Islamabad: Future of dozens of MS and PhD students is at stake after the Higher Education Commission (HEC) recommended department of Natural Sciences of the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) be split because the newly established department doesn’t have its nomenclature, according to documents and students.

A number of PhD and MS scholars approached Truth Tracker to highlight the news in larger interest of more than 40 MS and 25 PhD male and female students.

When contacted for comments on the issue, Aayesha Ikram, Director Media HEC, in her email reply said: “The HEC’s Ph.D. Program Review Committee recommended the split of Ph.D. Program of Natural Sciences, not the split of Centre.”

She said the Centre for Inter-disciplinary Research in Basic Sciences (CIRBS) can operate as a Centre and Researchers of different disciplines can do inter disciplinary research in it.

However, she said as per the HEC’s Ph.D. Program Review Committee, the Ph.D. Scholars of different specializations working under this Centre should be awarded the degrees of specialization in which they are doing their research i.e. of their discipline.

“For that purpose, the scholars should be shifted to their relevant departments, where adequate resources of their area of specializations are available,” she added.

She said scholars will continue their degrees in their relevant departments, HEC only recommended the transfer of these students to their relevant departments.

“HEC always safeguard the future of scholars, this decision is also taken in the best interest of PhD Scholars,” she added.

According to a letter by the HEC titled PhD Program Review of International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI), dated December 14, 2016 of which a copy is obtained by Truth Tracker: “The University should split the program of PhD Natural Sciences into specialized disciplines and the scholars should be moved to their relevant departments for completion of their degrees.”

It noted the HEC has developed the minimum criteria for higher degree programs and circulated among all public and private sector Degree Awarding Institutions, the HEC has constituted PhD programs review committees.

In this context, PhD programs committee has visited your university (IIUI), on 26th and 27th October 2016, according to the letter addressed to the department’s staff.

It further stated the university should halt all the activities of the program, including conduction of classes, examination, thesis defense, award of degrees etc., until HEC permits.

“University should not admit any scholar in the program until HEC permits,” the letter stated.

An MS student who wished to go unnamed because of possible reaction from the university’s staff said that future of 50 plus PhD and MS scholars are virtually at stake.

“We are really concerned and don’t know about our future because the HEC has not provided NoC to our Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in basic Sciences (CIRBS) department,” he added.

According to HEC’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) for establishment of a new university/institution of Higher Education: “The HEC is authorized to advise the Federal Government and the Provincial Government on proposals for granting a Charter to award degrees in both public and private sector.”

The establishment of a university/degree awarding institution is a multi-step process, according to SOPs, which involves fulfilling the legal formalities as well as making available the required academic, financial and physical infrastructure.

When contacted, Assistant Professor Dr. Imran Khan, Head of the CIRBS department said he has applied for the No Objection Certificate (NoC) from the HEC, which would be approved within a month.

But documents and correspondence by HEC seen by Truth Tracker revealed that the HEC—a top body overseeing education in the country— after series of visits to the CIRBS department has found that the department operating since 2014 has not followed the university and HEC guidelines.

Dr. Khan earned his PhD degree from Germany under “Weaker University Program” of HEC, who was earlier teaching in Gomal University Dera Ismail Khan.

According to National Education Policy 2009, Ministry of Education Government of Pakistan, that a key deficit is absence of clearly articulated minimum standards for most educational interventions and their outcomes.

It stated that even where these are established, there is no measurement or structured follow up. As a result, impact of the interventions remains subject to anecdotes or speculation and the true picture never emerges.

The policy stated that the foregoing analysis reveals that Pakistan has made progress on a number of education indicators in recent years.

Notwithstanding the progress, education in Pakistan suffers from two key deficiencies: at all levels of education, access to educational opportunities remains low and the quality of education is weak, not only in relation to Pakistan’s goals themselves but also in international comparisons with the reference countries, the policy stated.

To a question would the university high ups be able to get HEC NoC to keep the department function, Masoom Yasinzai, rector of the IIUI, said: “The future of the scholars studying in the department is bright because we have already taken up the issue.”

According to documents, the IIUI is a public sector university, which was established in 1980. NoC is prerequisite for any department to be started in any university of Pakistan but CIRBS department has yet to get HEC approval for Natural Science program.

The university is offering PhD in 32 programs and there are 1,334 Ph. D scholars enrolled, according to documents.

The student of the CIRBS said that a number of students’ future is tied with the department’s ability to get HEC NoC following HEC guidelines.

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