that all 72 vice chancellors of Pakistan’s public sector universities unanimously resolved in November 2010 as well as on last Thursday at Islamabad that HEC must continue to function and demanded of the government not to touch HEC.
While discussing financial aspects of the devolution of HEC, he said, there would be massive financial loss as World Bank had agreed to provide $300 million to the HEC, while another $250 million was to be provided by USAID. He said that Pakistani higher education sector would lose such assistance if its status is changed.
HEC had made considerable and note-worthy achievements in the sphere of quality assurance and is now a member of the Asia Pacific Assessment Network after a lot of hard work. He said that earlier the degrees of Pakistani educational institutes even of Dow and King Edward Medical Colleges were not recognised across the world are now recognised globally, due to the efforts of HEC.
On the occasion renowned constitutional expert Barrister Shahida Jamil highlighted that in 1974 a University Grants Commission was created to focus administrative control over the educational system. Later it was realised that the focus should have been quality assurance rather than administrative control, and accordingly HEC was created, she said.
She praised Dr Javed Leghari for his uprightness, courage and bold stance against the political pressure of fake degrees’ issue. On the occasion Dr Atta showed statistics, proving that higher education has achieved successes in eight years, which were equal to the all-higher educational achievements since independence.