By the end of this year, the number of jobless PhDs in the country will cross 3,000, the PhD Association of Pakistan (PAP) told The News.
Expressing their concerns over the high number of unemployed PhDs , PAP office bearers said the government had been paying no attention to resolve the problems being faced by the PhD scholars in the country and no effective steps had been taken by the authorities concerned for placement of the unemployed PhDs in varsities and higher educational institutes.
Meanwhile, the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) chairman, Dr Tariq Banuri, in a statement has said that around 45,000 non-PhD faculty members are currently employed in state-run varsities across Pakistan.
Neither have the universities shown the inclination to integrate unemployed PhDs instead of non-PhDs in the academia nor have the relevant authorities taken any concrete measures to provide job opportunities to them. Likewise, public and private sector varsities seem to prefer recruiting non-PhD faculty members in sheer violation of the HEC’s directives.
Appointments of retired employees
On the one hand, fresh PhDs are protesting against not getting jobs and on the other hand, many educational institutes have been hiring retired teachers on a contractual basis and as a visiting faculty member. This trend is not only discouraging for fresh PhDs but also a clear violation of orders of the apex court.
“If the negligent attitude and such discouraging policies continue under which retired people are being reappointed as teachers instead of fresh and energetic PhD doctors, Pakistan would face a severe shortage of PhDs in the future, which would hamper its academic and research progress,” said PAP Patron-in-Chief Dr Sidra Bajwa. She added that PhD scholars played an important role in the development of any country and the number of PhD doctors and research articles were the most important factors that caused rising of varsities in the global university rankings.
She called on the authorities to ensure the formulation and implementation of an effective policy to integrate the local and foreign qualified PhDs in the academia of Pakistan.
The HEC in 2009 initiated the Interim Placement of Fresh PhDs Phase-I (IPFP) programme to generate employment opportunities for PhD scholars. The IPFP’s objectives were two-fold — providing jobs to fresh PhDs and helping universities benefit from their academic and research experience.
Following the IPFP’s rules, the commission placed until 2018 hundreds of fresh PhDs in public sector universities as assistant professors for an interim period of one year. Later on, these scholars would be accommodated as a permanent faculty member in their relevant varsities.
“Through the IPFP phase-I, around 70 per cent of PhDs were absorbed as a permanent faculty member by their respective universities. But the said programme has been abolished,” said PAP president Dr Syed Haider Ali Zaidi.
“Despite the fact that the said programme was somehow beneficial for fresh PhD scholars who would at least get a temporary job opportunity. But it is also the fact that 30 per cent of scholars were expelled after the completion of the interim period,” said Zaidi.
IPFP’s new phase
In March 2019, the HEC abruptly terminated the initial IPFP programme and announced the launch of the Interim Placement of Fresh PhDs Phase-II that was quite different from the first phase.
Under the second phase of the IPFP, all the fresh PhDs had to undertake one-month mandatory training at the newly established National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE) in order to be eligible to join varsities as a faculty member under the IPFP.
In January 2020, the HEC held a pre-assessment test for the applicants of IPFP phase-II to gauge their knowledge of teaching methodologies and research skills.
Between March 2019, when the second phase was announced, and January 2020, when the pre-assessment test was held, the fresh PhDs spent 10 months with uncertainty. “PhD doctors were made to suffer for 10 months due to improper planning, red tape and many other bureaucratic hurdles which frustrated scholars for not getting jobs,” said PAP Joint Secretary Dr Ilyas Khaki.
Futile online training
As many new PhDs could not get jobs in the country due to the ineffective second phase of the IPFP, they were also not able to apply for jobs in foreign varsities as many international borders were closed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, in March 2020, the schedule for the training of new PhDs at the NAHE was announced under the National Faculty Development Programme. The training was to be conducted in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta.
However, the training was later postponed due to the government’s directives for avoiding mass gatherings in the wake of the pandemic and then it was announced that the training would be conducted online, Dr Khaki said.
At present, despite all the technical issues, including those of internet connectivity and power outages, as many as 200 PhDs of the first and second batches completed the online training. However, not even one of them has been issued an appointment letter, Dr Khaki pointed out, adding that in the meantime, the online training of the third batch is under way.
The PAP office bearers demand that the federal government announce a package for unemployed PhDs in the same manner it announced the economic relief packages for the people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
They association also demands of the government to provide job opportunities to the fresh PhD doctors.
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