Published On: Wed, Aug 30th, 2017

Glimmer of hope

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Editorial

Much has been said and written about Pakistan higher education scenario. It has both positive and negative traits. Pakistan’s secondary schools are producing pupils with three distinct subjectivities – depending on whether one passes out of an English-medium private school, an Urdu-medium public school or a religious seminary. The activities, habits, hobbies and outlooks on life of these graduates are vastly different.

One glimmer of hope in bringing together pupils from such diverse academic background was when we started regulating the higher education system through a Higher Education Commission (HEC). Whether or not the HEC has performed up to the par remains debatable but the commission has, nonetheless, introduced quality assessment mechanisms that can be built upon for raising the standard of higher education in the country. The HEC ranks universities according to their contribution in research, the qualifications and credentials of the faculty, and several other metrics of international standards. It also attests degrees and academic certificates offered by various institutes.

Recently, the commission has prohibited four varsities – PIMSAT in Karachi, Imperial College of Business Studies and Global Institute in Lahore, and Al-Khair University in Bhimber, AJK – from further enrollment of students.

This means that those admitted for the academic year of 2017-18 will not be awarded HEC-recognised certifications; these ‘universities’ face the ignominy of being blacklisted by the HEC. They were continually approached by the HEC to improve their educational standards and instructional facilities since 2015, and were already under investigation by

early 2017. But this is merely the tip of the iceberg: the HEC reported in January this year that 79 private universities in Punjab have no physical existence; neither teachers, nor students, no infrastructure either. And while Punjab alone has nearly 101 discredited institutions, there are 36 such institutions in Sindh, 11 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, four in Islamabad, and three in AJK.

Last September, the HEC closed 31 PhD programmes and 26 MPhil programmes across the country. It has also blacklisted a large number of university instructors – even professors – who have engaged in plagiarism.

Not to mention the former HEC chairman, Dr Javed Leghari, who formally apologised in March 2016 for plagiarising a paper he co-authored with another SZABIST faculty member.

One good thing to have happened at the HEC is the development of the Pakistan Qualification Register (PQR) which will create a uniform standard for public and private institutions, as well as their affiliates, programmes being offered, skills and competencies to be acquired, instruments to be evaluated, and a list of approved supervisors, attested degrees, and awards of national and thematic research grants. If the PQR is made effective, we will be well on our way to enforcing merit and setting high standards of academic integrity in higher education and this alone will secure a promising future for the country indeed.

 

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