Saturday, 21 May 2011

An Article by Dr. Javaid Laghari PhD

Higher education reform
By Dr Javaid Laghari

DURING the past month, much debate has taken place on the status and performance of higher education. Many articles have been written and seminars held articulating various viewpoints.
It is important to review and analyse all with an open mind to further improve the performance and quality of the education sector. We need to address weaknesses and build on strengths.
Discussions have ranged from whether higher education should continue as is to whether it should function under an amended law, or whether it should be devolved. The Supreme Court has clearly judged that higher education and research is protected under the 18th Amendment and cannot be devolved. But this does not and should not rule out the participatory role of provinces in further strengthening higher education.
The provinces should consider establishing autonomous provincial councils modelled on the Higher Education Commission (HEC) which should focus first on improving quality at colleges, which is a provincial subject.
It is also important to have an inclusive role of the provinces in policymaking at the HEC. The concerns of the smaller and less-developed provinces need to be addressed on the equitable distribution of resources, and on the provision of enhanced services at provincial capitals.
Scholarships, foreign and local, are currently awarded purely on merit through a national examination based on a policy approved by the former government, and not on a provincial basis. Approval is being sought from the prime minister to approve of awarding them on the basis of provincial quota in the future.
Development grants to the universities were awarded on an equitable basis as per geographical needs. After the passage of the 18th Amendment, they are now being distributed as per the National Finance Commission award.
Similarly, recurring grants are presently given as per university enrolment, based on a university-approved formula, and not on the basis of provincial population. A consideration here could be that any addition to the recurring grant be distributed as per provincial population, subject to the consensus of the universities.
The HEC has already started work on enhancing and strengthening the role of its regional centres for the provision of its services (attestation and equivalence, training, scholarship processing and interviews, etc.). Most services will now also be available at the provincial capitals. This will facilitate capacity-building at the provincial level, and will go a long way in strengthening provincial harmony and federal-provincial relations in higher education.
Other debate has been academic in nature, and concerns have been raised that the HEC has focused on quantity rather than quality. A large number of quality programmes have been initiated and implemented in the last couple of years, and these results will become visible soon. Yet the criticism continues unabated.
One criticism has been in the context of the foreign faculty hiring programme. However, performance evaluation shows that 330 foreign faculty hired have been responsible for the award of 97 PhD and 405 MPhil degrees to date, in addition to publishing 1,165 journal papers.
A strict performance criterion is now in place for the renewal of all foreign faculty contracts. All approved PhD supervisors have been reviewed for the limit of supervision. MPhil and PhD programmes that do not have minimum relevant full-time faculty are being asked to close down. The backlog of plagiarism cases has been taken up aggressively and universities asked to take action, otherwise these degrees will not be recognised. Centres of Excellence and Area Study Centres have been evaluated, weaknesses identified and remedial measures implemented. Two private universities not fulfilling the minimum criteria have been stopped from offering new admissions.
To improve the quality of teaching, learning innovation and faculty development programmes are being rejuvenated. Four accreditation councils that were recently established have developed policies and criteria for the improvement and rating of programmes. Their responsibilities include recommending and introducing modern changes to the curriculum.
The councils need to ensure that all recommended changes trickle down to the programmes for implementation so that the quality of the curricula improves. Then, 84 Quality Enhancement Cells have been established at universities which are presently assessing 31 standards in 740 programmes and will report to the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) at the HEC. The capacity of these quality cells are being developed and enhanced through the QAA-UK
A pilot run of Institutional Performance Evaluation of programmes is currently being conducted, which will be extended to all universities and the results published later this year. This exercise will lead to the first-ever evaluation of universities and the ranking of programmes across Pakistan. This will facilitate students and parents in choosing universities, as well as potential employers for placements.
An area of concern at certain universities is poor governance. Universities have been asked to appoint chairmen and deans who fulfil the criteria of a full professor, and to refrain from appointing retired individuals in administrative positions. Qualifications for appointment as lecturers are being enhanced to have a minimum requirement of MPhil.
On the appointment of vice-chancellors, a dialogue has been initiated with the chancellors to ensure that positions are advertised and a search committee of distinguished individuals quantitatively short-lists candidates and interviews them. The chancellor then appoints from the top three. The qualifications and independent nature of the search committee, and the academic qualification, maximum age, numbers of terms and performance review of serving VCs are among the ongoing deliberations.
Research that is inter-disciplinary, inter-provincial and global and relevant to socio-economic needs is being supported. Two successful international programmes are Inspire with UK universities and British Council funding, and the US S & T Cooperation with US universities. Offices of research, innovation and commercialisation, and incubators are being established in universities (subject to funding) that will bridge research to industry. Three centres in the priority and interdisciplinary areas of water resources, energy and food security are also under development with USAID funding.
Quality education must be made accessible to all. Pakistan should reform and set new standards if we aspire to become a developed nation.
The writer is the chairperson of the Higher Education Commission.

Thursday, 19 May 2011



Higher Education Commission is organizing an exhibition titled
“Display of High profile University Academic Research projects,
one day conference, Setting standards for 21st Century Pakistan-Universities Building Economies, on 26th May 2011” at Serena Hotel, Islamabad.

Monday, 9 May 2011 is conducting a survey on the HEC Issue

حکومتی تعلیمی دہشت گردی -HEC کی تحلیل!

جعلی ڈگریوں والے عوامی نمائندوں نے اب اپنا بدلہ لینے کے لیے پاکستان کے معتبر تعلیمی کمیشن " ہائیر ایجوکیشن کمیشن " (HEC) کو نشانہ بنا لیا ہے- پاکستان سمیت دنیا کی دیگر یونیورسٹیوں کے وائس چانسلرز نے اس ادارے کے اختتام یا تحلیل کی سخت مخالفت کی ہے- لیکن ہمارے " عوامی نمائندوں " نے جعلی ڈگریوں کی تصدیق کی سزا دینے سمیت٬ HEC کے 40 ارب روپے کے سالانہ بجٹ کو ہڑپ کرنے کا ارادہ کر لیا ہے-

پاکستانی عوام سے اپیل ہے کہ حکومت کے اس تعلیم مخالفانہ عمل کی بھرپور مخالفت کا اظہار ہر فورم پر کیا جائے-

آپ اپنی رائے کا اظہار ہماری ویب کے اس فورم پر بھی کر سکتے ہیں-

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Article in the current issue of Newsweek by Javaid R. Laghari, PhD

Running Out
Pakistan risks being left behind.
By Javaid R. Laghari | From the May 6‚ 2011‚ issue
Behrouz Mehri / AFP
Innovation and entrepreneurship helped the U.S. become an economic powerhouse in the 20th century. Today, thanks to an increasingly interconnected world, the same innovation and entrepreneurship have become driving forces for emerging economies aspiring to become economic giants. The world’s economic center of gravity is slowly shifting from the West to the East. According to a 2010 World Bank report on the economic future of the world, the size of developing economies as a group will surpass developed economies by 2015. This is happening because emerging economies are no longer content to provide cheap, low-cost labor. Instead, they are transforming, and leading the way in recovering from the economic crisis of 2008-09.
Two important forces are driving this change—the information and communications technology revolution, and increased investment in higher education, technical training, research and innovation. This should be Pakistan’s focus if it wants to emulate the success of other emerging economies.
There has been a steady shift as companies moved eastward for labor that was not just cheap, but also technically proficient and well educated. From producing next-generation cellular phones and tablet computers to handling airline reservations and healthcare emergencies, emerging economies are taking the lead. American IT giant IBM now employs more people in developing countries than it does in America.
There are currently 2 billion Internet users around the world. The largest numbers are in Asia, with about 825 million, followed by Europe and North America, with only 475 million and 266 million respectively. China, with over 450 million people online, is the largest nation online. Compare that to the U.S., which has around 240 million. In cellular phones too, China leads with 842 million phones, far ahead of the 285 million in the U.S.
Pakistan is moving forward on this front. For a population of 180 million, cell phone connections had hit 100 million by 2010. Broadband Internet connections were just under a million in 2010, but had shown significant growth over previous years.
But where we really need to emulate successful emerging economies is higher education, which has seen a boom. In China, student enrollment for higher education grew from 1 million to 5.5 million between 1997 and 2007. China has built the largest higher education sector in the world in just a decade. Currently, it stands second behind the U.S. in terms of research output. But not for long. Britain’s Royal Society expects China to leapfrog the U.S. into first place by 2013. That China will become the world’s largest economy by 2020, overtaking the U.S., is strongly linked to its growth in higher education and research. There has been a similar expansion of higher education in India, which is predicted to become the world’s third largest economy by 2050.
Other economies are following in China and India’s footsteps. Saudi Arabia established the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in 2009 with a $10 billion endowment and the aim to become a center for excellence in research and innovation. In Southeast Asia, Malaysia is developing an ‘EduCity’ across the Singapore border, with a development zone three times the size of Singapore. Indonesia has over 4 million higher education students, three times more than Pakistan. Smaller Gulf countries, like the U.A.E. and Qatar, have also established academic cities.
There has been a higher education revolution in Pakistan as well over the last eight years, with over 66 new universities having been set up. University enrollment has tripled. Research has grown six-fold in the last five years, and the number of Ph.D.s awarded has quadrupled. Research centers focused on energy, water, and agriculture are being established at leading universities. But that is now threatened by politics, and there is fear that this progress will halt and higher education will again stagnate or, worse, regress in Pakistan.
We cannot afford that in a world that is moving forward very rapidly. Other economies that were once at the same level as us are competing in science, technology, innovation and research with the big powers of the world. With myriad security threats to the country, and bad governance plaguing most sectors, we cannot afford to be left behind. Coupled with infrastructure development for information and communication, Pakistan must maintain its push to improve and expand higher education. That is the only way forward, and if done right, Pakistan too can become a successful emerging economy.
Laghari is chairman of the Higher Education Commission.