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HEC affairs

June 17, 2019

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THIS is with reference to the article ‘HEC: stormy times up ahead’ (May 25). To me this was another attempt to advance the interest of one of the key officials for strengthening undergraduate education against that of another highly acclaimed academic and scientist who worked for the promotion of research and development in the country.

Indeed strong undergraduate programmes are important for producing competent scientists. But we want to revamp our entire education system, including the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, to produce competent and productive human resource. At the same time it would be unwise to suffocate the institutions and the scientists, especially those who exhibited capability and have shown productivity as a result of healthy support in the previous years.

Moreover, fellowships under split Ph.D. programmes, funding for faculty research, research fellowships, travel grants for participation in conferences, recognition of productivity through awards, etc., have contributed to research in our institutions. Many of these practices are components of international practices.

Priority for education and for R&D activity in our country has remained the subject of debate. We spend less than 3% and 0.3% of our GDP on education and R&D activities respectively. These figures, lower compared to even many developing countries, show an abysmally low priority for these sectors. We must make substantial increases in funding to meet the needs for improving education at all levels as well as strengthening R&D activities, which are vital for our development and economic growth.

Regarding the unethical issues in our science it is true that to make the figures of published papers and patents more impressive, often unethical practices have been employed. Also many of the PhD. degrees awarded by our institutions would fall well short of the acceptable standards. Such shortfalls, often reported from Western institutions also cannot be condoned. Strict measures must be undertaken to curb these practices by awarding exemplary punishments, but at the same time healthy, genuine and productive scientific activity must be allowed to keep going.

Prof. M. Waheed Akhtar

Lahore

(2)

ACCORDING to the Higher Education Commission (HEC), the travel grant/seminar and conference programme has not been stopped.

The commission says that only modalities of the programme are being reviewed to transfer decision making to the universities. The new guidelines are being prepared and will soon be shared with the universities.

Meanwhile, applications already been received are being processed and applicants, will be informed of the decision as soon as possible.

However, more than six months have passed but nothing has been decided as yet. Red-tapism, delaying tactics and time waste are a sort of dishonesty but are not considered so in our country.

Such carelessness is also one of the major causes of brain drain from Pakistan. This notification does not show any date of resumption of this facility.

In Western countries, if a road is blocked for repair, they mention time and date of its reopening. But resumption of research grants by the HEC has no deadline.

It seems academia and research have less significance in Pakistan than a blocked road. Who is responsible for our academia, which has been lagging behind its counterparts in the developing countries, and for the non-participation of Pakistani scholars in international conferences? If HEC rusts, all academic domains will rust.

Zafar Ullah

Islamabad

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2019