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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Universities in Pakistan need Imran Khan’s special attention

Dr. Zohaib Zahid discusses how HEC's inefficiency has led to universities violating rules without any accountability. This has led to a deplorable condition of the higher education system of Pakistan, and it needs PM Khan's urgent attention.

Higher Education and research have not yet come into the radar of Prime Minister Imran Khan though his first point on the historic Proceeding of Lahore on 29th April 2018 was Education, Research and Higher education.

Apart from amending the Higher Education Commission Act, a very welcome step taken by the government, nothing extraordinary has been accomplished in the field of research to bring quality education to the Universities of Pakistan, specifically the provinces governed by the PTI-led government.

Focus on quantity (Number of Students) in the universities is only adding miseries at the international level because of intellectual inferiority as the higher education in Pakistan does not have the capacity to compete at the international level with very few exceptions.

Read more: State of Education: 70% of Punjab’s Universities without VCs

In the past three years, since PM Imran Khan was sworn in, the prime focus of various universities has been to increase the number of students (quantity), setting aside the need for quality education to compete at the international level.

The issue of quality education was addressed by the then Minister of Science and Technology Mr. Fawad Chaudhry through his tweet on 20th December 2020 stressing his desire and reiterated advice to the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan to reform the universities by changing the syllabus and appoint the most capable professionals and researchers in universities but to no avail.

The idea was reaffirmed by Dr. Shahbaz Gill on the same date through a tweet saying that the focus of the universities is only on the quantity and the least attention is paid to quality education. Dr. Gill further said the Universities have not been able to introduce quality in BA education but are producing loads of PhDs neglecting the prime needs of quality education and research.

Read more: The unfairness of ‘over-qualified’ PhDs in Balochistan

Rampant violation of HEC rules

Ironically, the two cabinet members publicly addressed their grievances about the miserable condition of higher education but little has been done yet. HEC has miserably failed to implement its own rules and regulations in true letter and spirit in various universities and the universities are burning the midnight oil to increase the number. The following measures can help bring transparency and quality education and research in universities.

The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan fails to take timely actions against irregularities in various private and public sector universities in case of violations of rules. The delayed actions by the HEC encourage the universities to violate rules to incept new programs. The illegally initiated programs move on and the degrees awarded as a result get verification by HEC.

This leniency by the HEC is one of the sole reasons to decrease quality education as the inception of new research programs by the universities without the approval of HEC has never been called for the real question and none is penalized effectively.

Read more: How to upgrade higher education in Pakistan?

Although, the HEC issues, alerts, notifications, and directions to the universities and general masses but the same get ignored and ultimately the HEC surrenders to avoid litigation and verifies the unlawful and illegal programs and degrees started and issued by the universities resulting in a downfall of already debilitating quality education.

The universities play a damaging role in quality education by paying more attention to increase the number of students ignoring all the standards of quality education by lowering down the merit and inappropriate proportion of human and physical resources.

The universities prefer to show quantity to authorities as the emergence of quality education takes time and results appear after years but, on the contrary, the quantity can be enhanced within two months and no mental effort is required as required in quality education.

To have a sudden rise in the number of students, the public sector universities are not left with another option than to violate the rules of HEC and their own statutes.

Read more: How to reform Pakistan’s education system? An unpopular opinion

Universities need effective reforms

The recruitments in the universities are in violation of the rules and regulations putting an immense financial burden on the budget of universities certified by the Anti-corruption Establishment Punjab after conducting an inquiry on the special orders of Punjab government to find out the discrepancies and irregularities in the past decade from 2008 to 2018 recommended strict legal action against this crime.

The report was published in print and electronic media on January 01, 2021. The report recommended curbing the emergency powers bestowed to the heads of the universities finding them the real cause of maladministration, a real threat to the quality of education. The proposed actions in the report will help bring transparency in recruitment procedures supporting the dream to have quality education in higher institutes and universities.

Read more: Understanding the loopholes in Pakistan’s education system

Founder of Namal University in Pakistan and the Ex Chancellor of Bradford University (2005-2014), the incumbent Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan needs to take the issue of quality education in higher education institutes at top priority to transform the research standards in the universities.

The universities in Pakistan are badly suffering from corruption and nepotism after the completion of three years under his premiership. Special attention needs to be paid by the education minister Dr. Shafqat Mahmood on the deplorable condition of higher education institutes and universities to reform them.

Dr. Shahbaz Gill, Ph.D. degree holder, must play his role to transform quality education with his experience and knowledge of research.

Read more: Learning outcomes: Has our education system failed to harness student potential?

The writer is a PhD holder and is an Assistant Professor at Islamia University Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan Campus. He can be reached at:zahidzohaib13@gmail.com.The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.