HEC a facilitator or an obstruction?
by, Dr Irfan Shahzad
Around Dec. 2016, HEC launched the practice of re-examining the PhD theses for checking plagiarism through the very software called Turnitin which universities use for the same purpose. This re-examination was launched, despite an okay report of plagiarism of theses from the relevant universities. It seems that HEC holds no more confidence in the internal plagiarism examination of the universities.
But HEC took upon this task in such an unprofessional, sluggish way, that despite knowing the fact that it would be a huge task to check all the PhD theses of all the universities of Pakistan, they let only one “clerk’’ receive nominal training during the job that how to operate Turnitin, and placed the burden of checking all the theses of all the sciences in all languages used for writing research thesis in Pakistan on the shoulders of single man!
Let me tell you how Turnitin works and how ridiculous it is to assign such a multidimensional task to a single person who has no qualification for the task. Turnitin shows every similarity of three or four word combination which is found similar on Internet sources. Now it is the discretion of the examiner to decide whether the similarity is a copy-paste material without reference, thus a stealing of someone else’s intellectual property, or mere a coincidence or unavoidable grouping or combination of words.
Of course, this can only be done by the subject expert of a particular language and sciences. It is beyond human capacity to master all those languages of different research works of sciences and social sciences to decide if some words or sentences or paragraph(/s) are plagiarized or not.
Furthermore, according to the HEC authorities, daily 12 to 15 PhD theses are submitted to HEC to put into the system. A competent examiner needs almost a month to check plagiarism of a thesis through Turnitin. But this is the task, which has been given to only one man, who has no idea about research work in HEC statistics department.
Also see please: اعلیٰ تعلیم کی تباہ کن صورت حال
The consequence was expected, not months, but now a whole year is over, the theses are pending, queued, waiting for their turn which seems not to come in this decade if the same non-serious attitude of the HEC authorities continues.
To add fuel to fire, HEC has ordered the universities to stop hiring and employing the scholars having their degrees issued by their universities, unless their degrees are verified by HEC, but their degrees can be verified until the plagiarism of their theses is not done.
This simply means that scholars can’t find any job in universities and wait for some indefinite time. The scholars are suffering terribly from such a delay.
If HEC had to go for this task of checking plagiarism, it should have done it considering the ground realities and pros and cons in a professional way. They should have trained a complete versatile team for the purpose to meet the scholarly level of this delicate task.
Meanwhile, they should have allowed the scholars to join their jobs and go for higher education within the country and abroad on the condition that if they do not fulfil the merit of the verification of their degrees, they will have to return the salaries and scholarships taken during the tenure. But HEC is not willing to give this interim permission to join a job or go for higher studies, nor is it ready to speed up the process.
There is a long list of various instances of the incompetency and irregularities of HEC, which makes its very existence something like a question mark.
We request the education ministry to set the matter aright or dissolve this institute, which has become a white elephant and serves a little good at the cost of big losses.