Peshawar               -         Recent proposals by the Higher Education Commission regarding the PhD programmes in universities have led to a debate in the academic circles, The Nation learnt on Saturday.

According to the HEC proposals, the M.Phil criterion for admission in PhD prgrammes in universities would be abolished and students having completed B.S. would be allowed to directly take admissions for PhD. Also, a candidate would be allowed to enrol for PhD in any subject, whether he or she has studied that subject at masters/BS level or not.

Similarly, as per the proposals, the candidates would have to complete two-year coursework after having completed BS degree, while currently the PhD students have to complete 18 credit hours (one year coursework) after having attained M.Phil degree.

The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) has also opposed the proposals of the HEC.

Speaking to The Nation, FAPUASA President for KP Dr Sartaj Alam told this correspondent that the new rules being considered were not compatible with the situation prevalent in Pakistan. “M.Phil criterion should not be eliminated as the students who complete their BS don’t have proper know-how of research, this is why they may not be able to complete PhD studies [without having done M.Phil],” he added.

“There are subjects in which a simple PhD cannot acquaint a student with all the in-depth knowledge on a subject.

Hence, a student having done BS in one subject and later PhD in another subject may not be able to perform well in a job in the future. Overall, the proposals, if implemented, would weaken the quality of education,” he added.

He said that the HEC should withdraw the proposals.

“While HEC has decided to allow BS degree holders to directly enrol for PhD, there are thousands of PhD degree holders who are still facing unemployment in Pakistan,” he said.

Discussing the issue, Director Admissions Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan (AWKUM) Dr Attiq Ur Rehman said that in foreign countries, there is also certain criteria for BS students to qualify for admission in PhD programmes.

Dr Attiq Ur Rehman, who has completed his PhD in Physics from the University of Southampton, UK, said that he had first completed BS and later did his PhD, but with certain conditions fulfilled.

“After I achieved 3.7 GPA in BS, I got enrolled in integrated PhD programme but the program had certain conditions, including a good academic record and also an exam for becoming PhD candidate, otherwise those failing the evaluation are given M.Phil degrees only and not enrolled for PhD,” he added.

Another professor said that in developed countries, it is possible to enrol a student in PhD right after his/her BS, but this model is not applicable in Pakistan because here the BS students have very little know-how of research.

“First of all, it is an injustice to universities to altogether eliminate the M.Phil/MS programmes. Secondly, even if BS students are made eligible for enrolment in PhD, there must be the criterion of at least one research paper publication for them. The paper is necessary for them to know about research before getting enrolled for PhD. And this is why M.Phil/MS is important in which students get sound know-how of research and they don’t have problems with research when they get enrolled in PhD,” he added.

He said that in case of allowing BS students to directly enrol in PhD, their papers would also have to be sent overseas for checking.  

Secretary Higher Education KP, Hassan Mehmood Yousafzai, told The Nation that a PhD is a research degree and the new proposals were meant to open the doors of higher education for more students.

Also, he added that anybody who enrols for PhD does not mean that he or she would complete it. “Universities in Pakistan should focus on quality such as what the foreign universities are doing, so that we can be proud of our PhDs.

At the moment, the proposals are being discussed and hopefully an appropriate decision will be taken with the consultation of all stakeholders,” he added.