Ahead of a protest by university teachers today (Wednesday), Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri said that the commission has been making every ef fort to enhance opportunities and facilities available to university faculty.
At a hurriedly called press conference at the Press Information Department, Dr Banuri said the HEC has initiated a number of programmes for university faculty for their higher studies, professional development and to provide guidance to universities on streamlining hiring and promotion processes.
Last week, a large number of university teachers serving under the tenure track system (TTS) protested outside the HEC urging the acceptance of various demands.
Now, the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) is going to hold a protest at the same venue on Wednesday against what they call the `HEC`s damaging policies`.
`HEC has always given priority to genuine demands by the faculty members and will continue to do so, however faculty members should also realize that the purpose of the decisions is to serve our students and future employers of graduates and not to continue to lower standards,` stated a press release provided to the media during Dr Banuri`s press conference.
Dr Banuri also said the HEC has been working to improve the higher education sector.
`There is no doubt that the most important factor that determines the quality of any educational institution is the quality of its faculty.
This is the core objective of various scholarships, research abnd devel-opment and quality assurance policies of the HEC,` he said.
He added: `Scholarships are provided for PhD and post-doctoral fellowships, interim placement of fresh PhDs and the International Research Support Initiative Programme,` he said, adding that the HEC also provides research grants to individuals and institutions under various schemes.
He said the HEC has set minimum standards for faculty appointments and promotions, and reviews appeals against any violation of the standards.
He also highlighted the steps the HEC has taken during his tenure that include introducing a new journal policy, a four-year bachelors programme, linking research funding with problem solution approaches and so on.
For the ongoing year, Dr Banuri said, Rs3 billion has been earmarked for the research grant, which will be increased to Rs5bn nextyear.
He said the HEC had decided toaddress issues facing tenure track faculty before their protest last week, adding that some individuals were trying to destroy the system by lowering its standards.
`They have demanded that the publication requirements for TTS faculty members should be reduced and that they should be allowed to do other jobs. This will ensure the demise of the TTS system. It will also be against the interest of students who deserve to be taught by the best professors,` he said.
He said that HEC has extended the maximum length of tenure to nine years for tenure track faculty unable to complete the eligibility requirements for promotion as an associate professor within the already specified six year period.
The HEC has also issued a notification to enable tenure track faculty to obtain managerial experience by allowing faculty to take up limited academic and administrative responsibilities, he said.
He said faculty on BPS scales are also being facilitated with various programmes, adding that the commission previously upgraded their pay scales and a professor now has perks and privileges equivalent to a grade 21 of ficer.
Dr Banuri faced several questions on the recent appointment of HEC Executive Director Dr Shaista Sohail, a grade 22 officer from the Pakistan Administrative Services, as the commission advertised the post thrice but could not find a `suitable candidate` and finally received assistance from the government to appoint a bureaucrat on the post.
Dr Banuri said Dr Sohail was appointed after due process, as the commission did not find an appropriate candidate for the post in response to the advertisements.