It is a matter of great concern for educationists, students and their parents that the ranking of Public Sector Universities in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa has declined over the past seven years. Not a single government University has been able to break into the top 10 institutions in the Higher Education Commission (HEC) list. It is pertinent to mention that University of Peshawar is the oldest institution of higher education in the province. It was ranked at fourth position in the HEC list in 2006 but in the following years it degenerated and now it is not included in the top 10 universities of the country although the incumbent Vice Chancellor Professor Dr. Muhammad Asif Khan has taken a number of measures to enhance the quality of education in this Alma-mater.
The issue of steep fall in the ranking of Public sector Universities was agitated by JUI (F) lawmaker in the Provincial legislature. He asked the Higher Education Minister Mushtaq Ghani about the causes accentuating the decline in the quality of education to which the minster gave a very short answer. Admitting the fact of low quality of higher education in the province, he said the government was planning to establish an independent Provincial Higher Education Commission to oversee the performance of government Universities. The problem is not that simple. In fact the PTI government has applied double standard to the promotion of education and its quality enhancement.
The young and dynamic minster of primary and secondary education Muhammad Atif Khan has drastically transformed the education system by curriculum reforms and ensuring transparency and merit in the selection procedure of teachers by giving greater weight-age to NTS score and academic quantifications. By adopting this procedure the government schools get the best of best teachers. Moreover, the monitors of Independent Monitoring Units keep a close watch on the performance of teachers. On the contrary, in government universities faculty and top administrative positions are filled in by political interference and personal interests of members of Syndicates. Before the enactment of 18th Amendment and devolution of higher education to provinces, HEC had a greater role in the appointment Assistant Professors and merit was fully ensured. Now the political preferences has made the selection criteria topsy-turvy. It is then but natural the quality of higher education will be adversely affected. The ghost of political appointments entrenched by the previous Awami National Party Government is still dominant in the appointments of faculty members in the institutions of higher education.
Currently, 22 Public sector Universities are functional in the province wherein the academic and research facilities are far from satisfactory. The Syndicates wields most of the powers and the position of Vice Chancellors becomes symbolic if he or she is not politically well connected. The Professors in BS-22 are least interested in facilitating the academic and research activities of the students. The poorly equipped science labs are another major factor impacting the quality of higher education. There is acute shortage of equipments and exiting ones are obsolete which are not largely beneficial in the pursuit of advanced knowledge. It is the high-tech instrumentation of science labs in universities and the development of skills of the students to operate state-of-the- art instruments that enhance the quality of education. Significant improvement in quality of education and research publications of both the faculty and students in the high impact factor journals boost the ranking of varsities. This essential ingredient of our education system is neglected.