The government of Pakistan has poured billions of rupees in the past eight years in the Higher Education Commission in a quest for improvement of higher education in the country with foreign faculty programs, tenure track system, four years bachelors degrees, foreign and indigenous PhD scholarships and mega projects with foundations laid in taxpayers gold. Despite all these efforts, the state of higher education in the country is abysmal. The standards in Pakistani universities continue to slide down hill with fake degrees, plagiarism, dubious PhD programs, ill-qualified graduates, hooliganism and professional misconduct, both in officials and faculty, galore. The public attributes the current crisis in higher education to low levels of funding. The rot, however, runs much deeper, permeating to all levelsintellectual, academic, administrative and moral. The edifice of higher education had been crumbling for some time but the fall accelerated in recent past due to enforcement of the so-called structural reforms by the Higher Education Commission. The HEC was primarily created as an advisory body to facilitate universities in preparing their development programs but it has extended itself beyond that mandate and became a superstructure that keeps intervening through its army of bureaucrats into academic, administrative and operational affairs of the universities. That has eroded the academic freedom and autonomy of the universities. The role of statuary bodies such as the Academic Council, Senate and Syndicate has been marginalized to the point where they simply have to adopt directives issued by the HEC. The structural reforms imposed by the HEC are arbitrary and, sometimes, even whimsical. These reforms have converted the generally democratic governance of universities into totally bureaucratic administration that is bound too much in red tape to be able to address the operational issues of higher education. The cost-benefit analysis, impact-risk analysis and system integrity analysis of the reforms were neither performed by HEC nor published anywhere for seeking input through further debate and deliberation. The HEC authorities have been using bureaucratic coercion to enforce their ill-thought and half-baked 'reforms. The universities, on the other hand, have surrendered their autonomy too readily for funds. The enforced structural reforms have not only failed to produce a positive impact but have also marginalized statuary bodies, alienated the concerned faculty, promoted unscrupulous elements whose infusion has opened up new avenues of corruption and coercion. The National Assembly must constitute a high-powered committee to conduct a comprehensive financial and academic audit of the HEC and also evaluate the policies it has pursued during the past eight years with reference to the results yielded. The committee must revisit the so-called 'reforms and review role of HEC in promotion of higher education. -DR ABDUL QAD-EER, Karachi, July 8.