Rise of Fake PhDs; Failure of Higher Education in Pakistan

increasing fake PhDs show failure of higher education

Kyaw Win, Myanmar’s finance minister brought us a global fame when it was found in 2016 that he possesses a bogus Ph.D. degree from Pakistan. He is not alone in the list.

Even the top rated Pakistani University, The Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad’s Assistant Professor in the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, “Dr.” M. Nasrullah Mirza was found having no Ph.D. degree although has been receiving the hefty stipend, promotions and fringe benefits from the university.

Similarly, the Ph.D. thesis of Comsats Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) and CEO of National Testing Service (NTS) was found to be 72% plagiarized. Not only the MSC degree of the University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore’s “Prof. Dr.” Ghulam Abbas, who was also serving as dean of the Architecture and Planning Department has been declared fake by the HEC but also the Ph.D. degree of FBISE Chairperson, Shaheen Khan was declared fake. Ironically the woman has been working in the HEC and was later appointed as FBISE Chairperson in 2008.

Assistant Professor at the Department of Applied Psychology in the Punjab University (PU), “Dr.” Shazia Khalid has recently dropped the title when her colleagues staged a protest against her and the university management. She was awarded a grant of Rs. 50 lac to earn her Ph.D. from an online fraudulent university.

While an ordinary student strives hard to get a single fee scholarship for a Pakistani university to support his education at the Ph.D. level, Ms. Shazia was graciously allowed to “adopt” her own colleague as the main supervisor for “quality research.” For your amusement, the “professor” completed her Ph.D. degree from the “Taxila American University” which is present nowhere on this planet.

According to Higher Education Commission (HEC) data, Javed Ahmed Phulpoto, Shafi Mohammad, Zulfiqar Ali Bhatti, Abrar Shaikh and Kouro Mal Gurbakhshani from Shaheed Mohatarma Benazir Bhutto Medical University, Larkana; Mir Sajjad Hussain Talpur, Hina Shafi Chandio, Sher Mohammad Chandio and Hira Sajjad Talpur from Sindh Agriculture University, Tando Jam; Muhammad Rashid and Uzma Elahi from Preston University, Islamabad; Habib Ullah Shaikh, Yasmin Shaikh, Ghulam Sarwar Shaikh and Rasool Bux Shaikh from Peoples University of Medical and Health Sciences for Women, Benazirabad (Nawabshah); Muhammad Nadeem from Faculty of Computer Science and Software Engineering, SZABIST, Karachi; G.A Sahito and K.H Lashari from Department of Fresh Water Biology and Fisheries, University of Sindh, Jamshoro; Jahanzeb Haider and Akbar Ali from BZU, Multan; Hamid Waqas, Nasir Hussain and Umair Anees from Capital University of Science and Technology, Islamabad are among those professors, assistant professors and faculty members who have been blacklisted for copy-pasting someone’s else research work as their own.

Earlier, a bogus degree scam came into the limelight when it was found that the AJK University has issued numerous fake degrees to politicians for their political needs. Quite recently the HEC detected plagiarism in the research papers and Ph.D. thesis of “Dr.” Suleman D. Muhammad who was the vice-chancellor of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology in Islamabad.

However, all is not well in HEC even; out of above mentioned blacklisted faculty members, until September 2016, it had 4 of them still on the approved panel of Ph.D. supervisors. Last year, President Mamnoon Hussain directed HEC to execute full audit of 170 universities across Pakistan. Whether it is higher, secondary or primary education, we can see the increasing degradation of the education system, where all one cares about is acquiring a degree at the cost of actual learning.

Babar Awan, A PPP senator is still using the title “Dr” with his name although before the Election Commission of Pakistan he categorically stated in reply to a question that he is neither a Ph.D. doctor not had acquired any such education from any university of the world. In his other statements, he used to claim that he has a dual Ph.D. degree from Saudi Arabia University and also from the fraudulent Monticello-University of United States. His current Twitter handle @DrBabarAwan is a question mark to ethical practices in our politics that are perhaps no more present.

The current official spokesperson of PTI on science and technology “Dr.” Farid A. Malik has a fake Ph.D. degree as well. Although he claims that in 1988, he received a Ph.D. degree in Materials Engineering from the Union Institute Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, but ironically this “institute” does not offer a doctorate in engineering at all. Election Commission of Pakistan had already declared degrees of our 37 parliamentarians fake when their universities did not verify the “degrees” they had.

The number of fake universities working in Pakistan mentioned in the HEC blacklist is now 185, were 24 in 2013. This shows our “progress” in this crucial education sector as well. However, we have produced more than 5,536 PhDs in last five years. 180,000 students are currently studying at MS/Ph.D. level.

The degree holders may rise, but our footprint in the international research development is totally absent. We have invented nothing in any sector included Medical Sciences, Medicine, Economic or Educational Assessment designs. Examples of Pakistani PhDs employed in any International University of good repute are scarce, and the uniqueness in our research output is bleak.

Higher Education Commission closed 31 Ph.D. and 26 MPhil programs in the different universities of Pakistan

Because of the prevailing practices in the public and private universities, it is very difficult that HEC would be successful to slow down the wholesale of Ph.D. degrees.

Universities are autonomous bodies and only strive to meet the minimum requirements of the HEC necessary to keep their degrees and institutes approved. Out of 179 charted universities in Pakistan, there are few which actually listen to the reservations and recommendations of HEC. Otherwise regulating these is nothing less than “mulgere hircum.”

Because of the HEC’s and universities inability to put a stopcock, students at the higher level have learned the art to deceive all plagiarism detection software that has been put in place to check the copy-paste material.

The business of ready-made thesis and research papers is on the rise, and one can purchase a thesis or research paper on the required topic very easily. Some of our very bright minds have found this as an important area to earn. They write research papers and thesis from fake data while sitting at home so expertly that their work passes all security checks laid in the professor’s office and the university.

The time of “faking” or “tempering” a degree in Pakistan has gone now. With a number of substandard private universities and a few public universities, the sale of degrees has been legalized. There are a number of illegal sub-campuses in different cities and even villages offering required degrees to the students from these HEC recognized universities without attending any class but paying the required “fee” of the university, sub-campus and the host institute that bargains with them.

Do you want a regular degree in BSc Physics, Chemistry, Biology, LLB, MSc Physical Education, B.Ed, M.Ed or Masters and MPhil? In Pakistan, it is possible that you can have any of these without visiting the university campus even once. Degrees by and large are now the receipts of fee payment in Pakistan and nothing else.

To save more money, these universities are appointing incompetent “researchers” as research supervisors. In Pakistan, apart from the real and experienced professors who are leading the remaining quality research output in our varsities, there is a whole lot of old but useless professors who somehow managed to enter in the field at a time when there was a lot of space available.

Now they have passed a full professional life without doing any material research except using the good times to earn a Ph.D. degree from abroad. So all they can do is to teach their students an art of faking research. If you object, they will burn your scores, no? Moreover, then you learn nothing. A student who is eager to learn something seriously has to submit in this wicked cycle for his/her own benefit.

The research supervisors in our universities are overburdened as well. Universities are not willing to keep them as supervisors alone. In fact, in our universities supervising a research scholar is taken as a secondary responsibility. In addition to this, these appointed supervisors have to take multiple classes, check papers, submit results, attend meetings and take special tasks; assigned time to time by the university management.

After doing all this, there is no time left and no mind present with a supervisor to meet his/her supervisee, take a keen interest in the work done, recheck or edit the mistakes and point corrective actions in the research direction. Due to this, the supervisees are found wandering in the corridors and supervisors working on something else which is, of course, more important to save their job.

For these reasons, a supervisee finds it appropriate and so does the supervisor to temper the research itself. Because quality demands time and in no time, quality cannot be produced. However, if the supervisee does the tempering alone; without the consent of the supervisor, he/she can face serious consequences.

For example, it is no wonder that after completing a thesis, at the submission stage, it is told that the topic of your research is irrelevant and there is an urgent need to change the topic or even the area of research. But not all reach there; a majority finds it more difficult to write a research proposal than a research thesis.

In our setting, when a Ph.D. scholar passes the comprehensive examination or the course work, he/she is asked to submit a list of 3 topics of interest in which the scholar wished to do the Ph.D. research. When submitted, the overburdened faculty finds no time to look and take a keen interest in checking these topics for a Ph.D. fit.

Without any homework, the topic of choice is allowed, supervisor is assigned and when the supervisee completes the research proposal after a comprehensive literature review, the student comes to know by the same faculty that the topic of research is too ordinary, not fit for Ph.D. or that a lot of research has already been done on this topic, and it must be revised, and proposal shall be rewritten for proceeding any further.

Our students are not angels as well. They are overburdened too. Percentage of students taking Ph.D. education as a full-time assignment is very small. Student themselves take PhDs as a part time task. They are not willing to leave their jobs and tasks to focus on research; instead, they want the supervisor to cut the cake for them. If not, the whole blame of time elapse falls on the supervisor who can do nothing but guide them at the time of difficulty.

Cake, if not baked is fake; and research is not a cake !!

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