HEC mandate | Universities demand budget increase

The HEC's mandate
Karachi, July 29: As a member of the Higher Education Commission, I wish to express my full support for the principled stand of the HEC about its being the only mandatory body responsible for certifying the authenticity of post-secondary (i.e. university) degrees. I also condemn the unethical tactics being employed to pressurise the HEC chairman, Dr Javaid Laghari. The HEC must follow the ruling of the Supreme Court and act speedily. All the relevant records should be immediately sealed for fear of corruption or destruction of data, and help of external experts and civil society persons should be sought. To reinforce its credibility, ensure transparency and avoid conflicting press reports, the HEC should henceforth consider posting updated details of its work on its website. This should include the instructions given by the HEC to universities while also updating the progress of each university on the website. A time-line for the progress and completion of the work by presenting it to the Election Commission and the Standing Committee on Education is essential and should also be displayed on the HEC website.

Finally, I view with great concern the recent reports that both the education and law ministries wish to be involved. This is uncalled for given the mandate of the HEC. The HEC and universities are responsible to the community, society and the nation at large in providing information in a timely manner about the verification of degrees. It is for the Election Commission to take necessary action against those found guilty. -By Noorjehan Bilgrami

***Canada: We have an education minister who does not know that the HEC is a body formed under an ordinance. He does not understand that the HEC is the sole institution whose charter mandates it to verify degrees. He does not know that the chairman of the HEC has the status of a minister and is supposed to report directly to the prime minister. Or perhaps the minister of education understands all that too well. -By Sohail Kirmani

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VCs slam harassment of HEC chief
Lahore: Expressing solidarity with Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr Javaid R Laghari, vice chancellors of public sector universities of the country here on Wednesday slammed the elements involved in pressurising him and harassing his family members over degrees verification process.

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Universities demand budget increase
Islamabad: Making it hard to complete the ongoing projects due to the massive budget cut, vice chancellors of public sector universities on Wednesday held an urgent meeting in which they urged the government to restore the budget to its original level of Rs 28 billion recurring budget and Rs 30 billion development budget as was agreed by the Ministry of Finance for fiscal year 2010-11.

As many as 52 vice chancellors of public sector universities attended the meeting. Addressing a press conference after the meeting, the VCs said that under the current circumstances it would not be possible for the universities to provide the 50 percent ad hoc increase in salaries, 15 percent increase in medical allowance and 15 percent to 20 percent increase in pension to its employees. They called on the government to provide a supplementary recurring grant of Rs7 billion to give salary increase to employees. The VCs expressed the fear that the massive development made by the universities during the last five years would collapse if the government did not increase the budget allocation for the higher education sector. "The budget for the ongoing projects was approved during the last few years but now when these projects are nearing completion and only 10 to 15 percent of their work is remaining, the government is not willing to provide the required amount," said Fatima Jinnah Woman University (FJWU) VC Syeda Asadullah.

Peshawar University Vice Chancellor Dr Azmat Hayat Khan said that 37 students of the university had been sent abroad for PhD for which they were paying 1,200 dollars per month for each student but now they were finding it hard to pay that much amount when their course was about to end. "What could be worse than not be in a position to pay the increase in the salaries and benefits to employees? Peshawar University alone has to pay Rs 250 million extra in this way," he said.

On the occasion, Higher Education Commission (HEC) Executive Director (ED) Dr Sohail Naqvi said that they had taken the budget consolidation from all universities before handing over the HEC budget to the Ministry of Finance but even then the budget had been decreased instead of being increased. "We had been meeting with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani who also assured us that the budget allocation for the HEC would be increased but it never happened. On the other hand, the budget has been cut down," he said.

Punjab University Vice Chancellor Dr Mujahid Kamran also criticised the cut in budget and simultaneous increase in the salaries at that moment. He said that there were 6,200 employees of the Punjab University while 1,960 were taking monthly pension. "The Punjab University is facing a deficit of Rs500 million due to the increase in the salaries alone," he said. The news

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