By Ammar Sheikh
The higher education sector in Punjab saw many ups and downs in 2016, seeing many changes in the provincial setup with the government’s biggest challenge coming in the appointment of vice-chancellors at universities.
The delays continued from 2015 to 2016 and regular appointments could not be made. The appointments by the Punjab government were challenged in the Lahore High Court (LHC), which ordered the removal of the acting vice-chancellors at four universities.
The Higher Education Commission (HEC) was ordered to appoint vice-chancellors at these universities but the government challenged the decision. Another bench of the court, while accepting the plea of the government and setting aside the single bench decision, decided to remove the four acting vice-chancellors.
Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed, Dr Mohammad Zubair, Dr Zafar Mueen Nasir and Dr Rukhsana Kausar were appointed by the court as vice-chancellors of University of Sargodha, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University of Engineering and Technology in Multan, the Punjab University and Lahore College for Women University, respectively.
The court also declared that vice-chancellors at seven other universities would work on provisional basis until the petition was decided.
Rankings of several universities in Punjab declined this year as compared to their positions issued by the HEC in 2015.
The University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) fell to the fourth position from second while the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) dropped one place from ninth to 10th.
The Punjab University, which was ranked third in 2014, rose to the second position in 2016. The University of Health Sciences (UHS) also rose one position, from 10th to ninth.
In the general category, 12 universities were downgraded from their positions and only nine were able to receive a higher rank.
The National College of Business Administration and Economics came off the worst in rankings, going down from 19th position to 57th.
The University of Management and Technology fell from 23 to 36. The Islamia University Bahawalpur made the most progress, rising to 11th position from 51 followed by the Forman Christian College University, which went from 50th to 20th in 2015. The Lahore University of Management Sciences rose one position, from seventh in 2014 to sixth in 2015.
In a major reshuffle, the education ministry was bifurcated in 2016, creating separate ministries for school education and higher education.
Rana Mashhood quit the portfolio of higher education on March 29 and remained the minister for school education. Zakia Shahnawaz then took charge of the higher education ministry. In November, the portfolio was given to Syed Raza Ali Gillani.
Similarly, the Higher Education Department (HED) also saw two secretaries take charge of the department. Irfan Ali remained the secretary of HED for a year and was later replaced by Nasim Nawaz in August 2016.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2016.