The Higher Education Commission (HEC) unilaterally passed a new PhD policy on January 1, entailing that BS students can get an admission into a PhD programme right after graduation. Considering that incompetent research, plagiarism and a lack of academic rigour already plague the education environment, the benefit of such a policy seems to be questionable. Focus seems to be misplaced now on producing larger quantities of doctoral candidates instead of capable ones. With most institutions dubious of this development, the HEC must step up and provide justifications.
According to this new policy, candidates do not need to send their dissertations to foreign experts for review, can pursue the degree in new fields and must have a minimum of a 3.0 CGPA. Furthermore, they must spend at least two years in Pakistan during their degree. As such, major restrictions that were effective in ensuring that excellence prevailed within the ambit of this degree have been removed. Now that they are more accessible, a clear shift has been made towards quantitative production rather than qualitative. Most graduates already battle inefficiencies within the system that stem from limited research facilities and academic dishonesty. With such a policy, matters are only made worse.
Another line of criticism that HEC has been subjected to is the fact that it took this decision without consulting major institutions, academics or administrative members. Furthermore, the HEC termed the policy to be binding for institutions. As such, non-compliance may result in warning, suspension of admissions, revocation of NOC, public alerts, non-verifications of documents and the like. Such regulatory action compels universities to adhere to the new law for the sake of their survival. Already, the HEC has not given concrete reasons as to why this decision was taken and what problem in the status quo they seek to rectify through it.
A positive way to move forward, and improve the academic situation, would be to counter violations like plagiarism, expand research platforms and introduce greater transparency within the system so that the work produced is nothing short of excellent.