ISLAMABAD-Where unemployed PhD scholars demanding jobs are being manhandled on roads by the police, the universities have only 32 percent teaching faculty with doctoral degrees, creating wide space for more PhDs, The Nation learned on Tuesday.

Mercury in the city is rising; around 20 un-employed PhD scholars including 5 women, with placards in their hands, shouted slogans against Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the government, during a protest outside the National Press Club (NPC).

Majority of them have obtained PhD degrees from foreign universities, but they are jobless ever since they returned back home.

“Shut down the HEC; it has failed in providing jobs to PhD scholars”, they chanted slogans furiously.

A day earlier, their group staged a protest outside the personal residence of Prime Minister Imran Khan, but the city administration forcefully removed them from the venue.

Where male protesters were taken to Barakahu police station on a police truck, the female protesters were also physically dragged in a scuffle with the force.

Shafia Iftikhar obtained PhD degree in Chemistry from Norway in 2015 and since then, she is protesting in front of the HEC and the PM’s residence.

Shafia’s husband also does not have a settled job in Norway. She demands a permanent job in a public-sector university of the country.

“I am a PhD and I was dragged by police and got wound on my hand”, Shafia said.

She belongs to Lahore and wants her adjustment in any public-sector university of the country to utilise her studies and run her family.

Referring to the alleged false promises of the HEC and the government, she expressed disappointed that they were not taking the issue of rising un-employment among PhD scholars of the country.

Shafia said that she returned to the country from Norway following the legal bond as she had to serve in any university of Pakistan.

But, in more than 3 years, the HEC has failed in placing me in any public sector university of the country, she said. Shafia said that she applied for one year interim placement faculty programme of the HEC, but no adjustment was done.

“Strangely, the HEC is initiating case against me as I’m not following the bond of serving in a university”, said Shafia.

According to her, when she asked about her file of IPFP submitted in the HEC, the authorities asked her to apply again as her file was not found.

Shafia again applied for the IPFP in 2018, but so far her adjustment has not been done in any university.

“I am ready for work, but the fact is the HEC has no solution to un-employment of PhDs in the country”, she said.

Shafia also said that HEC authorities had assured them of increasing IPFP to 3 years but still there was nothing on ground, except that PhDs are protesting on roads.

According to official data available with The Nation, Pakistan has total 15,219 PhD faculty members. Out of the total number, 14,577 were produced after the inception of the HEC.

Current employed faculty in the 195 HEC-recognised universities is around 4,870, which is only 32% of the total PhDs in the country.

President, Un-employed PhD Scholars Association Dr Sher Afzal Hashmi said that there are above 1,000 unemployed PhDs in the country and HEC and the government are not taking the matter seriously.

“There are clear contradictions in the HEC, universities and government policies,” he said.

He said that the employment issues could be dealt if the student-teacher ratio formula was followed in the university.

According to higher education formula, there should be one PhD for 20 students in university, he said.

Chairman HEC Dr Tariq Banuri told The Nation that demand for PhDs was higher and would continue to be high until our academic system reaches a higher standard. However, if the universities do not have financial resources to hire additional faculty members, we cannot force them to do so, he said.

Earlier, HEC had claimed that universities were facing shortfall of 36,000 PhDs. In January, HEC convened a meeting of universities vice chancellors, urging them to create opportunities for unemployed PhDs on competitive basis.

The HEC had also collected data of unemployed PhDs and vowed launching of consolidated academic jobs portal for PhD scholars.