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Higher Education From the Editor

Pakistan is the sixth largest country of the world by population. It has 177 universities and degree awarding institutions but not a single one is in the top 500 universities of the world. The map on the cover of this issue shows the size of each country by its scientific research output. Unfortunately, Pakistan is hardly visible on this world map.

Higher education remained neglected for many decades in Pakistan, until the Higher Education Commission (HEC) was formed in 2002. Since the creation of the HEC, the government has allocated huge funds every year for higher education, sent thousands of PhD students abroad on scholarships, massively revised salaries of university professors, converted colleges into universities and started faculty exchange and research projects with several countries.

In his article, Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman, the former chairman of the HEC, highlights the improvement in higher education he initiated. “There were only 59 universities and degree awarding institutions in Pakistan in the year 2000. As a result of my initiatives, the number grew to 127 by 2008, to 137 institutions by 2010 and to 157 institutions by 2014,” he says. However, Dr. Rahman also discusses hiccups in the process, claiming that the HEC was ‘shred into pieces’ through establishment of the provincial HECs.

The commission’s policies, however, have been criticized with some academics, blaming it for playing the numbers game without tangibly improving the research quality. They allege that the HEC has contributed to a culture of lowquality wholesale publications and widespread plagiarism. Education experts like Pervez Hoodbhoy even call Pakistani universities ‘junk factories.’ Read Dr. Hoodbhoy’s views in the Q+A section.

In our cover story, journalist Khalid Khattak gives an overview of higher education in Pakistan since its inception in 1947 when it had only one university. This fact-based story summarizes key statistics of the higher education sector and discusses quality of research. Khattak also talks to the current chairman of the HEC and reports
on its policies and future plans.

Understanding and analysis of impact and quality of research must go beyond just opinions. Therefore, in this issue, the article by Dr. Saeedul Hassan uses scientometrics to give an analysis of the research output of Pakistani universities. He notes: “though research output of Pakistani institutes has grown over the years, digging deeper into the data reveals an alarming situation in terms of quality of the research produced by the
Pakistani institutions.”

In his article, Dr. Shahid Soroya takes up plagiarism in Pakistani universities and importance of high quality, original research. “More than 20 researchers from Pakistani universities were blacklisted in 2015 by HEC for plagiarism,” he writes.

Dr. Athar Osama gives a detailed analysis of higher education and research in the Muslim countries. He highlights that “institutions of higher learning have existed in the Muslim world at least since 859 when Fatima Al-Fihri created ‘world’s oldest university’ in Fes, Morocco.” However, he says, emphasis on higher education in the Arab world is very recent as “three quarters of all Arab universities were established in the last 25 years of the 20th
century.”

I hope you enjoy reading this third issue of MIT Technology Review Pakistan and our factual analysis of Pakistan’s standing on the world map of higher education.

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