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VCs strongly rejected students unions | Edu policy on hold

VCs unanimous in rejecting proposal
Lahore, April 13: Vice-chancellors of all the public and private universities of the country on Saturday again strongly rejected the proposed legislation for the restoration of students unions in the varsities and suggested to postpone the idea for indefinite period due to prevailing law and order situation in the country.

After hot debate over the issue, a few vice-chancellors of the public sector expressed their viewpoints in the favour of the proposed bill while the rest of the VCs strongly criticised the government's initiative saying that the student unions would destroy the peaceful atmosphere of the educational institutions.

The unanimous decision of all the VCs came in a videoconference meeting of vice-chancellors of public and private varsities to discuss restoration of student unions in the country.

The vice-chancellors were unanimous in opposing the idea, however, they suggested alternatives such as student societies, clubs, forums and federations to provide the students a platform to raise their voice and develop leadership qualities.

The meeting was held simultaneously at the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences under the directives of the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
During the videoconference, the participants at 11 different locations simultaneously in various cities across the country discussed the issue.
Some VCs registered their protest while criticising the working paper suggesting restoration of student unions, saying that maintaining peace and law and order within the premises of the universities was not a job of the students as mentioned in the paper.

They said according to the working paper, the students unions have been given responsibility to invite eminent personalities in the university programmes, seminars and ceremonies. This would politicise institutions and affect the overall atmosphere, as the students unions would call leaders of political parties of their choice instead of educationists, doctors or other learned persons.

Vice Chancellor GC University Dr Khalid Aftab took a very strong stand against the restoration of student unions. "In the prevailing law and order situation, the education institutes cannot afford protests, scuffles and other negative activities which are sure to take place once the unions are restored", he said.

A Vice Chancellor from Karachi said his university has a bitter experience when activists of a student union thrashed the senior faculty members and other administrative officers and locked them up in a room. The way they misbehaved with them was highly condemnable. They were participating in the syndicate meeting at the time of incident, he said.

Muhammad Akram, Vice Chancellor UET, giving references of some ugly episodes and bitter experiences said several students have been murdered while scores of other injured in the armed clashes between the student unions in a bid to get hold of the education institutes.

Vice chancellor University of Engineering and Technology Peshawar strongly opposed the idea saying the NWFP could not afford such activates as the province was already undergoing worst law and order situation.

VC Taxila University Dr Habibullah Jamal referred the restoration as genie, that he said, should remain in the bottle.

Rector The University of Lahore Prof Dr M Saleem Shuja raised objections over the working paper. He was of the view that the political parties would get hold on all the private universities through their student wings.

He suggested to the federal Government not to play with the future of the students and also the teachers imparting education in a peaceful atmosphere.

After a sizzling debate, the HEC has asked the VCs to prepare their recommendations and submit them within next three days. It also informed the participants that after analysing the recommendations, another meeting would be called within a week for a final discussion upon the issue.

In the metropolis, apart from UVAS the videoconference was also held at the University of Engineering and Technology (UET).

The federal education secretary and Executive Director HEC Sohail H Naqvi were also present in the meeting. The Nation


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Education policy on hold
Not many were surprised when the education policy that should have been announced on March 23 was put on hold yet again by the cabinet last week. After all, knowing the priorities - and education is low among these - of successive governments there was really no room for shock when the cabinet postponed its approval of the draft policy of the federal education ministry. The main reason cited for the postponement by the information minister was that the policy was not comprehensive enough. It is strange that having worked on the draft for a year, the ministry should fail to draw up a sound implementation plan and targets to be met within a specified time frame. Hence the draft will be sent back to the provinces and we can expect it to go into cold storage.

Meanwhile, the challenges before the education sector continue to be formidable, especially as no relief is in sight. The three major issues that are undermining education in Pakistan remain unaddressed. One is the quality of education - at least in the public sector - which is deplorable. Second, there is no effective and independent monitoring to ensure that policies are being implemented transparently and corruption is being checked to prevent wholesale damage to the education sector. Third, the capacity to utilise funds flowing into the sector to the maximum, and in a judicious manner, is not being developed. Obviously, all this calls for policy guidelines that may differ in detail in different areas but broadly follow similar principles all over the country. Hence the need for a national policy.

The danger is that the spread of education will be curtailed enormously due to spiralling inflation and the unceasing quest for profits by the private sector. The two have combined to make education costly and beyond the reach of ordinary persons. The new concept of public-private partnership promoted by the government assigns a growing role to private entrepreneurs in education. That has left the public sector even more deprived of funds and attention. The low-income groups have few choices. They can send their children to government schools that impart virtually no education. Or they can enrol them in private schools that may teach them something but leave the family impoverished in the process. Parents have yet another option. They may not educate their child at all, and that is what the bulk of them are doing. Dawn


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Interference not to be tolerated: Wifaqul Madaris
Lahore: Wifaqul Madaris General Secretary Maulana Hanif Jullundhry has said any internal or external interference in the working of madrassas would not be tolerated, a private TV channel reported on Sunday. According to the channel, while addressing a press conference at Jamia Ashrafia in Lahore, Jullundhry asked the government not to make any changes in the syllabus of madrassas, adding "they do not need to take dictation from the government". He asked the administration of madrassas to not provide their particulars to the agencies and ask the government to contact the Wifaqul Madaris in this regard, the channel said. Daily Times


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PU MA/MSc exam rescheduled
Lahore: Punjab University Examination Department has rescheduled the MA/MSc Part-I & Part-II, Annual Examination 2009. Now the MA/MSc Part-I, Annual Examination 2009 will commence from June 5 instead of June 24 while MA/MSc Part-II, Annual Examination 2009 will commence from July 7 instead of July 16. Ppi


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PU announced BEd results
Lahore: The Punjab University on Saturday declared the results of Bachelor of Education (BEd), Supplementary Exam 2007 and Annual Exam 2008. According to a press statement, a total of 2,477 candidates appeared in the exams and 1,731 were declared successful. Detailed results are available at PU website: www.pu.edu.pk.


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Preservation of PU record ordered
Lahore: Punjab University Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran on Saturday stressed the need to preserve all the record of the university, especially of the registration branch and examinations department.

According to a press release, chairing a meeting of the university administrative officers, the VC said that short terms and long terms plans should be adopted to carry out the task. He said cabinets should be prepared, while for long terms plan, he urged the need for archives and constituted a committee under Director Planning and Development Tariq Majid Qureshi and comprising other members, including Additional Registrar Prof Dr Aurangzeb Alamgir, Deputy Registrar (General) Iqbal Khalil, Deputy Registrar (Admin-I) Muhammad Akram Chaudhry, Deputy Registrar (Academic) Muhammad Amir Khan and Project Director Sheikh Muhammad Ali. He directed the committee to hold a separate meeting in this regard and present its recommendations. The establishment of the Archives Department in the basement of PU Main Library was also suggested.


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Another GCU departure revives resignation issue
Lahore: The Government College University (GCU) has been in the spotlight ever since over thirty faculty members of the Science Department resigned en masse last month.

However, what gave a new life to the whole issue and drew attention of the academic circles and common people once again was the resignation of a senior faculty member of the Economics Department last week.

Dr Pervaiz Tahir, eminent economist and academician, who was heading the Mahboob ul Haq Chair in Economics at the GCU Economics Department, resigned last week.

His resignation has concerned academic circles who were already stunned on the departure of 31 employees of the varsity.

The GCU spokesman had, reportedly, confirmed that Dr Tahir had left the university but said he did not mention any reason for his resignation.

On the other hand, those who had resigned en masse at the GCU Computer Science Department including head of the department had linked their resignations to registrar's alleged illegal interference. They had submitted a presentation to Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Khalid Aftab in which they exposed alleged illegal interference of the high official.

The allegations were refuted by registrar Sahibzada Faisal Khurshid and when asked about the en bloc resignations he had claimed that the computer science was a need-based discipline and teachers usually leave an institution when offered better salaries and packages.

A senior official of the Punjab Higher Education Department, seeking anonymity, said the department had sought a detailed report from the GCU authorities over the issue adding the report was submitted recently but it contained nothing except details of those who had resigned.

"The GCU reply is quite innocent," the official said adding "it is also strange that no inquiry committee has been constituted to look into the issue of mass resignations".

The official said the new case of resignation had once again sparked the debate as to why "unrest" was growing among teachers and other staffers of the GCU.

Talking anonymously to us, a GCU faculty member said the resignation issue had created quite a stir not only in the university but also in the academic circles adding everybody was puzzled over the these developments.


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Annual dinner of the Lahore College Associates (LCA)
Lahore: The annual dinner of the Lahore College Associates (LCA) was held at the Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) last week which provided a wonderful opportunity to old students to sit together and talk about past.

A number of stalls featuring handicrafts were also set up on the occasion while a puppet show, calligraphic exhibition and a music programme were also part of the annual event.


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Punjab teachers protest
Lahore: The Punjab Professors Lecturers Association (PPLA) has announced staging a sit-in in connection with college teachers' long standing demands outside the Punjab Assembly on 21 April.

According to a press statement, college teachers from across the province would gather at MAO College from where they would march towards the Punjab Assembly to stage a sit-in and demand the government solve their problems especially those relating to promotions.


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Tenure Track System termed white elephant
Lahore: A renowned physicist and leading scientist of Pakistan, Dr M Anwar Chaudhri, has called upon the authorities to abolish the Tenure Track System (TTS) under which academics have been drawing huge salaries, saying publishing a few papers a year and supervising research students must never be an excuse to pay such high salaries.

Talking exclusively to us, Dr MA Chaudhri, who is associated with Klinikum-Nuernberg, Germany as a guest professor, said many academics, especially the professors, had been drawing huge, and almost 'obscene' salaries of up to 2-4 lac rupees per month under the Higher Education Commission's Tenure Track System in a country where a poor worker would be lucky to make about Rs 5000 to 6000 per month by hard labour.

"What justification is there for paying such salaries to these academics", he questions while adding a full professor's salary in Grade-20, along with the necessary perks, should be adequate to lead a very comfortable life."

"Just by publishing a few papers a year and supervising research students must never be an excuse to pay such high salaries", he said adding, "After all, a university professor is meant to conduct research, guide research students and publish papers."

Dr MA Chaudhri, son of late Dr M Rafi Chaudhri, also a renowned physicist, further said to the best of my knowledge this does not happen in any developed or even developing country. He the TTS also causes a great deal of jealousy amongst the Tenure Track and non Tenure Track academics.

To a question that the private institutions including industry pay a lot more than the government universities and institutions and the good staff would go there, he said let them go there and still would be enough good academics and scientists to fill the places in the universities."

"After all, this problem exists in the western world too but still most of the best academics and scientists prefer to stay in the government institutions because of the job-security and other perks", he added.

Talking about the HEC's Foreign Faculty Hiring Programme Dr Chaudhri said it is a good programme provided it is properly and fairly executed and administered.

"In my opinion, it should be almost exclusively applicable to Pakistani scientists actively working abroad and not just living or are in inactive- retirement", he said adding "Pakistani scientists living and working in some of the most developed and advanced countries are discouraged from even trying to help Pakistani science & technology."

They are never consulted in important government's decision on science and technology, he lamented.

Sharing his views about the foreign faculty in Pakistani institutes of higher learning, he said the foreign nationals who came on the Foreign Faculty Scheme were really not interested in science and technology and higher education developments in Pakistan but only making good and quick money.

"Most of them are in fields with no real practical application to help solve Pakistan's problem or to improve the socio-economic condition of Pakistanis", he claimed adding "They do produce research publications, which is good for themselves but not for Pakistan."

"Many of them are from the old USSR or Communist countries where they are out of job or interested in just making some "quick buck" as they usually say", he said adding "They are all drawing very handsome salaries from a very poor Pakistan".

The students they produce and the research they conduct has no real practical application in Pakistan and their activities contribute nothing towards improving our socio-economic conditions, he went on to say.

"There are many similar cases in Saudi Arabia and other rich Arabian countries where foreign scientists have gone, worked for a few years and made a lot of money without contributing anything substantial into the development of higher education and/or science & technology there," he said. Talking about the HEC foreign scholarship programme, Dr Chaudhri was of the view that students were not being sent for postgraduate work in the fields which were badly needed by Pakistan such as solar and other form of renewable energy; environmental sciences, town & traffic planning and sewerage and garbage disposal etc. Such fields could help improve the socio-economic conditions of the people and contribute to technical and industrial development of Pakistan, he added.

Expressing concerns over scientific equipment acquired over the years, he said in spite of the fact that certain "Experts Committee" and 'Advisors' apparently scrutinized the projects, in my opinion some of the projects were 'out-dated' and had not been modified in line with modern developments.

At least in a couple of žvery bigÓ projects some important modern attachments, which would bring the projects/equipment to the state-of-the-art status, are missing as the scientists putting forward the projects were, perhaps, not aware of these developments, he claims.

The leading scientist suggested that all the scientific appointments at the level of Principal Scientific Officer and above must be advertised internationally and Pakistani scientists working in overseas laboratories should be encouraged to apply.

An impartial commission, consisting of the representative of the respective organization (for example the PCSIR and Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, etc), the Ministry of Science & Technology and the HEC, etc, should be formed for stopping any injustices from being carried out, he added.

Similarly, he said, the positions of Vice Chancellors and Chairmen of National Laboratories and Academic/ Scientific / Organizations, such as the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission; Pakistan Council of Scientific & Industrial Research and Pakistan Science Foundation etc must be advertised openly and in the international press in order to select the best available and capable Pakistani scientists / academicians.

I would even strongly recommend that the positions of the chancellors of all the government universities must not be the governors but famous Pakistani personalities from any appropriate fieldÓ, Dr Chaudhri concluded.


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80-acre land to be transferred to Bahawalpur varsity
Lahore: The Punjab government has decided to transfer 80 acres of land to Islamia University Bahawalpur for its 'Rahim Yar Khan' campus.

The decision was taken in a meeting chaired by Punjab Governor Salman Taseer on Saturday.

Islamia University Bahawalpur vice-chancellor Dr Bilal A Khan, Member Colonies of the Punjab Board of Revenue Tariq Yousaf, the Executive District Officer (EDO) Revenue Rahim Yar Khan and the Additional Secretary Academics were also present on the occasion. The meeting decided the construction work on new campus of Islamia University would be started by the next month and the project would cast Rs 410 million. Governor Salman Taseer on the occasion directed the officials concerned to initiate work of leveling 600 acres non-irrigated land allocated for 'Baghdad e Jadeed' campus for the University of Agriculture and the University of Veterinary Sciences Bahawalpur. The News


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BISE deaf to a blind student's plea
Layyah: The Dera Ghazi Khan Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education has turned a blind eye to the genuine demand of a blind student who has proved her academic brilliance by disallowing her disability to become inability.

Noorul Huda, who clinched a distinguished position in the intermediate Part-I examination conducted by the Dera Ghazi Khan BISE, claims she is being denied a 'skilled' writing helper for the second-year board examination.

The daughter of Sagheer Ahmad, a worker at a sugar mill, Noorul Huda fought both visual impairment and poverty to continue her studies and showed her class by securing third position in arts in 2008.

As she is looking forward to preparing herself for the FA final-year examination, she demanded that the board authorities should allow her a helping hand who could do the writing job.

The BISE rules stipulate that a helping writer for a blind student should be one class junior to the examinee.

But the authorities have allowed her an eight-class student to be her writing assistant, though she is in second year.

Interestingly, the same officials had allowed her a matriculate for help when she appeared in the FA Part-I examination.

Having limited means, the student says she can't travel to the chief minister's open court to plead her case. She demanded that Mian Shahbaz Sharif should consider her case and save her from being led to a blind alley.

Board chairman Maher Bashir Ahmad defended the official stance by saying that the nominee of the girl as her examination assistant had left school after matriculation.

"As he is no more a student, the board can't allow him for the job. Only a student can be allowed to sit with a blind examinee," he said. Dawn


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