In the name of research
To alter this reality and move on to the path of
sustainable development is the role of research, which alone can generate new
knowledge. In Pakistan the picture of genuine indigenous research is dismal. It
is hardly comparable to international standards.
|Nov 10: Today the knowledge economy is central to holistic development. The knowledge
economy owes its strength to the creation, documentation, dissemination and
appropriate use of new knowledge.
Unfortunately most of the developing
countries find themselves at the receiving end of the knowledge economy and are
simply consumers of knowledge.
In the post 9/11
scenario when a lot of funding was given to Pakistan to improve our education,
the Higher Education Commission embarked on a number of initiatives and
generously funded them. One such initiative was to broaden the base of PhDs in
the hope that these scholars would create new knowledge through their research
and that they would help in the process of sustainable development. The HEC
generously funded universities where HEC scholars were enrolled. This included
money for tuition fees, reference books, software, lab materials, etc. Besides
money given directly to the relevant universities, the concerned scholar was
given a monthly stipend and his supervisor received Rs5000 monthly as a
A number of universities found this an appropriate time
to launch MPhil/PhD programmes. The impression created was that they were in
line with the HEC's desire to produce more PhDs. But their real objective was to
enhance their income under the head of tuition fees, books allowance and
supervisors' stipends. A large number of universities were not qualified to
offer research degrees for the simple reason that they did not have the
requisite resources in terms of faculty, library, infrastructure,
The HEC set minimum criteria for PhD programmes but allowed some
flexibility within the guidelines provided. For instance, an HEC rule says that
to start a PhD programme in a department you have to have three PhDs. The next
sentence in this rule reads, "However, in extraordinary cases, even one PhD
teacher could start a PhD programme if justified properly and approved by HEC."
A number of university departments fulfilled the given criteria on paper and
hastily started the programmes. In the absence of a quality-check mechanism at
the university level we see a mockery of research programmes at different
In response to my last article, 'Education in futility' (Oct 27),
I received some revealing emails from MPhil/PhD students from various public and
private universities. I shall quote from only two of them. One PhD student
writes, "We were not taught research methodology. Rather we were dictated
research [sic] just like kids in a primary school. There were no research
seminars throughout the coursework. No latest books were available in the
library on applied linguistics."
Another student studying for a MPhil
leading to a PhD programme in a public university commented, "Being a student of
2nd semester of MPhil and having 3.7 GPA in 1st semester [sic], I should be
aware of the research methodologies, research designs, research models, etc.
but, honestly speaking, I don't know even the A, B, C of research." These are
just two emails which can help us guess what is happening in other universities.
In most of the universities there are no sound courses on research methodology
and the scholars are at a loss to understand the rationale of a research
In some universities educational research is another name for
quantitative research. Consequently some self-styled researchers offer their
services to analyse data with the help of stereotype t-tests, chi-square tests,
etc. Even in the humanities and social sciences, qualitative research is still
out of bounds in many universities.
Most universities only fulfil on
paper the HEC criteria for offering a programme. A large number of students are
enrolled in the absence of requisite resources without any rigorous academic
process and evaluation. Certain universities are engaged in admitting candidates
every semester. The ultimate result is a heavy backlog of students who are stuck
in the research phase and are groping in the dark.
One basic reason for
this situation is the absence of qualified supervisors in the concerned
universities. The universities need to plan the research supervision schedule at
the time of admission but on the contrary students are taught courses with the
help of visiting faculty and are left unattended at the research phase. The HEC
has allowed MPhil students to complete 30 credit hours and transfer to a PhD
programme without even writing a research dissertation. Some obtain an MPhil
without even writing a research thesis. They are allowed to complete their
degree just by completing the required credit hours.
Some of the HEC
approved supervisors have eight students attached to them. The university takes
advantage of the flexibility in the HEC rule which reads, "The maximum number of
PhD students under the supervision of a full-time faculty member will normally
be five which may be increased to eight under special circumstances in teaching
departments." Having a large number of students under the pretext of 'special
circumstances' fetches handsome sums of money for the supervisors - Rs5000 a
month for each student.
But the quality of supervision is bound to
deteriorate. Is it humanly possible for a supervisor to properly guide eight PhD
scholars while performing his administrative and teaching functions? This is
something that needs to be looked into.
The HEC has set up a quality
assurance cell and its teams visit different universities. But the
responsibility lies mainly with the concerned education institution to maintain
its standards. If it is not serious about the quality of its programmes no
external agency can bring about a change. In this process of maximisation of
profits by the universities - through offering substandard MPhil/PhD programmes
- the students are the ultimate losers. In some cases the students are not even
aware of the repercussions of enrolling themselves in a substandard research
programme. It amounts to wasting their time, energy and efforts.
students need to be more proactive. It's the students' awareness and active
participation in decision-making that can prompt the universities to develop
rigorous and reliable academic audit systems and revamp their research degree
By Dr Shahid Siddiqui
The writer is director, Centre for Humanities and Social
Sciences, Lahore School of Economics, and author of Rethinking Education in
Post your comments
'Family visas for scholars: no accord with HEC'
Islamabad: The French embassy in Pakistan on Saturday said it had
not signed agreement of any sort with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to
provide visa to the families of Pakistani students studying in various French
"We had asked the HEC to consider increasing the amount of
scholarship for students with families. Unfortunately, HEC replied it was unable
to do so," said a statement by the French embassy.
In response to the
demand made by the Pakistani students, who are on HEC scholarship in France, the
statement said it was unwise on the part of French authorities to grant visas to
the families of students who could not afford to provide them with decent living
conditions in France with their individual scholarships.
Post your comments
UAF in a fix as HEC stops grant
Faisalabad: The University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) has
been facing huge financial crunch and finding it difficult to release salaries
for the current month as the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has not released
the promised grant for the last four months, it is learned.
team, however, visited the university on Saturday and assured its administration
that the government was considering releasing the grant and the issue would be
The UAF had approved Rs900 million annual budget for the
current fiscal year and the HEC had promised allocating Rs613 million
However, the commission did not release even a penny during the
last four months, landing the university in an outlandish situation and making
it difficult to manage even the monthly salaries of its faculty.
university has around 2,800 employees attached with its six faculties and four
institutes. Besides, dozens of employees are also working in directorate of
advance studies, division of education and extension, student affairs, research
and directorate of sports.
Owing to financial crisis, the UAF has been
facing shortage of medicine, fuel, fertilisers, pesticides, fodder for animals
and many other required facilities.
Its monthly expenses are around Rs80
million and it spends over Rs55 million alone on paying salaries to the
Vice-chancellor Dr Iqrar Ahmed said the
management had been releasing salaries by utilising its resources for the past
three months. However, now the varsity was not in a position to release the
salaries for its regular faculty. Besides, he said, the management had also been
facing numerous problems in paying remuneration to employees working on ad hoc
or daily wages bases.
He said the HEC had released Rs122 million grant in
July this year only. Thereafter, the commission did not issue any grant to the
UAF, he added.
Dr Iqrar said the situation would hamper UAF research
projects which would ultimately affect agriculture sector in the
He said that fresh admissions and suspension of different
projects had enabled the university in issuing salaries to its
The vice-chancellor said the administration didn't want hiding
the situation from its employees and that's why they all had been apprised of
the current financial status.
"I had met with HEC officials in Islamabad
and apprised them of the critical situation. They had promised releasing funds
soon," Dr Iqrar added.
Besides, he said, a two-member HEC team also
visited the university on Saturday and had a meeting with UAF management to
discuss ways and means to resolve the financial crisis. The HEC had promised
that situation would be improved soon as the government was going to release the
funds, he added.
The vice-chancellor said the UAF management was in
regular contact with the commission as well as the Punjab governor, who was
chancellor of the university. Dawn
Post your comments
|Post your Comments/ Views about the news.|
|Updated: 14 Oct, 2014|