The Punjab government has withdrawn administrative and financial autonomy granted to 26 colleges in Punjab after twelve years.
In order to enable these colleges to have autonomy and their own boards of governors for improving governance, the provincial government had in 2010 notified them as autonomous institutions. Punjab Higher Education Department (HED) secretary has written a letter to the Accountant General Punjab office clarifying that after the development, the salaries of teachers and the staff should not be blocked. As per the letter to the accountant general Punjab, the Boards of Governors of 20 colleges were constituted after 2013 but later they were challenged through various writ petitions. Moreover, the constitution of boards of governors (BOGs) attracted protests from teachers and students of respective institutions.
The department is of the view that the status of these colleges may be reversed since practically no advantage could be achieved by granting them autonomy. These colleges have been functioning without governing bodies and mandatory pre-audit requirements. In other words all colleges remained functional as regular colleges. The higher education department has also written that the finance department had endorsed the proposal of administrative department for the desired role of administrative and financial autonomy as well.
It further noted that it was a policy decision to be approved by the cabinet. It is proposed that permission may be granted for the cancellation of the notification dated August 31, 2010 which granted autonomy. In this regard, a summary for the chief minister was initiated by the department. The chief minister approved the proposal and directed placement of the case before the Standing Committee of Cabinet on Legislative Business. Subsequently, the summary was submitted to the committee for the cancellation of the autonomy as the matter was discussed in the standing committee of cabinet on March 30, 2022. The standing committee of the cabinet approved the proposal of this department. However, minutes of the meeting are still awaited.
The letter further noted that it has been observed that district account officers are writing letters for stoppage of salary of the teachers and staff of these colleges which was creating panic and chaos among the employees of the higher education department. The HED requested the accountant general for issuance of instructions to the accounts officers not to stop the salaries.
As per the documents, eight out of 26 colleges have already been granted the status of university under their respective acts. Those upgraded include Government College for Girls, Madina Town, Faisalabad now upgraded to Government College Women’s University Faisalabad.
Others include Government Post Graduate College for Women Rawalpindi, upgraded to Rawalpindi Women University; Post Graduate College Chakwal upgraded to University of Chakwal; Government Sadiq Degree College for Girls Bahawalpur upgraded to Government Sadiq College Women University Bahawalpur; Government Post Graduate College for Boys, D.G Khan upgraded to Ghazi University; Government Post Graduate College for Women Multan upgraded to the Women University Multan; and Post Graduate College for Women Sialkot upgraded to Women University Sialkot.
Professor Syed Ali Hadi said that the government should also clarify who was responsible for this experiment that failed after 12 years. He said that today’s decision reflected that there was no vision within the department on education.
The government, prior to taking any decision, he suggested, should consult all the stakeholders who otherwise pose a threat through protests later and force the government to surrender. He said that educational policy should be in the national interest and not in the favour of some stakeholders. A senior official of the Higher Education Department, while talking to this newspaper on the condition of anonymity, said that college teaching community did not like revolutionary steps taken during 2010 for good governance at the college level through BOGs.
He said that the teachers didn’t want any innovation in the education sector and were advocates of status quo. He was of the view that without decentralizing education to the districts, there would be no betterment in education sector. He said that the unions of the teaching community were working round the year for their monetary benefits and had no concerns about the deteriorating levels of their institutions. He also recommended the government to stop regular appointments in educational institutions.