HEC’s new PhD policy sparks concern in academic circles

Policy enables enrolment after bachelors degree, permits thesis review by local experts, increases courseload

Safdar Rizvi January 11, 2021


The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan has drafted a new policy regarding PhD admissions with some notable changes, which is garnering widespread attention from students as well as academic circles.

In a historic first, students will be able to pursue a PhD degree in another discipline if the policy makes the cut. A major aspect of the new policy is that it enables candidates to undertake PhD studies directly after four years of the BS programme.

Moreover, the policy removes the requirement to send PhD dissertations to foreign experts for review and dissertations can now be sent to Pakistani experts too for the purpose. The maximum duration of a PhD degree will be eight years, with the minimum being three years.

The new policy, applicable from January 1, 2021, will require students to spend at least two years in their home country during their PhD studies.

As the HEC has not yet issued an official notification on the implementation of the policy, a few universities have scrambled to begin correspondence with the authority on the implications and future course of action.

A letter has been sent by the University of Karachi to the HEC regarding new admissions in the PhD programme.

The HEC has termed the policy binding for the universities citing the powers conferred upon the regulator under the Higher Education Commission Ordinance 2002.

The policy states that in case of non-implementation or violation, action can be initiated such as “warning to universities, suspension of admissions, suspension or revocation of NOC for admissions, public alert and non-verification of credentials”.

Taking stock of the academic standards across Pakistan, the new initiative will keep the CGPA cut off at 3.0 or securing a First Class division degree as a requisite for aspiring students.

Despite the HEC stating that a MS or MPhil degree leading to a PhD programme will be defunct henceforth, candidates will still be allowed to get an MPhil or MS degree if they meet the required standards during the course of their doctoral studies.

The matter of credit hours, however, has presented a conundrum for academic circles. The policy mentioned that a student pursuing a PhD will have to take up a course load of 48 credit hours. The new policy states if a student has completed an MS/MPhil degree in the same discipline, the university can reduce 50 per cent of their required credit hours for the PhD programme. At present PhD programmes at universities vary between 12 to 18 credit hours courseload.

In light of the new policy, all previous policy notifications issued by the HEC have been made redundant.

Vice Chancellor of the NED University, Dr Surosh Hashmat Lodhi, shed light on the upcoming changes in the PhD programme, saying: “The positive aspect is that the policy has increased the number of courses (credit hours). People pursue PhD after a bachelor’s degree all over the world”.

Meanwhile, Dr Hasan Kazmi of the University of Karachi laid emphasis on the importance of research and funding. “It is an uphill task to pay the salaries of the employees from the grant being provided to the university by the HEC. The university lacks labortaries, research facilities and an adequate grant.”


Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2021.


Ali | 3 years ago | Reply

Good steps. 

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