QS issued its world ranking on 8th June 2021 for the years 2021 and 2022 but unfortunately not even a single university of Pakistan could manage to place itself in the top universities.
Pakistan is making progress by leaps and bounds in every field including economy, foreign policy, poverty alleviation, industrialization, agriculture, trade & exports, housing, technical education, and science & technology under the premiership of Mr. Imran Khan but little is done in the field of research and higher education and this resulted in a poor ranking of the universities in Pakistan. Pakistan could manage only three universities in the range of 300-400 which is not remarkable in comparison to the region.
The improvement in the ranking of universities is the urgent need of the time to compete in the region generally and in the world specifically. If not many, at least three universities must get their place in the top hundred and ten in the top three hundred in the coming two years. This improvement in ranking can be done by adopting the following measures.
Universities need unbiased evaluations
Amendments are essential in the acts of universities with a focus on punishment and reward for the top-notch administration; promising rewards for the universities with significant improvement in ranking and strict disciplinary action in case of downfall.
The acts and statutes implemented in the universities since the creation of Pakistan are not task-oriented for the heads of the universities (The Vice-Chancellors) to keep their positions intact.
The acts/statutes must include yearly and midterm performance evaluation reports of the universities to be the authentic documents to decide the fate of VCs whether they deserve to continue.
A number of performance evaluation reports are developed by the respective offices but the actions are rarely taken which is one of the biggest hurdles to improve the ranking of Pakistan’s universities. The universities must be independently evaluated by a third party free of alleged political influence to find the actual drawbacks for rectification.
The number of chancellors/Pro Chancellors for public sector universities needs to be enhanced by appointing one chancellor/Pro-Chancellor for one or two universities. They must be empowered to look deeply into the matters of the universities and call for questions in case of discrepancies.
At present, the governors of provinces act as chancellors multiplying their duties in addition to the other constitutional works assigned to them. One governor, who also performs the duty of chancellor, is always overburdened and this needs to be addressed. The practice of appointing one pro-chancellor will surely improve the ranking of the universities in the world ranking.
Need for strict accountability measures
The appointment procedure of the Vice Chancellors for public sector universities should be amended as the alleged political influence in such appointments is the major hurdle to achieve excellence.
To avoid alleged political influence, the establishment of the National Committee for Universities Ranking Improvement (NCURI), or with another nomenclature, inclusive of all top-notch researchers from public and private universities headed by the Education Minister will pack a punch to the universities to get enlisted in top 100.
All the parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and other high officials are lawfully bound to declare their assets at the time of their joining in the respective offices but the same practice is not in vogue for the Vice-Chancellors though they manage a budget of billions of rupees during their four-year tenure.
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The governments, Federal and Provincial, should make such laws compelling the VCs to declare their assets not only at the time of joining but at the completion of their tenures to have transparency in the use of budget and to create an environment of accountability for them.
The government must instruct the relevant institutes to find the illicit jump in the accumulation of wealth of VCs if any. The practice should not be limited to the VCs but to other highest officials of the universities too. The real cause of damage to institutes is corruption and the only way to stop this evil is the strict accountability of the concerned officials.
Importance of audit paras
Auditor Generals in the federal as well as in the provinces produce audit paras in case of discrepancies and the same are either settled or acted accordingly for other government departments but the universities seem to be exempted from the recommendations of the audit paras as a vast number of audit paras have been labeled in past two decades against the administration of various universities but acted upon once in a blue moon.
Audit paras are the certified documents that can help to improve the ranking of the universities by eradicating corruption and addressing the irregularities that impede the development of the universities. Federal and provincial governments must issue strict orders to implement the recommendations of the audit paras in true letter and spirit which will reduce a major portion of discrepancies in the universities.
The inquiries finalized by the Higher Education Commission in federal and higher education departments in the provinces against various individuals serving in the universities must be made public and the culprits penalized or acquitted accordingly.
If such inquiries lay forgotten to be implemented, it will provide sufficient space for the culprits to damage the universities as much as they can, being fearless of law. The executive orders by the chancellors in the federal and the provinces will resolve the issue of finalized inquiries once the concerned departments are time-bound to act upon the recommendations of such inquiries.
Amendments in the statues, bringing the unlimited powers of VCs under control, the action on the recommendations of the inquiry officers, resolving all the pending cases and the implementation of audit paras are the prime steps to be taken to bring the universities in order to develop the superiority of law in the minds of not only the Universities’ heads but the common employees too.
Pakistan needs to start a sincere struggle to enlist the universities in the top 100 world rankings. A number of other steps are also essential to be taken and the same will be discussed in the next part of the article.
Dr. Zohaib Zahid is an Assistant Professor at Islamia University Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan Campus. His Twitter handle is: @ChaudaryZohaib.The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.