LAHORE - There is a move to place public sector universities directly under the control of Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan by curtailing powers of Ch Muhammad Sarwar who is chancellor of government universities in his capacity as the Punjab governor.
In this regard, the provincial education department has moved a summary to the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to approve the required changes in the relevant rules.
The Punjab governor is reportedly displeased over the development and regrets his opposition to opening of sub-campuses of some public-sector universities, a decision which seems to have prompted the Punjab government to keep him away from the affairs of the varsities.
In a meeting of vice chancellors last month, the governor had ordered closure of Lahore sub-campus of Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan, which was operating illegally without approval of the Higher Education Department. Even the BZU syndicate had withdrawn approval of this campus. Till September 2013, the students had deposited Rs 54.5 million in the bank account of BZU’s Lahore campus while Rs 26.5 million were, later, withdrawn by the management.
The BZU sub-campuses at DG Khan, Sahiwal and Layyah are already operating ‘successfully’, making millions of rupees on account of fees from the students.
The sub-campus of Sargodha University in Lahore is also operational as it was set up after all legal formalities had been fulfilled. The management of Sargodha University sub-campus in Lahore, however, fears a similar decision in the days to come. A part of the funding to this campus also comes from the Punjab Education Department headed by Education Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan.
The sub-campuses of universities have been launched under a private-public partnership to facilitate the students who cannot get admission on merit in the main campuses of the public-sector universities.
The decision by the governor spread panic among the investors who feared loss of their heavy investment and future prospects of investments in such ventures. They reportedly started lobbying against the governor to clip his powers through an amendment in the rules.
Education Minister Rana Mashhood is also reportedly behind this move. He was not available for comments when contacted by this scribe to get his version.
Opening of sub-campuses has become a lucrative business these days for some investors who have no solid educational background to run the universities. The sub-campuses are sort of franchises and use the name of parent universities only for award of degrees.
But most of these don’t fulfil the required criterion with regard to establishment of an experienced faculty and other matters. This was the reason that Governor Sarwar opposed the opening of sub-campuses and closed one of them. And this reportedly prompted the government to curtail his powers as chancellor of the universities.
This is the second attempt to deprive the chancellor (governor) of his powers to oversee the affairs of the public-sector universities. Earlier, in September 2011, the Punjab government had taken back chancellor’s powers to appoint vice-chancellors in universities. This power now rests with the Punjab chief minister who picks up one name from amongst the three recommended by a committee which finalises three names after interviewing a number of aspirants. But this happened when a PPP-nominated governor was acting as chancellor. The law minister had then justified the decision by saying that there were over 100 universities in the province both in the public and private sectors, and it was not possible for one chancellor to look after their affairs.