The internal friction, maladministration and bad governance in public sector universities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa unveiled in a classic case of organizational degeneration overtime when the Registrar of a well-established public sector university was reported to have filed a writ petition in the Peshawar High Court against the decision of the universities’ authorities to set up a full-fledged Human Resource Directorate in the universities to deal with burgeoning human resource challenges in the university.
Being absolutely bizarre, the petition came up with a ludicrous argument suggesting that since the university was having financial constraints, therefore, the proposed HR Directorate should not be established. The petitioner further argued that halting such a move-the establishment of a full-fledged Human Resource Directorate shall save the university from impending financial turmoil.
Earlier, the Registrar filed another writ petition in the august Court challenging the decision of the university’ authorities for shifting all HR related roles and administrative functions from Registrar’s office to the Additional Registrar of the university.
This amply demonstrates how the lust for power, narcissism and egocentricity lead to the delusion of grandeur discrediting the noble profession in academia eventually hampering advancement of higher education, research and innovation in the country.
Current scenario of HR practices in the universities in Pakistan
My Doctoral research on HR challenges with a focus on public sector universities in the country revealed that HR is one of the most neglected areas in the HEIs in Pakistan. Universities in this part of the world are following the conventional wisdom of personnel management with a flavour of a strong colonial legacy. A full-fledged separate HR Directorate or HR administrative unit doesn’t exist in the universities in the province. Similarly, there is no statutory body such HR council or HR board overseeing HR affairs in the universities. The HR functions have been inherently kept under the rigorous control of the Establishment Section in the universities.
The idea of HR best practices is novel to the academic leadership and top management in academia. Blinded by the truth, they are not mindful of the fact that HR is a specialized discipline needing qualified staff, professional skills and deep understanding of the discipline. Those who mainly deal with HR affairs in the universities are not qualified HR professionals and even they are not properly trained for the job. This lack of profound understanding of the significance of HR has serious implications exhibiting itself in a pretty bad shape, every now and then in the institutions of higher education.
HR practices in the Universities in developed countries
As a part of the Leadership Training Program for Senior Administrators of the Universities in Pakistan organized by Higher Education Commission in collaboration with British Council, I had the opportunity to analyse the administrative structure and governance model of the UK universities. It was found that HR remained one of the integral parts of the universities overall Governance system in the UK. One cannot find a single British university where a full-fledged specialized HR Department/section doesn’t exist. Those universities were continuously improving, upgrading and modernizing their systems, in line with global HR best practices in order to keep abreast of the latest trends and challenges.
On return from the said training, we organized a cascading workshop sharing my findings and experiences with staff and management of the university-http://www.kmu.edu.pk/back-pakistan-leadership-trainingcascading-deputy-registrarsa-kmu-shares-his-uk-tour-findings-and. In the comprehensive report, I submitted to HEC, it was recommended that the universities in Pakistan should establish a full-fledged HR Directorate and digitalize its process as a top priority in order to deal with emerging challenges of the competitive academic world.
How to resolve HR issues in the universities in Pakistan
There are a number of ways, the HR issues in the universities can be resolved. The two important directions include 1). Through internal initiatives from the universities, 2) Through intervention from the provincial Government or HEC.
In the first case, the universities’ top management shall have to come up with such a bold initiative and get it through the statutory bodies before its implementation. Since, this option has the potential to come across resistance and backlash from the employees as no one is ready to relinquish his/her powers, in any case, in our scenario, hence, this would definitely require intervention from the provincial Government or HEC.
As amendments in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities’ Act are on the anvil, the following recommendations can be made to that effect:
- The Act should have a provision to the effect that the universities shall have a full-fledged HR Directorate manned by HR professional staff with relevant qualification and experience to deal with HR business in the universities or
- The HEC shall have to make it mandatory for the universities to establish a full-fledged HR Directorates/Department on the analogy of QEC and ORIC as was done effectively in the past.
I believe these interventions shall help in revamping the HR dynamics in public sector universities which will ultimately transform the landscape of higher education in the country.