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July 4, 2019

Lack of research facilities, unavailability of funding blamed for poor PhDs


July 4, 2019

Islamabad : Vice-Chancellor of the Air University, Islamabad, Air Vice-Marshal (r) Faaiz Amir has complained about the poor quality of PhDs scholars produced by many Pakistani universities and blamed it for lack of research facilities and unavailability of adequate funding for researchers.

“Many Pakistanis do PhDs in foreign universities carrying out hi-tech research projects meant to address the problems of those countries but when they return, they struggle to use that knowledge in own country due to the absence of the same environment and facilities. As a result, their research has little or no use here. Another problem is the lack of a definite control on the quality of PhDs produced by most of our universities. During the faculty selection exercise, we’ve found the quality of most applicants with local PhD degrees to be unimpressive chiefly due to lack of research facilities and unavailability of adequate funding for their projects,” Air Vice-Marshal (r) Faaiz Amir told ‘The News’ in a special interview.

The VC said the people with good PhD degrees got good jobs in no time as the universities desperately needed them as faculty members.

He called for the improvement of PhD programmes and investment in university research labs.

“If we have to develop our industry, improve our education standards and achieve economic growth, then we desperately need a large number of quality PhDs in the next 10 years,” he said.

Air Vice-Marshal (r) Faaiz Amir said he believed in the university ranking system as it helped students find the best varsities for areas of their interest but such system should be developed in line with the local realities and conditions.

He said the country’s education system up to primary standard was acceptable but things from primary to higher secondary levels were weak.

“The successive governments didn’t invest much in the primary-intermediate education system nor did the private sector do so for low profits,” he regretted.

The VC declared the imparting of education both a mission and business in the current times but said there should be regulators and oversight bodies for educators to ensure people get quality education and aren’t exploited.

“As long as you want to leave behind a legacy as an educator, education is a mission,” he said.

Air Vice-Marshal (r) Faaiz Amir called for the establishment of institutions to groom academicians for management positions in universities.

He said the first time he wanted to do after assuming the charge of the university VC was to improve the quality of teaching.

“That can happen by two ways, first by inducting new teachers equipped with the latest qualifications, modern teaching techniques and the most recent research methodology, and second by building the capacity of the existing faculty members through training programmes. I’m using both ways to effectively improve education standards,” he said.

The VC said the Air University offered incentives, especially merit-based scholarships, to encourage the enrolment of more and more students.

He said the quality of education in the university had improved tangibly over the years.

Air Vice-Marshal (r) Faaiz Amir said the university had invested Rs265 million for lab advancements in two years.

He said as the planning division had organised a competition among universities two years ago as part of its plans to create five centres of excellence to build the national capacity for research and development in different fields, the Air University won the distinction of hosting headquarters for the centre of excellence for cybersecurity and two affiliated labs besides three labs affiliated with other centres of excellence.

“Despite being new and small, ours was the only university to win five labs. These labs mean the arrival of huge investment to improve our research infrastructure and increase enrolments,” he said.

The VC said as there’s a worldwide push into IT sector, the university was the first higher education institution in the country to introduce four-year BS programme in cybersecurity, which attracted a large number of students.

He said a master’s course in artificial intelligence had been launched, while the start of master’s programme in data science was on the cards.

Air Vice-Marshal (r) Faaiz Amir said though gaming was a $400 billion industry worldwide and many Pakistani companies were associated with it, no Pakistani university taught that subject.

“As we as a nation lag behind other countries in the field of simulation and modeling, our university has planned to take the initiative by launching a four-year BS course in gaming and multimedia this year,” he said.

The VC said the university would offer 10 new programmes mostly in the fields of computer science and computer technology.

He said the Air University’s most academic collaborations were with major Chinese universities, which offered master’s and PhD scholarships to its students, while some of the university’s faculty members were executing research projects with the help of South Korean universities.

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