PESHAWAR: Around 50 candidates have finally been called for interview for the eight among the 16 vacant positions of vice-chancellors of different public sector universities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The panel interview by the Academic and Search Committee for the purpose are scheduled to be held on November 17 and 18. These universities have been functioning without regular vice-chancellors for more than a year. The eight positions were advertised in January this year and nearly 200 applicants had applied for the prestigious jobs. However, the process could not be completed even after nine months. The issue echoed in the recent meeting of the provincial cabinet wherein it was revealed that 19 universities in the province have been working without regular vice-chancellors.
This made Chief Minister Mahmud Khan angry and he came down hard on the Higher Education Department. He gave the department strict directives to complete the process at the earliest, sources privy to the meeting told The News. The upcoming interviews would be held for the appointment of vice-chancellors of University of Peshawar, University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar, Kohat University of Science and Technology, University of Science and Technology, Bannu, Bacha Khan University, Charsadda, University of Swabi, Shuhada-e-Army Public School University of Technology, Nowshera and Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan. The positions of vice-chancellors for some other universities, including Islamia College University, Peshawar, Fata University, Darra Adamkhel, Khyber Medical University, Peshawar, Chitral University, Buner University and Women University Mardan were advertised later through two separate advertisements. The scrutiny process for those positions is underway, the sources said. The case of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women University, Peshawar is unique as the current vice-chancellor Prof Dr Razia Sultana has been serving as acting vice-chancellor for the last two years. She was given the extension till arrival of new vice-chancellor in 2018 after the completion of her four-year first tenure. During the process for the appointment of regular vice-chancellor two years back, she was recommended as the top candidate with Dr Ghazala Yasmin of the Women University Mardan and Dr Noor Jahan of the University of Peshawar on second and third positions in the priority list, respectively.
The sources said that even the chief minister and governor accorded approval for her appointment for the second consecutive tenure, but due to some reasons the notification could not be issued. She has continued to serve as acting vice-chancellor. The main reason seen behind the long delay of her notification as vice-chancellor is the bureaucratic hurdle that was created to delay her appointment. It is widely known that one of the three leading candidates happened to be the wife of a senior bureaucrat who was serving until recently as principal secretary to the governor, who is also the chancellor of public sector universities and holds the authority to okay the appointment of the vice-chancellors. The long delay in the appointment of regular vice-chancellors of so many universities show the lack of interest in promotion of higher education, said a senior academician.
The absence of regular heads of 19 out of the total 31 universities in the province has also resulted in serious administrative, academic, financial and moral issues in a number of these institutions of higher learning. Every university that has been functioning under a caretaker setup tells a story of mismanagement and other serious problems. The University of Peshawar, which is the oldest and largest university in the province, has been functioning without a full time vice-chancellor. Its teaching fraternity has boycotted official meetings due to the administration’s inability to convene meetings of the university syndicate and hold a long awaited selection board. Nearly 600 Class-III and Class-IV employees at the University of Peshawar have been protesting for more than two months to seek regularization of their services or at least renewal of contracts.
Also, the university has been experiencing the worst financial crisis in its nearly 70 years of existence. The crisis at the Islamia College University, Peshawar became public recently when the acting vice-chancellor was removed from the office on charges of mismanagement, favouritism and irregularities and additional charge was given to the vice-chancellor of Agriculture University, Dr Jahan Bakht. But the girl students at the Islamia College University took to the streets on Wednesday, protesting against the rising incidents of sexual harassment in the institution. In the University of Swabi, more than 80 employees have been reportedly recruited by the current acting administration on contractual and fixed pay basis in violation of all rules.