Friday, January 31, 2020

How HEC Kills Creativity and How PEC Kills Creativity

How HEC and PEC kill creativity! They kill creativity by targeting the roots from where creativity and innovation originate. Creativity, innovation, new paradigms, new frameworks and and new ideas originate from out-of-the-box thinking, lateral thinking, inter-disciplinary aha experiences. However, HEC/PEC's notion of quality works in the reverse direction; they force faculty, curriculum as well as research to be imprisoned in rigidly defined boxes or cells! They compartmentalize knowledge and think that knowledge can be captured in boxes and in silos designated by the names of the disciplines, programs or departments. This helps the bureaucracy in imprisoning the faculty into existing rigidly defined boxes i.e. the name of the discipline written on the degree or the name of the department on the transcript. This box then becomes the territory on which turf wars are fought for future promotions and fancy designations of professors, chairpersons, and deans. It is on this turf that departmental politics is played out. This imprisoning of knowledge in silos has nothing to do with academics or the quality of higher education.
This is also discussed in my blogpost What does it Mean to Have a PhD: Myths of Specialization and Departmental Expertise

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

HEC Ranking Fiasco Genesis

University Rankings in Pakistan

Dr. Syed Irfan Hyder, January 5, 2004

This is with reference to the letter to the editor of Dawn, December 31, 2003 where the writer has highlighted the risks of jumping prematurely in the area of university rankings.

Development of a ranking system is a good idea, but coming up with a criteria that is complete, just, fair, valid, reliable and professional is a non-trivial undertaking as explained below. Hurriedly put together experiences of a few academicians in to a ranking system cannot be expected to be fair, valid or even professional.

It is surprising that with all the emphasis on R&D, there is a reluctance in investing in the research and subsequent development of the proposed ranking system. The ranking initiative is therefore headed in the same direction as the Model University Ordinance and Tenure Track initiatives. Recently a questionnaire was sent out by HEC that lacks in completeness as well as sufficiency. It is even without clearly laid out objectives and has typographical and structural mistakes. It is surprising to note the lack of thoroughness even in the booklet on Criteria for Establishing New Institutes and Universities that has been published and widely circulated. Institutions are threatened to be de-recognized if they do not conform to the booklet Criteria in five years!

What HEC Quality Criteria Did Not Measure

[Written in December 11, 2003]

This was written on the basis of HEC Survey that was circulated by HEC in 2003. Many of these areas are still not being covered.

The survey still relies too much on brick and mortar measurements.

Following important areas for determining the strength of an institute of higher learning and measuring its quality have not been covered in this survey and should be included:
  • Financial control
  • Administrative control
  • Academic control
  • Records Management
  • MIS Support

Why HEC’s Foreign Faculty Hiring Plan failed

This was written in June 2003 when HEC with a fanfare started the program and spent billions of rupees.

Why HEC’s Foreign Faculty Hiring Plan may fail:
  • HEC and its bureaucracy is not equipped to run and monitor projects.
  • HEC and not the employer organization is going to make a decision on who is to be selected and who is not.
  • Similar scheme for hiring foreign IT faculty initiated by MoST under Dr. Atta ur Rahman, a couple of years ago failed to produce the desired results. Many of the hired faculty have left.
  • Government universities who are going to be the beneficiaries are ill-equipped and ill-prepared for the R&D work, else the need for the PhD’s would not have arisen in the first place.
  • Fund is not going to be used for creating the R&D environment. It is the work environment that produces R&D and not the remuneration of the researcher. The researcher requires proper seating and research environment to deliver.
  • Assimilation and change management problem: Heavily politicized and established faculty in the public universities will ensure that the new faculty do not assimilate and do not get a chance to work.
  • Discrepancy in remunerations for lateral entrants and existing faculty would create fissures for which there appears inadequate preparation.
  • The policy is going to fail because the change management is not something that HEC understands. There would be resistance to change and as the experience of model university ordinance shows, HEC has no strategy for encountering the problems of assimilation.
  • Government with its bureaucracy is utterly unsuited for this task.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Different Types of Research Contributions and Challenges in Defense

Paper Writing and Research Strategies

 [Copied from the net in 2012. Source unknown]


Here is a brief reminder of how to write papers and what kinds of papers to write. Please also see the other materials on our web site on paper structure.
What matters most about a paper is what the reader gets out of it, not how much work you put into it. That is, after reading your paper, the reader should feel that he knows something new, has a better insight into something, or has a better idea of how to do something.
Each paper you write should stick to one main idea, and that idea should be clear enough that you can formulate it in a single sentence. If you can't tell someone else what the main contribution of your paper is in a single sentence, you haven't worked it out enough.
Writing papers doesn't need to be all that hard because papers fall into a small number of common categories. Most of them involve some problem that needs to be solved or some observation that needs to be explained; for the paper to be accepted, it's important that this problem or observation is interesting in the first place.
Solving problems that aren’t interesting to reviewers won't get you published. It is therefore important that you keep track of the literature and figure out what topics are likely going to be of interest to reviewers.
In writing your paper, keep in mind that many reviewers are graduate students like yourself. Think about how you approached your last few paper reviews. How well did you yourself know the literature? Did you give the authors the benefit of the doubt when you didn’t understand something? Did you ask for more experiments?

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Duration of Degree Program as a Measure of Quality

Do you know that Allama Iqbal's PhD thesis would never have passed HEC's quality criteria of minimum duration of three years for a PhD!

HEC's notion of quality is bureaucratic which ignores the quality standards of top universities. In USA, duration of a program is measured by the completion of credit hours and other academic requirements, not by passage of years. However, HEC in Pakistan is still confused between annual system and USA's credit hours.

Top Universities in USA have no such rules of calendar years. There is no restriction on minimum number of years for any program, only a restriction on minimum number of credit hours, which are measured academically, and not bureaucratically. At universities like Cornell, you can complete your MS in 9 months if you complete the desired credits. You can also complete your PHD in two or even less years if you meet the academic requirements. You can also complete your bachelor's in 3 years. You just need to complete the credit hours and other requirements.

Quality according to HEC is a bunch of paperwork and not Academics.

When I asked this question to Dr Mukhtar in a meeting of vice chancellors in Islamabad when he was Chairman HEC, he said that because a university (in timbuktu or Chee Chun ki Maliyan) was abusing this therefore HEC had to impose this minimum duration rule for ALL universities. This was a typical bureaucratic reply based on the presumption that "you are guilty unless proven innocent". Their argument goes like this: Because there are so many thieves in Pakistan therefore every one must be considered a thief unless proven innocent! Instead of catching the criminal which is cumbersome, bureaucracy takes the easy way out: Make the life of every one difficult!
Bureaucrats also know that making another rule doesn't stop criminals from circumventing the new rule. But, more such rules increase the power of bureaucracy and make them more important,and can provide justification for getting them more funding, and more privileges.
Do you know that Allama Iqbal's PhD thesis would never have passed HEC's quality criteria of minimum duration of three years for a PhD! 

In 1905, Iqbal travelled to England for educational purpose. Iqbal qualified for a scholarship from Trinity College, University of Cambridge and obtained Bachelor of Arts in 1906, and in the same year he was called to the bar as a barrister at Lincoln's Inn. In 1907, Iqbal moved to Germany to pursue his doctoral studies, and earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in 1908. Working under the guidance of Friedrich Hommel, Iqbal's doctoral thesis was entitled The Development of Metaphysics in Persia.[12][32][33][34]
[PS is from Wikipedia]

Iqbal arrived in Germany between 17 to 20 July 1907. Munich University issued call for defense on 21st July. Defense was held on 10th November 1907.