Assessing faculty candidates: Governor points to anomalies in formation of arbitrator panels – Pakistan

LAHORE: Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman, who is also the chancellor of all universities in the province, has pointed to “anomalies” in the process of forming panels of foreign and local arbitrators, their selection and the guidelines for them to evaluating the applications of candidates for associate professorships and professorships in public sector universities in the province.

In a letter to the Chairman of the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC), the Chancellor’s Office indicates that the mechanism in vogue for preparing the list of arbitrators calls for consultation with faculty members of the department/institute/ college concerned, including those who are themselves candidates for vacancies in consultation with the said panel of experts.

“The issue of ‘conflict of interest’ in finalizing an expert panel cannot therefore be dismissed. Rather, it fits into the existing mechanism of finalizing a panel of experts, since the candidates themselves are part of the consultation process. It should be up to the Dean of the faculty concerned and the selection committee to review the panel of experts with a view to minimizing the element of conflict of interest of the candidates vis-à-vis the panel of experts ultimately recommended to the union for approval. . However, according to current practice, virtually no role is played by either the Dean, the faculty concerned, or the selection panel in settling the issue of conflict of interest,” the letter read.

The Chancellor’s attention has been drawn to such anomalies by some academics, including Punjab University Associate Professor Dr. Shabbir Sarwar, asking him and PHEC and HEC to look into the matter.

The letter further indicates that there does not appear to be a mechanism in the office of the Vice-Chancellor to address the issue of conflicts of interest, when selecting arbitrators for the evaluation of candidates’ applications. “There is a need to develop objective criteria for the selection of arbitrators by the Vice-Chancellor for sending applications for evaluation.”

The Chancellor is of the opinion that the existing mechanism for forming a panel of arbitrators discriminates against external candidates by depriving them of the possibility of proposing names of arbitrators to be included on the permanent list of arbitrators .

“It is concerning that experts in charge of evaluating the thesis of students are appointed in technically and scientifically advanced countries, according to the list of countries notified by the (HEC). However, this is not a requirement for the evaluation of applications for Associate Professor and Professor for Teaching positions as it is only a preference and not a requirement. This should be considered and incorporated into the scope of the university statutes according to which the experts for the evaluation of the applications for the position of associate professor and professor must mainly come from technically and scientifically advanced countries.

The letter further states that there are instances where candidate applications were sent to referees who happened to be their co-authors in research publications or collaborators in certain research projects. “It’s like asking the candidate himself to assess his own profile. The referees’ reports, in most cases, focus on the technical aspects of the candidates’ profiles, such as the number of research papers published and the candidates’ experience in terms of number of years. There is a need to develop clear guidelines for referees to comment on the value of the research of publication applicants on parameters such as the philosophical underpinnings of their research (ontological and epistemological assumptions), strength of arguments, rigor of the design of the research, the representative nature of the sample, the validity of the data, relevance and relevance of the statistical measures used for the analysis of the data, theoretical and practical contribution of the research. They should clearly assess how successful the candidates’ work has been in meeting the utilitarian goals and scholarly needs of the subject,” he says.

The letter states that the Chancellor wants the PHEC to review the existing mechanism for the formation of the panel of arbitrators, their selection for the evaluation of the applications of candidates for the positions of associate professors and professors with guidelines for the arbitrators to follow. , in consultation with the HEC and the Vice Chancellors will develop an enhanced version of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in this regard.

“The whole exercise should be to bring competitiveness, transparency, objectivity and impartiality in the recruitment of higher education positions in public sector universities in Punjab,” the Chancellor wished.

Posted in Dawn, September 11, 2022

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