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HEC merger into the Ministry of Education issue

HEC may survive all merger attempts
Islamabad, Aug 31: With various quarters consistently making serious efforts to merge Higher Education Commission (HEC) into the Ministry of Education, it is likely to continue its working as an independent body, the reliable sources said here on Friday.

The sources said despite having a long list of HEC's failures in some vital tasks assigned to it at the time of its inception the officials who have been struggling to convince the high-ups of the government for its merger with the Ministry of Education are going to give up their efforts.

The sources further said that inability of HEC to implement its plan to build campuses of nine European universities in Pakistan, formulate its own service rules for recruitment of new employees and promotion of existing staff members were some of the few allegations being levelled to make an end to this body.

It was also alleged that the Establishment Division had given clear direction for calling promotion board meetings at least twice a year, however, HEC not called the same during past five or six years and recruited and promoted people without following legal procedures.

It was also quoted in the meetings of the high officials time and again that HEC failed to implement its another plan aimed at restructuring the existing universities and bringing in new governance structures under the Model University ordinance. The insiders, privy to the whole situation, also said that HEC was also blamed for awarding charters to many substandard private universities and acquisition of PhD degrees by individuals without any adequate quality assurance mechanism.

The sources said the resilience shown by HEC to meet its expenditures despite a drastic cut in its annual budget was one of the main reasons that helped it avoid the axe from the government.

The sources said it was a huge achievement of HEC when it succeeded to convince the World Bank to provide it with budgetary support loan having 10-year grace period, 30-year repayment period on interest that is half a per cent.

The HEC officials who are quite optimistic about its future said prior to the launch of its programmes, the annual research publication rate in universities was very low but after start of cash reward per paper programme, the number of research papers shot up to 1,482 in 2003-08 period, showing 235 per cent improvement.

They also cited the performance report issued by the World Bank in 2006 that stated "HEC has placed quality improvement of the higher education sub-sector at the centre of excellence."

The data collected this correspondent showed that HEC awarded a total number of 6,626 local and foreign scholarships during the last few years and now the number of students studying in higher learning institutes have risen up to 700,000.

About failure in building mega universities with foreign aid, the officials said the project was scrapped because it was too big and too ambitious and given the worldwide economic recession, it was no longer viable or even practicable.

They said the decision for a change in bachelors and masters degree structure, restructuring of four years undergraduate programme and launch of course based masters and PhD degrees was aimed at making academic structure compatible with the best structure that is practised in the world.

The officials said HEC purchased an anti-plagiarism service in 2007 and it has so far been launched successfully in 60 public universities and faculty members of these universities are being provided user ID and password through which they can check theses and assignments of their students.

Shahnaz Wazir Ali, who handed over the charge to new HEC chairman Dr. Javaid Leghari a day earlier, said HEC has rendered great services in promoting higher education in the country.

She said total annual budget of HEC would exceed up to Rs45 billion including Rs22 billion for development projects and Rs23 billion for payment of salaries and other related expenditures.

Dismissing various speculations about future of HEC, she said every government department receives 20 per cent of its total budget in the first quarter of the fiscal year and HEC has already received 10 per cent of its budget and remaining 10 per cent would be received in the coming week.

To a question about directives to the public sector universities to generate their own funds, she said it happens everywhere in the world and all mainstream universities always try to find ways and means to generate their own financial resources.

"When we talk about generating funds by the public sector universities, it does not mean that we lack funds but it is a practice being followed all over the world to meet growing expenditures in the education sector," she said.

Referring to various initiatives taken by the public sector universities she said it is quite encouraging that linkages are being developed between universities and other professional departments.

Replying to a question, she claimed that there is not a single student who had to return back due to unavailability of funds after securing scholarship for any foreign university.

"Now I can assure one thing that HEC is poised to come up as a viable and efficient body with an aim to improve higher learning in the country," she said.

Your Comments
"Another appointment without a justification. has not got any research output except articles in newspapers but if this government can appoint Ms. Shaheen who was the corrupt director of sports at HEC and still survived all enquiries who cannot write a single paragraph is now the chairperson of FBISE any thing can happaen. "
Name: Shair Hashmi
City, Country: Pakistan

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Ill-planned and poorly equipped private universities
The number of private universities is increasing day-by-day. It is believed that students who fail to gain admission in public universities or government medical colleges go to private universities. This is partly true since public universities offer a very limited number of seats in some disciplines.

Many good students who fail to gain admission in public universities study in private universities. In most cases their merits are comparable. The number of meritorious students seeking admission to the private universities is also increasing day-by-day. It is a matter of great regret that most of the private universities face the acute problem of hiring qualified teachers. Due to shortage of full-time teachers, the private universities have become too dependent on part-time/visiting teachers mostly drawn from the public universities.

The migration of teachers from the public to the private universities either as part-time or full-time teachers is also jeopardizing the academic environment of the public universities in many instances. The curricula of some selected universities are very scientific and compare well with any modern university. Most of the private universities run their academic programme on the semester system and have introduced four-year undergraduate courses. However, as some of the universities do not have proper teaching strength, the end result may not be very encouraging. Most of the private universities do not have proper libraries and computer facilities good enough to cater to the need of their students. The relevant reference books and standard foreign and national journals are hardly found in the libraries of the private universities. Almost all the private universities of the country face the problem of space and accommodation. Although according to set conditions, the private universities are supposed to develop their own campus, most of the private universities have failed in this respect. The space problem has, in some instances, impeded the infrastructure development needed for the development of a congenial academic environment.

Permanent campuses are better because it is through a campus that a university provides a setting for student interaction during some very formative years of their life. This interaction contributes as much to the learning process as the formal instruction. Some of the private universities have developed a tendency to increase the number of existing departments while their existing departments could not be fully furnished with teachers, books and other necessary teaching materials. A balanced development of the university is absolutely necessary but ill planned and inadequately equipped departments without back-up facilities may be of little use for the promotion of higher education.

The private universities of the country are expected to supplement the public universities and ease the pressure on the public universities for admission. But the enrolment in the private universities hardly fulfils this expectation. This situation is largely attributable to the exorbitant fees charged by the private universities which are not affordable for a large segment of students aspiring for admission to the private universities. In other words, it can be said that the high cost keeps the students away from the private universities.

Education at private universities is exclusive. For this reason, the children of the middle-class or distressed family go to public universities. Private universities have therefore failed to a great extent to fulfil the expectation of the government to bring higher education to the common people. It is very difficult to comment on the quality of education in the private universities. There is no evaluation system for this. Of course, the public universities also do not have any system of quality monitoring.

One advantage of the public universities is that they draw good quality students and also good quality teachers. They start from a stronger base. This may not be true for all the private universities of Pakistan. One common complaint about the governance of private universities is that it is too personality based. Usually the person who takes the initiative in establishing the private university dominates the administration. In some cases, it is the initiator who virtually runs the university. It so happened that at least two of the original initiators or sponsors had to leave their respective university because of the sponsor syndrome.

In one particular university, there is a provision, which enables the sponsor to chair the meeting of the academic council. Moreover, it has been noticed that some of the initiators try to control almost all the authorities by putting their own people in different authorities. One of the objectives of the private universities was to create skilled manpower for the economic development of the country. To ensure quality education, the law requires that private universities submit a proper academic plan with the guarantee of quality education. Quality education needs quality teachers and quality students. But it is said that some of the private universities do not follow the norms in the recruitment of teachers.

On the other hand, some universities advertise on their websites for recruitment of teachers. This is definitely a good trend they have set. Lists of teachers need to be sent to Higher Education Commission (HEC) on a regular basis. The HEC should monitor the recruitment of faculty on a regular basis and also should check the number of faculty actually available in the department to teach. The selection committee should be well defined. The HEC can nominate one expert on the selection committee.

The HEC should make the procedure for recruiting foreign faculty simple and effective. On the whole, though, it can be said that some selective private universities have been able to attain the objectives of the private university concept to a certain extent. Those institutions should be encouraged by the government, the HEC and the community to improve further. The establishment of private universities has increased access and choice in higher education. If the government comes forward and addresses the issues raised above, we will achieve even better results in the future from the private universities.

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Pindi colleges to open today
Rawalpindi: All colleges of the Rawalpindi division would open today (Monday) after additional summer vacations. Director Colleges Dr Mohammad Ashraf stated this in a statement issued here on Sunday. He urged the students to ensure their presence in the college from the very first day on Monday.

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Prof Saqib awarded PhD degree
Islamabad: Professor Saqib Riaz has been awarded PhD degree in Mass Communication, says a press release.

He is associated with the Mass Communication Department of the Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad. He conducted his PhD research on the Agenda Setting Role of Print Media in Pakistan under the supervision of Professor Dr. Miskeen Ali Hijazi (late) who remained the chairman of the Mass Communication Department at Punjab University, Lahore.

The dissertation of Dr. Saqib Riaz has been evaluated and approved by three American Professors Dr. Salma Ghanem, dean, Central Michigan University (USA), Professor Paul Voakes, dean, University of Colorado (USA) and Professor Dr. James Kelly from Indiana University (USA). All the three American Professors appreciated the research project of Dr. Saqib Riaz and stated his thesis as one of the best dissertations written in the developing countries of the world.

Dr. Saqib Riaz has received several awards and honors during his professional career. He got his higher professional education from International Institute of Journalism, Berlin, Germany. He is author of two books on journalism and his scores of research articles have been published in national and international research journals.

He has the honor to deliver lectures in various universities and institutes in Europe and Asia.

Before joining the university, he was associated with a couple of national Urdu newspapers as magazine editor. The news

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