Why Higher Education Confusion? By Muneer Ahmed Mirjat

HIGHER education plays an important role in the socio-economic development of the countries.

In Pakistan, the Higher Education Commission was established in 2002 as a catalyst for developing a quality research culture in the higher education institutions.

During the last two decades, the higher education sector has given hope to the youth for better opportunities in terms of better jobs in the market.

Over the years, many individuals remained against the reforms the Higher Education Commission introduced and they tried to promote individual cases of failure to divert the attention of the youth and donors from this sector.

It is an established truth that investment made on the youth always repays, as the same has happened in the developed world, which secured progress through research and innovation.

After the Second World War, most nations focused on it and not only fulfilled their local demand for various products but also earned a lot from exporting such items.

As we struggled in the agriculture and industrial revolution, our policy-makers tried to join the ICT revolution which is still on.

Resultantly, most students are self-employed due to the opportunities made available through internet access at the national level.

There is a dire need to align all fragmented efforts of the Government to promote research culture in-country is the need of the hour.

Institutions like Pakistan Science Foundation, National Agricultural Research Council, Pakistan Council for Science and Technology etc.

, are a few institutions that work independently per their law with little or no direct liaison with other institutions like universities.

As a result, such fragmented efforts are not owned by any institution(s). The findings and expenses incurred on these remained without a return on investment.

On the one hand, spending on higher education and relevant initiatives is not increased as per demand, and on the other hand, highly skilled human resources are expected to be produced for universities and post-graduate institutions.

This week, it was reported that NUST has developed the first indigenous Microprocessor, although Microprocessor was invented more than 50 years ago.

Let us appreciate the scientists and researchers who have achieved this milestone and expect more such innovations in the future.

The NUST has provided resources, environment and support to all researchers for this achievement and other institutions can follow this good practice.

As the access to higher education increases over the years, and some institutions are opened without a proper market survey to determine the demand for the relevant programs, a major confusion is created for all graduates regarding relevant opportunities.

Like we spent very little or no time on the purpose of life, i.e. why are we here? In the same manner, students never think about it i.e. Why are they studying a specific subject?

There must be a proper analysis of the demand for specific skills in the market, and then programs may be designed.

The different varieties of nomenclature of degrees offered by the universities are creating another confusion for employers to whom they may hire.

The confusion in higher education does not end here. The interpretation of different professional councils of respective policies is another major cause of concern.

The federal and provincial recruitment bodies are often confused due to various degrees of nomenclature.

The solution is to have uniform nomenclature of degrees in different disciplines. The HEIs may conduct survey studies to assess demand for any planned discipline and then develop syllabus or course content.

The degree nomenclature should be according to the approved rules of the Pakistan Qualification Register and Undergraduate Education Policy if it is an undergraduate degree.

These details should be shared six months before admissions are announced. Through the Academic Committee of the Commission, Higher Education Commission may register that degree nomenclature with the proper code as per National Qualification Register.

It will help address all stakeholders’ confusion relevant to all degrees. Sometimes, universities and employers blame the degree equivalence system for creating confusion in the letters issued to individuals for their foreign qualifications, although, a little effort is required to interpret those letters.

As there is always room for improvement; therefore, the equivalence system may be updated on the World Education Service (WES) pattern.

Moreover, most foreign qualifications have detailed information about the qualification in the same Diploma Supplement Form, which determines level, relevance and specialization areas.

Another major confusion these days is faced by the university teachers considering different appointment systems as a victimization tool, although each system is developed keeping specific outcomes in mind.

The incentive-based appointment systems are introduced worldwide to increase research productivity and innovation, but due to favouritism and other reasons, the faculty members are not comfortable with it.

The standards set by the HEC as Qualification, Publications and Experience are the minimum requirements; otherwise, universities are autonomous bodies and may stringent these requirements as per their requirements.

There is a need to have active involvement of all stakeholders for addressing various confusion, and using a database of queries, manuals and guides can help avoid confusion during studies and employment.

—The writer is Deputy Director at Higher Education Commission, Islamabad.​

Source: Published in Pak Observer

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