Time to focus on a crucial sector of education
There was a time when a graduate in our society would proudly add BA to his name to flaunt the degree he had to his credit. It was because the people who had acquired education till that level were very few in number. Most people were either illiterate or had gone only to a school up till primary or middle level; even those who had done matriculation or intermediate were not many. So, graduation (or BA) was considered a matter of great honour and pride. But, with the passage of time, the levels and standards of education kept improving to such an extent that today the honour of being a graduate is a commonplace thing. Students are now acquiring education up to MA, MPhil and even PhD levels. The basic reason behind this state of affairs, on the one hand, is the availability of far more opportunities to acquire higher education than in the past while, on the other, making the maximum of those is increasingly becoming inevitable as it is the only way to earn a good status in this fast developing world.
So, educational elite in the form of PhD scholars is actually the very foundation upon which the edifice of a country’s development and growth is built. It is especially because these are the people who, by dint of research, open new vistas for their country to exploit a plethora of opportunities to grow and prosper. That’s why every country strives to produce more and more PhDs and for that purpose, they not only lay special emphasis on establishing more universities, and capacity building of the existing ones, but also send their students to other universities – sometimes on scholarships – for PhD level education so that the needs of the country are sufficiently and effectively met. They also invest in their local varsities so that may also produce quality PhD scholars.
This, exactly, was the strategy adopted in Pakistan after the establishment of Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (hereinafter HEC) and it has resulted in a substantial increase in the number of PhD scholars as well as the institutes which offer this topnotch degree. As per the latest figures – calculated on 17th of September 2018 – the number of HEC-accredited universities and Degree-awarding Institutions (DAIs) has reached 192 and 15,036 PhD degrees – 71 percent to males and 29 percent to males – have been awarded by these institutions.
However, despite this remarkable progress, the sector of PhD level education is, regrettably, mired in a number of problems. For instance, if supervisors are faced with a host of challenges, PhD scholars are also not immune to hardships while those who have done their doctorates are also grappling with daunting challenges. Moreover, the strategy of raising the number of universities so as to foster a culture of research has not borne fruit because out of Pakistan’s 192 universities or institutes of higher education, only 93 have been able to successfully complete doctoral programmes.
In other words, nearly half the universities in Pakistan could not produce even a single PhD. Since a doctorate degree takes 4-5 years to complete – the HEC has set a maximum period of eight years for completion of PhD – therefore, one would, naturally, be inclined to think that most Pakistani universities would have been established within the last five years, or so. But, that is not true because facts and figures tell a different story; as many as 41 of the country’s universities that are more than a decade old, and 33 of those established between 5 and 9 years ago, have not produced even a single PhD. It is further revealed that amongst the 99 universities/DAIs, which could not award doctoral degrees, 74 were established during the period between last 5 and 9 years.
Read More: Higher Education in Pakistan
An analysis of HEC’s Online PhD Country Directory and the number of universities/DAIs, as on 17th of September 2018, suggests that 25.8 percent of the 93 universities that have successfully completed doctorates chartered by the Punjab government, 24.7 percent by Sindh government, 23.7 percent by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government, 20.4 by the federal government, 3.2 percent by Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government and 2.2 percent by Balochistan government.
Likewise, out of 34 universities chartered by the KP government, 22 – sixty-five percent – have offered PhD programmes while this ratio for those chartered by the federal government was 51 percent, by provincial governments of Punjab and Sindh 44 percent and by AJK government 43 percent. On national level, only 48 percent of universities have been able to successfully complete PhD programmes. Nearly 41.6 percent of country’s total PhDs completed their degrees in the universities chartered by the provincial government of Punjab. Universities chartered by Sindh government stand at second position with 24.6 percent, followed by the federal government (22.2 percent) and KP government (10.6 percent). In addition, 95 percent of PhDs have been completed at public sector universities whereas only 5 percent in the private sector.
In the previous year, i.e. 2017, out of 185 universities in Pakistan, 60 – 32.4 percent of the total – issued 663 PhDs whereas in 2016, this number was 64 out of 163 universities (39 percent) and they completed 902 such degrees.
At present, 60 percent of the universities that offer PhD degrees are in public sector as against 40 percent in the private sector. It is also to be noted that 49 percent of the former while 47 percent of the latter could complete this degree. National-level figures reveal that with 3,357 individuals, Lahore is the largest city in terms of producing PhD scholars while Islamabad is at second place with 3,202 followed by Karachi with 2,859. In addition, most universities that have completed PhD programmes are located in Karachi with their number at 17. Islamabad and Lahore share the second spot with 16 universities apiece.
Moreover, the prestige of producing maximum number of PhDs is held by the University of Karachi that has awarded 2,530 doctoral degrees. University of the Punjab, Lahore, occupies second spot with this number at 2,361 while University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, is at third place with 1,531 degrees. It is also important to note here that universities in 26 Pakistani cities have awarded PhD degrees.
In the private sector, most PhDs (109) have been produced by Hamdard University while this honour in the public sector belongs to the University of Karachi that has produced 2,530 PhDs so far. Similarly, the University of Karachi has produced most female scholars (1106) and the PU has produced most male scholars (1665).
This in-depth analysis brings to light the fact that there is a serious lack of mechanism of monitoring the PhD output in universities currently operating in Pakistan wherein they would be held accountable for the fact that when the fundamental purpose of their existence is to foster research, then why they have failed to produce PhDs? But, who would ask them such questions as education has transformed into a business venture now where profit is the only motive.