Punjab govt is not taking higher education seriously

Source:  Daily Times Published in Education on Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The process of hiring vice chancellors for the 12 public sector universities in Punjab consists of notification of the Vice Chancellor Search Committee by the Higher Education Department (HED), advertisement of posts in national and international media in May 2015 and November 2015 by the HED, eligibility of candidates by the HED, interviews of eligible candidates by the Search Committee, shortlisting of three candidates by the aforementioned committee, recommendation of shortlisted candidates to the chief minister by the HED secretary, interviews of candidates by the CM, recommendation of the CM to the governor (also the chancellor of the public-sector universities in Punjab), and notification of the recommended candidates by the governor.

On the face of it, the process seems fairly well thought out. However, a completely flawed process is followed for the appointment of highest academic officers in public-sector universities of Punjab - taking less than three months - from advertisement to appointment. A purely mechanical process of shortlisting applicants takes about a month, and interviews of around 100 shortlisted candidates take less than one week, with an average interview time of about 10 minutes.

Interestingly no interview call letters are issued, and candidates are informed just a day before their interviews. There is also this major problem of favoritism. In most of the cases, the whole committee is not even present to conduct interviews. This is in stark contrast to appointment of teachers at public sector primary schools -which is more systematic and fair - with interview call letters issued well ahead of time.

In October 2015, LUMS placed an advertisement for the post of dean for its School of Science and Engineering (SSE). The advertisement read that the dean would be appointed in July 2016. It may be mentioned here that the Punjab government appoints vice chancellors in less than three months. But, the dean at the SSE will be appointed after eight months.

None of the public sector universities in Punjab appeared in the top-700 lists of any acceptable rankings of the world universities when the incumbent government came to power in 2008, and none is on such rankings now. Webometrics ranks universities based primarily on web metrics of university websites - including hits and downloads - with only 17 per cent weightage given to research.

Unless the government carries out the whole process again in a transparent manner with specific instructions to the Search Committee to actually search for best candidates for the slots top of academic administrators in public sector universities, Punjab will not appear on the world’s academic map.