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LAHORE: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has found gross violations of its regulations by the Punjab University and directed its administration to immediately stop new admissions to PhD and MPhil/ MS programmes.

A six-member committee of the HEC Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), led by Dr Adnan Sarwar Khan of the National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad, had visited the PU in January last to review its programmes. The committee in its report directed the PU administration to immediately stop further admissions to 27 PhD and 33 MPhil/ MS programmes.

PU Registrar Khalid Khan claims that the institution will leave no stone unturned to fulfill the requirements and have the programmes restored.

Registrar says varsity will work on meeting HEC criteria

The PU is offering PhD in 55 departments and 2,090 students are registered in these, while 69 departments are offering MPhil/MS equivalent programmes having 5,598 students on the rolls. The number of PhD qualified faculty in the university is 488 and MPhil/MS equivalent faculty has a strength of 249.

The HEC QAA report seeks immediate closure of the PhD degree programmes in the College of Art and Design, Gender Studies, the Center for High Energy Physics, Home Economics, and Philosophy and Polymer Technology. The committee directed officials to stop the admissions to Applied Hydrology, Applied Psychology, Arabic, Economics, Education, Entomology, Food Sciences and Technology, Geometrics, Horticulture, International Relations, Islamic Studies (Shaikh Zayed Islamic Studies), Pakistan Studies, Persian, Plant Pathology, Political Science, Public Health, Social Work, Sociology, Statistics, Urdu and Zoology.

The MPhil/MS equivalent programmes have been halted in the Art and Design, the Center for High Energy Physics, Gender Studies, Geographic Information System and Remote Sensing, Home Economics and Polymer Technology.

The committee also directed the authorities concerned to immediately stop the admissions to Applied Hydrology, Chemistry, Education, Policy Development, Entomology, Environmental Sciences, Food Sciences and Technology, Geometrics, Health and Administration, History, Horticulture, Human Resource Management, International Relations, Molecular Biology, Pakistan Studies, Plant Pathology, Political Science, Public Administration, Public Health, Social Work, Sociology, Speech Language Pathology, Statistics and Total Quality Management.

According to the report, there is minimum requirement of appointing three full-time relevant PhD faculty members for launching a PhD programme and two full-time relevant PhD holders for MPhil/MS programme.

The committee also noted that the students were being supervised by other departments with different specializations. It said, “there is only one PhD teacher employed in the programmes of MPhil/PhD Gender Studies and a number of MPhil/PhD students are under the supervision of the faculty of other departments.” Also, the students of the MBIT are being supervised by the officials of other universities.

“Courses and codes as approved by the Academic Council and are actually taught at the MPhil level programmes are not consistent as is the case of MPhil Coal Technology,” says the report.

It also points out that the student-teacher ratio in many programmes was not followed according to the guidelines prescribed by the HEC. For example, Dr Farah Malik is supervising eight students of PhD Applied Psychology.

Also, there are a number of enrollments in the programmes such as Sociology, Education, Chemistry, Islamic Studies and Social Work that have dearth of PhD faculty.

The report also highlights an anomaly that the minimum and maximum duration of graduate level programmes was not being followed.

During the interaction with students, the committee noted that the students had to wait for a long time for allocation of supervisor after completion of their coursework. Moreover, the students had to wait for their dissertation defence after submission of their theses.

It was observed that after the completion of coursework, the PhD students must appear in the comprehensive examination within one month. “However, this is not followed as observed in most of the cases.”

The report further points out that there is a lack of inter-departmental coordination due to which the academic and research resources (i.e., equipment/consumables) are not being used when needed by the students of different departments.

The revision in curricula of various programmes, says the report, has not been regularly undertaken as is the case of MPhil Botany. Furthermore, the NOCs have not been obtained from the QAD-HEC for the programmes launched after Nov 7, 2013 such as PhD Polymer Technology, and MS GIS/RS. Surprisingly, the MS GIS/RS programme was launched in the absence of PhD faculty.

The committee observed that as per student and teacher feedback obtained during the review visit, the review committee noted that the students were not fully aware of the use and benefit of the HEC digital library.

The PU registrar said they would request the HEC to review the ban after fulfilling the minimum criteria of starting PhD and MPhil programmes. He said the administration would implement the decision in Fall semester admissions.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2019