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May 25, 2016

Teacher brain drain a serious issue: Dr Arshad Ali

Islamabad

May 25, 2016

Islamabad

For leading educationist Dr. Arshad Ali Shahid, the educated and experienced teachers flocking abroad for greener pastures is a serious issue that local universities currently grapple with.

“Our universities are losing experienced talents to educational institutions and organisations abroad mostly over low wages. Our university is no exception. The senior faculty we used to have 10 years ago is no more there. Many of them have left for abroad, mostly Middle East, for better payments and living standard. This national teacher brain drain crisis, which has a negative bearing on academic standards, especially on the higher education level, needs to be plugged through financial incentives before it gets out of control,” Dr. Arshad, the director of Islamabad campus of the FAST National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences, told ‘The News’ in an interview on Monday.

Dr. Arshad said his university had teachers with PhD in large numbers, 17 in computer science department, around 10 in electrical engineering’s and six in management sciences’, but still there’s a need to have more.

While revealing that the FAST-NUCES, Islamabad, has outshone contemporaries across the country by producing the largest number of PhD holders i.e. 22, he complained students took a long time to complete the doctorate.

“Usually, a PhD takes four years to complete but these students spent six to seven years and even eight years in some cases to successfully finish it. There could be two reasons for that i.e. either the candidate selection process is flawed or the good PhD stuff (students) goes abroad for doctorate. What I’ve seen is that either applicants are not serious about PhD programmes or they’ve capacity issue,” he said.

The FAST-NUCES director also complained about little stipends for PhD students.

“As a PhD scholar abroad, I used to get 500 dollars stipend, which was enough for me to focus all my attention on studies. In contrast, what the HEC pays to the doctorate students are just peanuts forcing them to either carry on with their full-time jobs or find part-time work for living. This way, they do PhD half-heartedly and end up nowhere,” he said.

Dr. Arshad said the HEC should give PhD students stipend equivalent to the lecturer’s salary for better output.

He said his university had initiated a programme, under which its PhD scholars were given Rs40,000 each as stipend, which would encourage more and more youths to do doctorate and thus, addressing shortage.

The FAST-NUCES director complained the quality of students being enrolled even after tests was poor by and large.

“We’ve selected 3,000 out of 18,000 candidates after holding tough tests and interviews but even then, the honest feedback of the relevant faculty members about them is not encouraging. They call for better intake quality as it used to be in the past. In my opinion, the students don’t have a serious attitude towards studies and thus, causing this problem,” he said.

Dr. Arshad said his university offered around Rs60 million financial assistance, including both full and half fee waiver, annually to around 2,000 students of all five campuses.

“We try to sponsor the education of poor students selected on merit. I would like to urge more and more youths to apply for our university without thinking about their financial conditions. I assure them if they’re talented but can’t afford to pay fee, we’ll help them out,” he said.

The FAST-NUCES director called for better industry-academia collaborations to effectively address national issues to ensure development.

“Only the research, which helps address the problems a country faces or may face in future, is of use, but the case is different in Pakistan. Unfortunately, most work of our researchers has no local application due to the missing industry-academia linkages. In the West, all researches are sought and sponsored by the industry and therefore, they contribute to economic growth.

“I think that to address this gap, the industry should approach and fund universities for finding research-oriented solutions of its problems,” he said.

Dr. Arshad also complained currently, university teachers were mostly producing unnecessary research papers with an aim to secure job promotion only, but their research had no beneficiary in the country for being alien to the local environment and issues.

He praised the Higher Education Commission for establishing special offices in universities to research activities from the development of research proposals to the commercialisation of research products and said the initiative would help transform the invention (pure knowledge) into innovation (products and production processes) and thus, furthering the cause of community welfare.

The FAST-NUCES director appreciated the ‘Jang Group’ for regularly organising Educational Expo in different parts of the country and said the event would bring all stakeholders together for mutual benefit and thus, contributing to the improvement of the country’s education system.

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