ISLAMABAD: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has directed universities to stop intake in 42 PhD programmes while 25 others have been told to halt proceedings in several disciplines.
Interestingly, there are several institutes which are still running these programmes, in violation of HEC warnings.
Around 192 minor deficiencies have been reported across the country in different disciplines, ranging from social to natural sciences.
‘Halted’ programmes are where universities are directed to cease the programme, including the conduction of classes, examinations, thesis defenses, awarding degrees and new enrollments, until granted permission by the commission.
Institutions told to ‘stop’ further intake are not permitted to admit any new scholar, while enrolled students may continue subject to the rectification of identified deficiencies.
‘Minor deficiencies’ inlcude not holding board of studies meetings, and missing laboratory equipment, among others.
As per the HEC policy, a supervisor may take only five students for a PhD programme at a time, but many faculty have been found supervising over 10 scholars each.
According to the PhD review committee report, there are currently over 110 degree awarding institutions (DAIs) offering PhD programmes. The commission’s Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has begun a review of these programmes from January 2014 and present; 286 programmes from 46 DAIs have been reviewed thus far.
According to HEC rules, a varsity should have at least two full-time PhD faculty members in a department offering MS/ MPhil programmes, and at least three full-time PhD faculty to launch a PhD programme. However, several varsities do not comply with this requirement.
Others infractions include violating set rules of quality with insufficient faculty, substandard research work and poor infrastructure. Similarly, it is surprising that these figures are only from 46 DAIs, as most of the MS/ MPhil and equivalent degree programmes have not undergone any external quality assurance.
The review process started in December 2014, and has reviewed 87 programmes so far.
According to the report, 10 programmes of Bahauddin Zakaria University (BZU), Multan, were stopped, four were halted and 16 others were found with minor deficiencies. HEC also stopped the varsity earlier this year when it started its PhD in social sciences, with no specification on what the degree entails.
Dr Ijaz Rana, the varsity’s dean for social sciences, accepted the HEC’s findings and said they were addressing the discrepancies.
“We are writing to them about our compliance within a few days,” he said.
Meanwhile, the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, was found with a high number of anomalies in its PhD programme, as three of its programmes were halted while another 31 were found with minor deficiencies.
To a question, the QAA said Al-Khair University (AKU), Bhimber, AJK; Lahore Leads University (LLU); Preston University (PU), Islamabad Campus and BZU, Multan were not complying with the HEC’s recommendations.
Similarly, many universities have a knack for deceiving the commission’s teams by presenting fake staff and facilities.
The QAA found that LLU tried to show faculty and facilities from other universities as their own.
When asked about their enrollment status by the commission, AKU and LLU were found to have increased their students on record.
“More than 40 per cent of students were fake, and hence withdrawn from the list after inquiry,” the QAA stated. As per the report, the business administration department of PU has 10 faculty members and 55 students, to which the HEC recommended that further intake be stopped.
PU Academics Adviser Javed Khan denied any such findings and said they complied with all HEC requirements.
The commission’s chairperson told The Express Tribune that they have finalised various monitoring groups to visit 172 universities, including sub-campuses and affiliated colleges.
“This time, we will not leave any university as we cannot compromise on quality in higher education,” said Dr Mukhtar Ahmed.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2015.