If media reports are to be believed, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Universities (Amendment) Act, 2019 is about to be tabled in the provincial assembly in a couple of days, proposing some drastic changes to the legislation framed by the Awami National Party-led provincial government in 2012 and subsequently amended by the PTI government in the years 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019.
It is feared that some of the proposed legislations are aimed at curtailing representations of the administrative officers in the governing bodies of the universities which they gained after a long and persistent struggle and in parity with the teaching faculty in the institutes of higher education. The Administrative Officer’s Association of the public universities has already expressed its grave concern about the intended amendments as the committee constituted for making recommendations to that effect had no representations from the administrative officers. On the flip side, the move can also be seen as the government’s bid to remove grey areas from the Act which were caused, essentially, by bringing amendments in the Act without proper homework and without taking all stakeholders into confidence.
In this blog post, a historical background of the various amendments made in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Universities Act, during the last ten years, has been discussed. This series of blog posts put to the spotlight pros and cons of these amendments and explicate the implications of the unwarranted changes carried out in the Act. The blog posts also puts forward some suggestions for the policymakers and academic leaders; how the proposed amendments can be made more viable and effective.
The Universities Act: An introduction
Being the supreme legislative enactment, Act is regarded as the Bible in the public sector universities that provides broader guidelines for good governance and smooth functioning of the official business in the institutes of higher education. This legal document is framed by the provincial assemblies in case of the provincial universities and by the federal legislative bodies in the case of federal universities.
In fact, universities are set up under the Act which provides important guidelines for the establishment, incorporation, jurisdiction, powers, functions, mechanism for appointment of Vice Chandler/Pro-Vice-Chancellor/Deans and constitutions of various governing bodies of the universities. Most importantly, it contains provisions for framing of the Statutes, Regulations and Rules in order to regulate the operational business of the universities. Any amendment in the Act follows the same channel as that of its approval. The blog post, an overview of the laws and by-laws in the universities, provided a general summary of the Act, Statutes, Regulations and Rules and their approving bodies in the institutes of higher education in Pakistan.
It is important to note that the government should proactively respond to the changing needs of the universities and make necessary changes in the Universities’ Act as and when the need arises. It also needs thorough deliberations, proper homework and extensive consultation with all key stakeholders without which it would not be possible to bring the desired improvements in the higher education system in the country. A halfhearted politically motivated amendment shall have serious implications for the institutes of higher education which would take time, energy and dynamism to rectify.
Here, I briefly discuss the historical background of the various amendments made in the universities’ Act and the transformation of this important legislation from the individual Act for each university to a uniform Act for all public sector universities in the province.
Individual Act for each public sector university
Since inception, each university in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had individual Act, proposed and approved for that particular university. The University of Peshawar being the oldest among the public sector universities had its own separate Act. Similarly, the University of Engineering & Technology, Peshawar, Gomal University, University of Agriculture Peshawar and Kohat University of Science & Technology etc. have their own individual Acts. This entails that all the public sector universities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, established prior to 2012, had individual Acts. Since there were loads of variations in the Acts of different universities, hence, the Statutes, Regulations and Rules formulated under these Acts had inherent variations. This was, in fact, the beauty of academia but at the same time, it had serious legal and administrative complications as amendments in each had to be brought to the floor of the house each time.
To overcome these issues, a uniform Act was promulgated for all public sector universities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa during the ANP government in 2012 with the Schedule, categorically mentioning the names of all the 12 universities (10 old and 02 to be newly established) to which the Act was applicable. Besides this fundamental change, a number of sweeping amendments were also made in the Act which had long term implications.
These amendments with various pros and cons are discussed in the blog post, the 12 major amendments in the Universities Acts and their implications.