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Lahore: Kind Edward Medical Univesity to oppose move to withdraw university status
04-06-2009, 07:45 AM
Post: #1
Lahore: Kind Edward Medical Univesity to oppose move to withdraw university status
By Amer Malik
THE Punjab government is likely to face strong resistance from medical community in general and the King Edward Medical University in particular against what is believed to be a ‘unilateral’ decision to withdraw its university status.

It is not likely to be smooth sailing for the Punjab government as the KEMU is set to hold a special meeting of the Academic Council on Monday (today) to discuss the matter threadbare and come up with a strategy to counter the move to undo the elevation of former King Edward Medical College to a university. The KEMU administration and faculty is literally fuming over the health secretary, Dr Amer Aziz, and the vice-chancellor of the University of Health Sciences, for working to the detriment of their institution. They believe that the PML-N government under the leadership of Mian Shahbaz Sharif, which is the flag-bearer of justice, should not implement the decision unilaterally when the KEMU remains unheard.

The KEMU Academic Council, in one of its previous meetings held some six months ago, overwhelmingly supported university status of their institution. During secret voting conducted on behalf of the Punjab government, at least 59 senior faculty members rejected the idea to deprive KEMU of its university status against a single vote cast by Prof Dr Nausheen, Professor of Preventive Paediatrics, who also happens to be the wife of Dr Amer Aziz, in favour of institution’s restoration to original status of a college.

The UHS, which derives its strength from Section 37 of the UHS Ordinance awarding exclusive mandate of affiliation in Punjab, is once again going to be the main beneficiary of the fresh move after the UHS has been given the right to conduct entrance tests for admissions to medical/dental colleges in the province, while KEMU remains a loser on both counts. It is learnt that KEMU’s incumbent vice-chancellor had faced opposition from within the varsity for surrendering the right to conduct entrance test in favour of UHS without offering any resistance.

In comparison with the KEMU, the UHS has been extremely lucky to have complete support of the provincial government as it immediately sent the KEMU VC packing with the reversal of reemployment policy, while the UHS VC, despite serving post retirement, escaped the sword. The provincial government, on the one hand, fully empowered the UHS VC, while on the other it failed to appoint a regular VC at the KEMU to independently run the affairs of the university.

Besides, the PML-N provincial government, despite relentlessly pursuing Farah Dogar’s case, did not bother to hold any inquiry, or make it public, regarding the complaints of anomalies in the UHS entrance test, which in a glaring example, incorporated 218 candidates one day after formal declaration of the result of entrance test. As a result, the affected candidates had to challenge their results in the court as a last resort. Furthermore, it has also been pointed out that the UHS had the smallest whole time faculty as one professor was heading three different departments of basic medical sciences. “The UHS is banking on ‘adjunct faculty’ from amongst the full-time employees of medical colleges and hospitals, many of whom are part-time teachers or never attend the university,” former UHS professors have said.

Besides the medical community, faculty and staff of the KEMU, students are simply stunned as their alma mater is set to be restored back to its previous status of a college. The students, who fulfilled highest merit in Punjab, may be deprived of a degree of their own university. About 159 foreign students at KEMU, who got their respective scholarships from their countries for KEMU, are also uncertain about their future after spending a few years in Pakistan.

Talking to The News, Dr Amer Aziz said he fully supported the KEMU to be restored to its original status yet the Punjab government had not taken the decision at his or the health secretary’s behest because the CM had approved the summary in this regard before the imposition of governor’s rule in Punjab. He said the decision was in fact taken on the basis of third party audit conducted by Prof John Biggs, Dean of Academics at Cambridge University, and recommended withdrawing KEMU’s university status on the basis of its poor performance.

He observed that the KEMU had miserably failed to make any significant mark since its elevation despite increase in funds from Rs 170 million to present Rs 510 million annually. “There is not a single anaesthetist in Lady Wellington Hospital,” he said.

He observed that the KEMU had launched ‘third class’ postgraduate diplomas to churn out nothing but ‘qualified quacks’. When asked about the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council’s recognition of KEMU’s diplomas, he said that the PMDC had recognized some of the diplomas only now, but most of the diplomas were still not recognised. “I have also written a strong letter to the PMDC for its role in ruining the standard of medical education,” he said.

He claimed that the UHS had performed far better than the KEMU as it declared results within two to three days, while KEMU ‘authorities’ had done nothing but award positions to their sons and daughters. He said the KEMU was offering MS and MD courses arbitrarily, while he had got approved MS and MD courses at the UHS only after FCPS.

KEMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Zafarullah Khan expressed his dismay over the government’s decision to withdraw university’s status unilaterally without taking varsity on board. He regretted that those, who were earning millions in private sector, were deciding the fate of public sector institutions.

He said the Health Department had stopped the varsity from appointing assistant professors and associate professors to fill 30 vacant posts at KEMU to the loss of students.

He claimed that the KEMU had made several strides towards academic and research development more than any other university, but those could be presented only if the varsity was given a chance to respond to the wrong impression being created by the detractors of the university. He said that if, at all, there were shortcomings in the working of the university then they should be improved rather than demolishing the whole institution.

UHS VC Prof Hussain Mubashir Malik was unavailable for comments. The UHS spokesman, however, denied any role in the government’s decision to withdraw KEMU’s university status.

When contacted, Health Secretary Anwaar Ahmad Khan said that the provincial government had meted out equal treatment to both medical universities i.e. KEMU and UHS without any discrimination, and added that now the competent authority had approved the summary of the repeal of KEMU Act and they would just have to implement it as obedient servants of the government. He said that if the KEMU administration and faculty should write to the Health Department or directly convey their concern to the Punjab chief minister if they had grievances.
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