A majority of PhD candidates I have met in the last few years got enrolled or intended to enroll in the doctorate programme after failing to secure a job after their last academic degree. This might have been a favorable option for them, but should not be the sole motivation for a PhD degree.

If you think of it with patience, what do you think would happen to Pakistan’s fate if its universities ceased to produce PhDs. Pakistan’s growth rate would deescalate from 5.8%, industries would shut down, energy crisis would go out of hand and libraries would face a shutdown. You might think so, but that is far from the truth. Instead, Pakistan would save loads of money allocated in the name of “higher education”.

Let us consider Pakistani academics. Most think that a research and development culture was promoted by granting hefty funds for research laboratories, research equipment and instruments under the leadership of Dr Atta-Ur-Rahman, a well-known scientist and the first chairman of Higher Education Commission of Pakistan when it was set up in 2002. He took several initiatives, like introduction of PhD allowance, productivity allowance, faculty positions, salaries; along with publications, travel grants, and encouragement to Pakistani PhDs to undertake post-doctoral programmes abroad.

And what do international organizations think about these initiatives. Thomson Reuters, a Canadian multinational mass media, reported that in the last 10 years, Pakistan emerged as the country with highest percentage of Highly Cited Papers, compared to Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Moreover, it said scientific productivity had increased by a factor of 4, from 2,000 papers per year in 2006, to more than 9,000 papers in 2015 and over 12,000 papers at the moment. So, technically, Pakistani scholars have improved scientific productivity much more than Russians and Chinese.

HEC has a voracious appetite for these so-called “papers” and frames policies in accordance. It has made Pakistan an academic paper-mill. In fact, HEC closely links perks, promotions, foreign trips an pays etc to the number of papers produced

 

That sounds great, but is it? What Thomson Reuters failed to understand was that the HEC has a voracious appetite for these so-called “papers” and frames policies in accordance. It has made Pakistan an academic paper-mill. In fact, HEC closely links perks, promotions, foreign trips an pays etc to the number of papers produced.

Interestingly, an average university has become no more than an academic paper-mill.  A teacher joins as an instructor, but each of his or her promotion is dependent on the number of papers and number of PhD students supervised. The instructors then get promoted as assistant professors, associate professors, and then full professors. Some even go on to receive civil awards.

So what are the real measures needed to be adopted? Well, here’s an example. The US has one of the best education systems generally and higher education specifically. Why? Their experts and educationist continually assess their student’s learning and behavior-research over research. Every graduate must be qualifying the test GRE (Graduate Record Examination). Professors are looked up to author groundbreaking books, not low quality, copy-paste academic papers. Professors know the art of inducing critical thinking in students and unlocking creativity zones. Professors must be masters in teaching their subjects.

A reputed Professor at Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, Dr Farhan Saif has been on record as saying that the “gradual decline of higher education over last fifteen years has seen today a scientific culture based on greed, nepotism and superficial activism”.

Conclusion

Currently, the research and development culture is becoming a mere rat-race by the day at the hands of dishonest academics. And the onus must fall on HEC for this academic rot. The HEC must revise its policies and role. A fair culture of research and critical thinking must be emboldened. And the focus must now be on producing and sanctioning research based on real world problems, rather than one that is only focusing on adding to the existing tally of worthless studies by incompetent academics.

 

The views and opinions expressed in the article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views and policy of The Academia Magazine.

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