HEC's number game
May 2008: During the last sixty years, the number of PhDs in Pakistan has risen from
approximately 50 to 2000. The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan claims
that this number will rise to 20,000 by 2015. In order to produce the additional
18,000 PhDs, HEC has launched various local and foreign initiatives.
this PhD factory cranks out the new PhDs, it will definitely break all world
records, but will it make any difference to the nature of scientific research in
Pakistan? Will there be any use of these new PhDs? What will Pakistan be like in
2015 with all these PhDs? Where will they work?
These questions are
seldom asked in Pakistan. Not many are interested in examining deeper issues
related to science and higher education. Appearances substitute for substance.
In the rest of the world, a PhD degree merely indicates that the holder has gone
through a certain amount of training in a chosen field of research. This
research, however, takes place in a wider cultural, economic, and political
context. In France, for instance, the holder of a PhD degree in a specific
branch of chemistry is likely to be absorbed into an industry or research sector
related to that field because his or her training has been specifically geared
to the needs of that industry or field of research. In fact, the very process of
production of PhDs is thoroughly linked to the overall scientific and industrial
sectors of the Western countries. Not so in Pakistan.
The new PhD
cranking mechanism set up by HEC has no home-grown components; it has nothing to
link this misadventure with the actual needs of the country. Such components of
research-related industry do not even exist. One can argue that scientific
research need not be utilitarian, it can be basic or "pure" research, providing
knowledge about the physical cosmos. If one were to accept this doctrine, there
is still the hard fact that for a country like Pakistan research for the sake of
research is an ill-afforded luxury. A country where even the most basic
infrastructure is absent can hardly produce anything worth value in basic
As for utility-driven research, Pakistan has no industry which
requires such research. Almost all of Pakistan's industry is operating on a
turn-key basis, requiring technicians, not PhDs. Its defence sector does have a
genuine need for research, but that kind of research does not need 20,000 PhDs.
Even most of the defence-related research requires able technologists, not
scientists, although the difference is seldom understood in Pakistan.
emphatic speeches calling for scientific research turn into a soup with too many
arbitrary components. To spice these speeches, the speakers often add national
pride to their recipe. In almost all public forums, the lament is always about
Pakistan not producing enough science. (When the occasion demands, "Pakistan" is
replaced with "Muslim world.") What does it mean to say that Pakistan does not
produce enough science? Those who repeat this slogan-like statement ad nauseam
mean that Pakistanis do not publish enough papers in international scientific
journals. They assume that science is some kind of international race in which
each country is supposed to take part, and since Pakistan is far behind in the
race, it is a matter of national shame. The fact is that there is no such race;
every country contributing to the global scientific knowledge is doing so
through an integrated system in which its industry, education and economy are
all inter-linked to each other, and, whatever scientific knowledge is produced,
it is produced through this integrated system which benefits its economy. In
Pakistan, this linkage has never existed.
Under the maverick leadership
of the HEC Chairman, Pakistan is supposed to bypass all these necessary links
and achieve a scientific renaissance through an ad hoc process in which a
self-styled visionary makes all the decisions about what should be done. The
result is utter disaster and colossal waste. For example, the HEC Chairman
announced on June 25, 2005, that HEC has sanctioned 180 million rupees ($3
million) for the establishment of a 5 MeV tandem Van de Graaf accelerator to be
housed at the National Centre for Physics at Quaid-e-Azam University. The
announcement came amid all the fanfare with which such announcements are made.
But the few journalists listening to the announcement had no idea that such Van
de Graaf machines are now museum pieces, if not basic junk. Those who sat on the
left and right of the HEC Chairman with broad smiles either had no knowledge or
no moral courage, or neither, to say a word about why and how this decision was
made. Those who pointed out the folly behind buying such junk were quickly
HEC decides that Pakistan needs more universities. A
programme is launched to set up universities all over the country, even in
places where there are not even enough schools. But the Chairman wants to show
progress, activity. The solution is easy: take down the boards of existing
colleges, repaint them as such-and-such university, and you have universities
all over the country. Then initiate a publicity orgy and claim that HEC has
increased the number of universities in the country from 23 to 47. The number
game may satisfy the egos of some, but to an objective observer, the future of
science and higher education in Pakistan looks bleak because there is no
backbone to this whole effort.
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org - The News
"Sir, I am totally agreed with you. You have analyzed very well the number game of HEC. These PhD's only be beneficial if the government established new high standard universities and research centers and appoint only sincere people. Otherwise these PhD's will move to other countries and proved to be brain drain for Pakistan and they will be treated as a source of foreign reserves for the country just like other overseas employees incase they send money to their native land. They might also be helpful for the Country if they work outside the county and after getting more experience of their relative fields, they come back and stat working for the country."
Name: Muhammad Qasim Yousaf
City, Country: Gujrat, Pakistan
"Salam, I salute you sir.You have rightly analyzed. However I would like to add more. I have always fought the rote system and have suffered by low academic grades and criticism from home and relatives. I need to say that rote system is wrong and this rogue educational system is producing trash. People graduate and do masters but dont even know the basics. New education system should be introduced. Objective type should have 70% consisting conceptual questions. Trained teachers should be there in the educational institutions. Early education is the most important. It should be emphasized and improved. If the foundations are strong then the later education is more easy to gain. As you are talking of skilled workers. The government has to enforce laws for the industrialists to increase the wages of skilled workers. Otherwise no one will be motivated to spend money for fees for acquiring expertise in any field. "
City, Country: Lahore, Pakistan
"Pakistan is ruled by illiterates in each and every ground and need to continue on similar ground. National need to suffer under these illiterates till the time system is completely collapsed. In developed nations rules, thinker and write encourage research in all disciplined where research is building block of society. Basic goals are to produce researcher where tools are not preferred. Tools and equipment can be produced by these researches. Foundation of research is building block and foundation of these nation. I strongly disagree and find most un-desirable view I have ever seen"
City, Country: Sweden
Post your Feedback about information available on this page.