The meeting of an 18-member commission of Higher Education Commission (HEC) on Friday after a gap of 32 months shows only one thing: lack of commitment on the part of the HEC to ensure high standards in higher education. The delay is lamentable. However, it’s better late than never. Of all the problems and malpractices that are prevalent in the universities of the country, the practices of plagiarism are the most alarming. HEC cannot be exonerated. HEC needs to accept the responsibility for the abysmal state of research in our country as it continuously acknowledges substandard, fake, and plagiarised papers as legitimate. As if that is not enough, nepotism rules supreme. And the favourite and well-connected but incompetent researchers are awarded high positions in academia. It is natural that the quality of research goes down if the only criterion the HEC believes in is how well connected a researcher is.
Among other problems that the commission should look into and find a solution for include lack of policies and inability of varsities to implement the recommendations of the HEC for enhancing the quality of research, the financial issues that create hurdles in conducting high-quality research. Also, there is a need to ensure if the pedagogical approaches that faculty in these institutions support critical thinking or not. Furthermore, there is a gap between the administration and student bodies in the academic institutions of the country. Before the implementation of any policy, students are not consulted even though they are the major stakeholders in the higher education sector. Recently, reports have surfaced where some unknown forces have threatened university administrations for encouraging academic freedom on campuses. And the administrations have knelt to the pressure and threats. It is high time for the commission to take corrective measures to ensure provision of an effective and rigorous higher education system that can empower and develop the youth to battle the socio and economic challenges that the country is facing.