According to the news reports published in The News and Dawn, the implementation commission of 18th amendement has decided to devolve Higher Education Commission to provinces. From the details that have emerged so far, it appears that either HEC is being completely devolved to the provinces, or many of its powers will be transferred to the provinces. While the details of this plan are being worked out, we invite our readers to comment on the pros and cons of a complete or substantial devolution of HEC to provinces.
The justification being provided for the move is that the 18th constitutional amendment abolished the concurrent list that allowed the Federal government to legislate on issues like “Curriculum, syllabus, planning, policy, centres of excellence and standards of education and “Islamic Education”. However the 18th constitutional amendment, while abolishing the concurrent list has added a few entries to the federal list that essentially account for HEC’s charter covered in the HEC ordinance that established the institution in 2002. The Federal List now includes,
- “Standards in institutions for higher education and research, scientific and technical institutions”.
- “National planning and national economic coordination including planning and coordination of scientific and technological research”.
These entries in the federal list indicate that the authors of the 18th amendment understood that there is a need to coordinate research and standards of higher education at a national level and there is a corresponding role for federal regulatory bodies like HEC in this space.
STEP believes that, HEC, despite its many short comings, has been able to bring about a sea change in the higher education landscape in Pakistan. While HEC has faced due criticism for its overly ambitious plans to create new public sector universities and some of its other initiatives, it has, to a large extent, promoted a research culture in Pakistani universities which was almost non-existent. Further, its programs on standardizing curricula and testing, combating rampant plagiarism through strict policies and monitoring, sending students to pursue their PhD from top tier world universities, and connecting Pakistani universities to researchers all over the world through video conferencing have been quite successful.
Most important though is the institutional foundation that HEC provides. In a country with crumbling and crumbled institutions, and ineffective bureaucracy, HEC has certainly been one of the most responsive organizations. Throughout its existence, HEC has appeared willing to engage in a healthy debate about it proper role, the limits of its power and the efficacy of its policies with the all the stakes holders, including the students. In many ways, the open criticism of HEC in the op-ed columns, and websites like ours, is a reflection of both its impact and its openness. The role it has played in the politically-charged degree verification process points to its strength as an institution.
To conclude, Pakistan has a myriad of problems and millions of young Pakistanis with no access to quality higher education is high among them. There is no shortage of battles to be fought in finding the best way forward, and devolving the institution that has been leading the charge is certainly not the way to go. Instead, the focus of our efforts should be on building additional capabilities, at federal, provincial and district levels, and ensuring that HEC does the best possible job in coordinating these efforts as well as providing the institutional memory that is desperately required.

According to the news reports published in The News and Dawn, the Implementation Commission of the 18th Amendment has decided to devolve Higher Education Commission to the provinces. From the details that have emerged so far, it appears that either HEC is being completely devolved to the provinces, or many of its powers will be transferred to the provinces. While the details of this plan are being worked out, we invite our readers to comment on the pros and cons of a complete or substantial devolution of HEC to provinces.

The justification being provided for the move is that the 18th constitutional amendment abolished the Concurrent List that allowed the Federal government to legislate on issues like “[c]urriculum, syllabus, planning, policy, centers of excellence, and standards of education” and “Islamic Education”. However the 18th constitutional amendment, while abolishing the Concurrent List has added a few entries to the Federal List that essentially account for HEC’s charter covered in the Higher Education Commission Ordinance 2002 that established the institution. The Federal List now includes,

  • “Standards in institutions for higher education and research, scientific and technical institutions”.
  • “National planning and national economic coordination including planning and coordination of scientific and technological research”.

These entries in the federal list indicate that the authors of the 18th amendment understood that there is a need to coordinate research and standards of higher education at a national level and there is a corresponding role for federal regulatory bodies like HEC in this space.

STEP believes that HEC has been able to bring about a sea change in the higher education landscape in Pakistan. While HEC has faced due criticism for its at times overly ambitious plans, such as the one to create new public sector universities, it has, to a large extent, promoted a research culture in Pakistani universities which was almost non-existent. Further, its programs on standardizing curricula and testing, combating rampant plagiarism through strict policies and monitoring, sending students to pursue their PhD from top-tier world universities, and connecting Pakistani universities to researchers all over the world through video conferencing have been quite successful.

Most important though is the institutional foundation that HEC provides. In a country with crumbling and crumbled institutions, and ineffective bureaucracy, HEC has certainly been one of the most responsive organizations. Throughout its existence, HEC has appeared willing to engage in a healthy debate about it proper role, the limits of its power and the efficacy of its policies with the all the stakes holders, including the students. In many ways, the open criticism of HEC in the op-ed columns and websites like ours is a reflection of both its impact and its openness. The role it has played in the politically-charged degree verification process points to its strength as an institution.

To conclude, Pakistan has a myriad of problems and millions of young Pakistanis with no access to quality higher education is high among them. There is no shortage of battles to be fought in finding the best way forward, and devolving the institution that has been leading the charge is certainly not the way to go. Instead, the focus of our efforts should be on building additional capabilities, at the federal, provincial, and district levels, and ensuring that HEC does the best possible job in coordinating these efforts as well as providing the institutional memory that is desperately required.

7 Responses to “HEC Devolution to Provinces – A Step Backward”

  1. Bilal Zafar says:

    The News is reporting that devolution of HEC may deprive HEC of $300 million in WB loan.

  2. ys says:

    I wonder what the back story is to this. Development and regulation of higher education is not the sort of thing that should be left to the individual provinces. It’s expensive and doesn’t have a strong constituency, and it’s effects are seen over longer periods of time than the next election. Devolving it to the provinces effectively means dismissing the goals of the commission.

  3. AFK says:

    I don’t understand what is the background of this decision and why does Federal Government want to devolve HEC. Even a country like USA having top universities in the world is working on uniform standards of education throughout the States as they are already experiencing the result of different standards across the states. And we are about to experiment which will deteriorate the higher education sector and ultimately the economy of Pakistan.

    Our Provinces don’t have the capacity to run the HE industry. We can see the plight of our public school systems in all the provinces and I am more concerned about Balochistan and Sindh. There is no way that Balochistan will be able to cope with higher education. It will bring more devastation to the province like Balochistan at large.

    Is this a revenge of Govt. of Pakistan for not adhering to its instructions in respect of Degree Verification of paliamentarians???

    As far as HEC’s plan to create new public sector universities in collaboration with foreign countries is concerend, it wasn’t a bad move either. According to statistics provided by DAAD representative in the most recent conference on Globalization of Higher Education at IIE HQ New York, the international student mobility is shifting towards Asia. International Students are prefering Universities in China, India and Malaysia over the west and the increase is rapid. If the plan of establishing Public Sector Engineering & Technology Universities was succussful, the name of Pakistan could be among China, India and Malaysia. We have been unfortunate that our political leaders always critisize whatever is done in previous regime.

  4. Angry Guy says:

    Where are the people of Pakistan? Why is no newspaper covering this story? The editors should plan on calling their website “NextStepBackward” unless this decision is reversed.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am telling u all people…this act is against the existence of Pakistan…..anti-state and anti-pakistan curriculum will be developed…very low standards of education….developed countries are coming back to centralised policy of education.

  6. adnan says:

    i am Dr.adnan from Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.
    no news channels has yet cover this news,which is so bad for us,that our people are not concentrating on the future of Pakistan.Higher education is your main authority who give opportunities to all the university and represent all provinces.in 8 years ,our higher education has reached to 400% increase quality and quantity education according to HEC.and achieve higher ranking our university in world ranking universities,which is the improvment.and they have also disclosed the Fake degree of MPA.now the government are taking revenge from it because of attestation of degrees???? and dissolving HEC to provinces,which mean that our higher education will be distributed to provinces.it mean that every province will have their own system of education and own standard,and the future of Pakistan look dark.please take a stand against this action.we request you to save Pakistan.
    central body is essential to oversee the universities’ financial affairs, provide a road map for the future and maintain monitoring capability. It is said that other states in the region — India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka — all have central authorities that regulate higher education.
    It is not as simple as the distribution of funds, but HEC look for the number of enrolment of institution and also the quality of education being imparted while funding some institution,”
    Stop Senator Raza Rabbani for destroying our country.

    i want to made a request to you.you should take action action against the HEC devolution to provinces.

  7. Junior says:

    A major, multinational effort to get real quality into higher and professional education in each province would actually be welcome. I would note that the U.S. has no federal government universities (except for the military ones).

    Unfortunately, it looks like this effort will not come from Pakistan’s federal government. HEC has been a spark plug compared to the relative indifference of the current government. Who will supply the juice if HEC loses its role? Those with vision need to step up their effort.

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