Hoodbhoy feels restructuring better than saving old HEC

Physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy points out flaws within the existing structure.

Rizwan Shehzad December 22, 2012


Instead of saving the existing Higher Education Commission (HEC), it should be restructured, suggested Pervez Hoodbhoy.

The physicist, at The Second Floor on Friday, spoke about the restricted mandate of the HEC, which has already collapsed due to corruption.

He described HEC’s performance in the past 10 years as a drive to achieve numbers rather than quality. There was a huge expansion in universities when colleges were upgraded, which, he believed, was a good thing to a certain extent. But expansion had to keep some kind of quality and that wasn’t there, he pointed out.

Around 12,000 students were sent abroad for PhDs, but they should have been chosen to be “the best of the best” and unfortunately that was not the case, he said.

Hoodbhoy felt that the idea of mega projects - such as, establishing European universities in Pakistan and buying equipment such as the pelletron accelerator - created an absolute mess in the HEC and the remaining things were spoiled by corruption. HEC spent around Rs400 million to import the pelletron machine, which not only became outdated in the 1970s but also had no use in Pakistan, he said, describing the machine as “a good museum piece”.

Pervez Hoodbhoy

Plagiarism also became common once the commission stressing more on quantity rather than quality. “There was a rush to write research papers and some people started producing as many as 50 papers a year,” said Hoodbhoy. “The quality of research papers was far below the international standards - these scholars started becoming teachers and bad teachers started producing bad students.”

Citing examples of bad papers, Hoodbhoy pulled up a research paper published on HEC’s website on ‘chromotherapy’ that described a method through which one can be cured just by looking at different colours. Hoodbhoy showed the same paper to a Nobel laureate physicist, who called the paper “rubbish” and proved how the theory was flawed. But HEC’s former chairperson Javed Laghari simply shrugged and said that, “Nobel Prize winners have their own opinions.”

The idea behind establishing the HEC was that “much good will come once a great amount of money is spent, but that was not the case”.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2012.


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zubair | 8 years ago | Reply

@Anwar: Your criticism on HEC's research culture is based on a single professor's work or based on a few more stories like this one. I don't think that one can judge the performance of an institution on the basis of a few "bad researchers" and neglecting the overall efforts of the institution. The same analytic mistake is made by PH in this article. Secondly, HEC promotion criteria for professor needs only 18-20 publications in total. If a person publishes 200 journal papers a year as you mentioned (and by the way being an active researcher I am astonished to see this number and its hard to believe; it seems to be a fabricated fact; you may share his research ID for reference) , it has nothing to do with his promotion anymore. As he is not claiming any more benefits so let the scientific community decide about the impact of his research; To have publications in low impact factor journals is not a crime; I cannot decide the quality of one's research just on the basis of his impact factor only; The only thing I should care about is that the journal should be peer-reviewed and be included in the ISI IF list. And please be informed that any journal included in recognized journals list cannot be treated as "less known journal" as you said. Thirdly, about the role of higher education in the country; please consider that we are still short of highly qualified faculty in our universities after having 10 times more enrollment than past; and if you cannot provide highly qualified faculty to the universities, you will not get good engineers/scientists ans so there will be no human resource available for technological developments in Pakistan. And finally, its strange to hear that now people are arguing that "as the manufacturing sector is dead so we don't need higher education"; Is HEC responsible for sinking manufacturing sector or the leaders who also want to sink the higher education sector?

Ali Hassan | 8 years ago | Reply

I believe it was 10 - 15 papers in a year. I was there too and live tweeted the event. @enspec

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