Nature’s recent article on higher education in Pakistan has re-ignited the debate on higher education reform, evoking strong responses from both supporters and critics of the HEC. Recently, we interviewed the lead author Dr. Athar Osama, to learn more about his wider conclusions, and his response to some of the criticisms of the methodology used in the Nature article.
To seed this discussion, we present commentary from Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy and Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman. Dr. Hoodbhoy presents his opposing point of view, arguing that the measures presented in the article were inadequate, and further that the conclusions drawn from the metrics were flawed. Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman, founding (and former) chairman of the HEC, who led the higher education reform effort during his tenure, responds by pointing to data that, in his view, shows the depth and breadth of the reform’s success.
We invite our readers to contribute their thoughts on what metrics are appropriate for measuring the success of higher education within the context of Pakistan.
NOTE: Both commentators have significantly shaped the landscape of Pakistani education over the last few decades. We request our discussants to avoid personalizing the discussion and to maintain a civil and constructive tone.
Read Dr. Hoodbhoy’s complete post here.
Read Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman’s complete post here.
SYNOPSIS (We will continue to compile the synopsis of the discussion as it progresses: Last Update 8:02am EDT, September 22nd, 2009.)
The metrics suggested, thus far:
- QUALITY OF RESEARCH (Editors, Zeeshan Khan): Citation and variants on their measures like the h-index, are standard measures of research quality on an individual, institutional, and national level. Number of patents is another measure, though .
- QUANTITY OF RESEARCH (Atta-ur-Rahman): This measures gross research activity.
- QUALITY OF TEACHING (Pervez Hoodbhoy): Metric?
- QUALITY OF UNIVERSITY GRADUATES (Pervez Hoodbhoy, Fakhruddin Habiby): Surveying employers or assessing performance in international tests.
- ACADEMIC FREEDOM (Pervez Hoodbhoy): Metric?
- ACCESS TO UNIVERSITY FACILITIES (Atta-ur-Rahman, Khurram Shafique): Libraries, laboratories, internet connectivity, communication facilities, sports facilities,
- EVALUATION BY NEUTRAL EXPERTS (Atta-ur-Rahman): Survey of a group of neutral experts, like the World Bank, USAID, etc.
- UNIVERSITY ENROLLMENT (Atta-ur-Rahman): The increase in university-going adults can be measured by census.
- UNIVERSITY-INDUSTRY LINKAGE (Fakhruddin Habiby, Anwar): The number of industry supported projects which were initiated with University-Industry partnerships and their effectiveness based on industry feedback.
- LOCAL RELEVANCE OF RESEARCH (Editors): Metric?
- QUALITY OF CURRENT STUDENTS (Pervez Hoodbhoy, Khurram Shafique): Performance in standardized tests conducted every year, performance in local and international competitions such as Mathematics Olympiads and Programming Contests.
(Pervez Hoodbhoy) Self-citations are a serious problem when using citations as a metric for measuring quality of research reform. [paraphrased]
(Abdullah Sadiq) While strengthening the research effort in the universities is important, the most urgent need is to concentrate on producing quality teachers for the lower tears of education. [paraphrased]
(Khurram Shafique) A pedestrian publication in the field of networking or multimedia is likely to receive more citations than a good publication in a less explored field in mathematics, say, non-standard analysis.
(Fakhruddin Habiby) another ‘tool’ that is used to push the citation number higher is formation of ‘citation-coalition’ within research groups.
(Omar Javed) Categorization of universities into subsets, and adoption of relevant performance criteria for each subset. Three fundamental questions: what is taught (Undergraduate and Graduate Instructional Program classifications), who are the students (Enrollment Profile and Undergraduate Profile), and what is the setting (Size & Setting)”
(Shafiqur Rehman) …the success or falure or HE reforms must only be judged by opinion of the common stake-holders (students, teachers and administration) of the public sector universities.
(Affan): we need to tweak ratings/rankings such that we are able to measure any progress happening in Pakistan, progress small enough that it is not lost by existing metrics.