The Higher Education of Pakistan, like other sectors of national importance is one of the neglected sectors. It is true that the situation of other levels of education is no better, but to compete with counterparts, Pakistan, in global competition, has to invest its intellect and resources in higher studies with greater emphasis on innovation, R&D and market oriented educational programs. With the establishment of HEC some investment has been made in this sector and many new Universities have emerged on the map of Pakistan, but the questions of ‘Quality’ has not yet been properly addressed.
This paper analyzes the problem that “after the establishment of HEC, new university charters have been issued and many colleges upgraded to degree awarding institutions as part of strategy to improve “accessibility, quality and relevance” and orienting degree-awarding institutions along R&D lines. The quality issues in the newly upgraded, degree awarding institutions in the province of KP are not properly addressed and therefore desired results are not achieved, rather more problems have cropped up”.
Significance and Scope of the Study
The sector of higher education in the current competitive world has gained utmost significance. In Pakistan, it has been since recent times that attention is given to this sector and the first step was replacing UGC by HEC. Very little research has been carried out in analyzing the effects of these steps in general and the quality of education in particular. This study will be amongst the first steps in this regard and may set the course for future studies in this sector of national importance.
The topic of this study is Upgradation of Colleges to Universities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP): Quality Issues. Therefore, the scope of the paper is kept limited to various quality issues faced by the newly upgraded universities in KP. Due to many limitations, the scope of the study has been further limited to the three public sector upgraded colleges i.e. Islamia College Peshawar (ICP), Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women University (SBBWU), Peshawar and Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU), Mardan. The Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul has not been included in the study because, it has been upgraded to a degree awarding institution but it has kept itself limited to its professional requirements and awarding Bachelors Degrees to the under training officers of Pakistan Army.
Little relevant material is available regarding the sample and therefore reliance was made mostly on various official reports, policy statements, annual reports and development frameworks, some news reports and material available on the web.
“Good quality, merit-based, equitable, efficient [higher] education and research are essential to develop a knowledge economy, to improve standards of living and to avail of social benefits like better health, lower crime, civic responsibility, environmental awareness and a more tolerant and inclusive society.” (Aly 2007)
The importance of good quality higher education could not be ruled out as it has the capacity to steer Pakistan out of the tangles of social and economic problems. National Education Policy, 2009 sensing the importance suggests increase in investment in education sector to 6% of the GDP with a quarter in higher education by 2015 from 2.2% of GDP in 2009. (National Education Policy 2009)
In the current global world, education industry is faced with a growing competition that is no more limited by geographical boundaries because of the international degree programs and Internet based distance-learning programs now offered by institutions like Harvard, Stanford, and MIT etc. This has made competition tougher compelling the universities to maximize their reach beyond their local limits with a minimum cost. Similarly, provision of modern learning technologies and tools has become a necessity to produce quality output. (Mehrotraotra 2007)
Literature review shows that no proper parameters have been drawn to judge the quality of the educational system of Pakistan. “Defining quality is elusive but some parameters will need to be drawn. There is an impending need to debate and agree on what constitutes quality at each stage of education and the system overall. Based on this, some standards will need to be defined and pursued through development of policies, strategies and plans which target them” (National Education Policy 2009).
Similarly, the phenomenon of upgradation of colleges to higher level is neither new nor regional in nature but has been witnessed in many countries both developing and developed. In Pakistan the system is older than the country itself. Most of the renowned education institutions started merely as schools in the British era and upgraded to the status of independent degree awarding institutions like G.C. University, Faisalabad that started as a primary school in 1897 (Government College University, Faisalabad 2012). Internationally, upgradation of Polytechnic institutes in UK in 1991-92 known as “the class of ‘92” (Sanders 28), London School of Economics, and Kings College London are a few to quote.
Evidence of systemic approach is available in India for upgradation of Government Colleges and private affiliated colleges to the status of universities. In Pakistan, since HEC has replaced UGC, a number of new universities have been established besides upgradation of many institutes and colleges to universities.