How not to Lead Universities

The current recruitment system in universities significantly undermines the basic require-ments of quality education

Education is like a train, with schools, colleges, and universi­ties as its carriages and bogies, while students are the passen­gers who carry the experience of the journey and portray what­ever they feel. Therefore, to deliver a highly effective experience to the world through these passengers, the train must have high­ly effective, competent, and qualified staff and drivers. In the same way, schools, colleges, and universities must not be led by individuals who have recently retired from military ser­vice or by those in power seeking a leading position solely to leave impressions of white-collar pseudo-intellectualism. Instead, educational institutions should be led by individu­als who possess at least the minimum required qualifications and expertise which can be subjected to assessments and training for the progress of institutions. It’s evident that if educational institu­tions fail to progress, it’s because they are led by the wrong individu­als who hold the seats but not the responsibilities.

It is easy to find out why Pakistani universities are not qualifying for the list of competitors of world-ranking universities. To resolve this puz­zle, instead of evaluating the progress and quality of education of uni­versities, comparing the drivers, staff, and faculties of Pakistani univer­sities along with their recruitment system with those of the top-ranking universities shall expose the recipe. The current recruitment system in universities significantly undermines the basic requirements of quality education. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, there is a trending practice of ap­pointing individuals lacking proper educational qualifications and cred­ibility to lead universities. It is baffling how someone lacking a sense of security can be appointed as a security officer, even when he is also sub­jecting the security staff for personal protocols. Similarly, it is incompre­hensible for teachers to teach a subject that they haven’t properly stud­ied. Regrettably, It is common in Pakistan’s universities that a lecturer teaches all the subjects except the one in which he holds a degree and sufficient grip. If this keeps on happening, such teachers should at least undergo proper training for such subjects before entering the classroom to save the students from becoming their experimental materials.

To illustrate, consider Mr. A, an LL.M degree holder with experience of fifteen years in civil and corporate sectors. Teaching is his part-time job to earn some money. The Chairman is his old-school-day friend. Despite his expertise, Mr. A is teaching ‘History of South Asia’ at university and deliv­ers lectures through a USB filled with PowerPoint Presentations (PPTs) made by his fellow lecturer who holds a master’s in history but teaches ‘Introduction to Law’ in the same university in the same way. Whenev­er students try to share their concerns with the chairman, he shuts their mouths and threatens them for half an hour for raising their concerns and then starts delivering lectures by reading the content of PPTs only.

In fact, many universities in Pakistan lack the required number of professors and instead hire teaching assistants and visiting faculty, despite a pool of unemployed experienced subject specialists in the country, perhaps due to cost considerations. Visiting faculty, being cheaper and often possessing a ‘Dr’ before their name, are perceived as credible and tend to act as ‘Yes Men’ for the administration. This re­sults in a division between teachers and students, bringing up an ‘us and them’ mentality. The bureaucratic hierarchy in universities, with the vice-chancellor at the top acting as the academic and administra­tive head, followed by the registrar, deans, and department heads who maintain, support, and implement academic policies and student reg­istration records from admission to graduation, directly or indirect­ly affects education due to professors and teaching assistants being subordinate to such hierarchy. Despite lacking administrative powers, lecturers tend to dominate students, pretending to be part of the so-called hierarchy, which has never been transparent.

Observing the recruitment process reveals either a pattern or a set­tled principle: the vice-chancellor will be the favourite person of the ruling government, the registrar of the opposition lobby, and the Chair­man/HoD of influential individuals in the area where the university is located. Similarly, the controller of the examination board and the au­ditor or directors of finance will be favourites of the Vice-Chancellor. Academic qualifications may become mere formalities in the process, which may or may not be fulfilled. Furthermore, these officials often try to accommodate favourites or friends in the teaching staff.

Universities should not be led passively and by leaders only mas­tered at administration; instead, active and skilled leaders with a com­mitment to prioritizing education and societal welfare over filling bu­reaucratic positions must lead them. Professional values and a sense of public service should be necessary assets for anyone to be part of such a hierarchy in universities. Self-confidence is not only a required diet for students but it is also necessary for leading the institution.

Muneer Hussain
The writer is a law undergrad at Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto University of Law (SZABUL) Karachi. He can be reached at muneer

The writer is a law undergrad at Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto University of Law (SZABUL) Karachi. He can be reached
at muneer

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