HEC Scholars: Will They Return? And Stay?

Posted on August 9, 2008
Filed Under >Athar Osama, Education, Society
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Dr. Athar Osama

Higher Education Commission Pakistan HECOver the last several years of the current government, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has funded thousands of scholarships and fellowships for Pakistanis to do PhD and Post-Doctoral work both at home and abroad. One of the most important of these programs has been the Foreign PhD Fellowships Scheme that funds as many as 1000 PhD fellowships per year for Pakistani students to go to countries around the world – mostly in Eastern Europe and South East Asia – to do their doctoral studies and return back after a specified duration of time to serve in Pakistani institutions.

Higher Education Commission Pakistan HECHigher Education Commission Pakistan HECHigher Education Commission Pakistan HEC

Now that the first cohorts of these HEC scholars are completing their studies, the question arises: Will they return to Pakistan? And if they do, will they stay?

The terms of the program, I am told, are designed in a manner so as to dissuade these students from staying abroad after finishing their studies. This is done through a number mechanisms, including, provisions that discourage foreign employers and universities from hiring these students, and sending them to countries that are deemed not-so-hospitable to immigrant workers because of language barriers or immigration restrictions. Other initiatives to attract and absorb this talent back home include the ambitious plan of making several “world class” universities with international collaboration in Pakistan. Much has been said, and will continue to be said, about the latter and its fate continues to be in question.

While one would hope that these mechanisms put in place by HEC have been carefully thought out not only from the perspective of the country but also from that of the scholars, the other side of this coin, namely, the reception and environment these students receive when they actually return back to Pakistan has received much less attention but is equally, if not more, important for it is not enough to make these people return to Pakistan but rather policies must be in place to properly utilize and retain them.

At Pakistan Research Support Network (or Research-Network) we carried out a brief survey of the perception of Pakistani researchers and research students about the country’s research and academic environment and their motivations to work abroad or in their home country. The survey was anonymous thus allowing respondents to freely express their views and thoughts on the subject.

The survey findings represent an ample amount of both good and not-so-good news for Pakistan and its research environment. It also highlights interesting tendencies and motivations among its respondents some which may have been anticipated, but never formally documented before. These may be divided into four categories.

First, with regards to the quality of research environment in Pakistan, scholars identified a number of deficiencies including lack of quality leadership at the university, institution, and department level (92% of respondents), shortage of quality manpower (73%), and lack of quality and professional managed institutions (69%). Clearly, while an overwhelming proportion of scholars thought that Pakistan’s research and academic environment was inadequate to utilize their talents, more than 85% actually believed that Pakistan’s research and academic environment was lacking but improving over time.

Second, we asked the scholars about the intentions and motivations for returning home and/or working abroad. We believe that these individuals are very motivated and are quite realistic in terms of their expectations of what the country will have to offer to them but perhaps a little unrealistic in their perception of whether they will be able to overcome the challenges likely to be put in their way. For example, while just over 15% thought that when they return to Pakistan they will have all the necessary ingredients to allow them to carry out their research, as many as 79% said that “while they will face several challenges, but they will overcome these”. About 32% expressed serious doubts about the research and academic environment in Pakistan and noted that their decision to return will depend on whether they are able to address those concerns.

Of those surveyed, as many as 26% said that they will return back to the country because they have a “bond” with HEC or their employer to fulfill, another 34% said that while they do not have a bond with HEC or their employer, they will return back to Pakistan, nonetheless, and around 8% said that while they have a bond with HEC or their employer they are “rethinking” if they need to get out of it.

These data provide some very interesting–and heartening–results as well as opportunities for HEC or other competent agencies to devise policies to help these individuals make an informed decision. There is a vast majority of people who are willing to take on the challenge of returning back to Pakistan with a PhD in the hope that they will overcome the challenges involved. This population–young, idealistic, enterprising but also dedicated and passionate about their work–is especially vulnerable and HEC will do itself and the nation some good service to take extra care in transitioning them back into mainstream research in Pakistan.

Third, we asked the scholars about factors that demotivates them and that ultimately hamper their research productivity as a result. Several factors stood out. Freedom to work and micro-management by higher-ups (88% of scholars), access to equipment, knowledge, and data bases (75%), enough time to do research (72%), financial security (56%), and professional incentives (55%) are important consideration. The least important of all those asked–but still quite important–was financial incentives (chosen by 47%) of the scholars.

Again, evident from these responses is level of commitment and the degree of professional maturity of these scholars as are potential lessons for HEC bosses to understand and fully absorb for these are not the kind of qualities often associated with the tribal culture of Pakistani institutions where loyalty and conformance rather than freedom of expression, curiosity, and willingness to challenge intellectual authority are synomous with career progression.

Finally, there is ample room for both good news and source of concern for HEC. First of all, as many as 85% of the respondents thought that while Pakistani research and academic environment provided some challenges, it is also improving thus providing a reason for HEC to celebrate. A fairly substantial proportion of individuals are planning to return to the country which is yet another reason for HEC to be happy about. How HEC plays its cards in the coming years is likely to decide what percentage of these “likely return-ers” does it manage to convert into actual “return-ers”.

One issue of potential concern, however, is the notion or perception that HEC pays more attention to quantity rather than quality (shared by 70% of the scholars) is something that needs to be looked into and corrected for it is an often cited criticism of HEC’s policies. On the whole as well, I believe there is need for HEC to better explain its policies and programs for returning these individuals back, put it out in black and white so that people can make their future plans based on an explicit set of transparent policies rather than statements and comments that frequently appear in media.

There is also a need for a more transparent and open policy-making process at HEC that would help alleviate some of the questions and concerns these individuals may have about their future in Pakistan. Finally, HEC must develop a program to systematically evaluate the effect of its policies as well as communication strategy through independent evaluators to be able to better understand its own target market–researchers and academics inside and outside Pakistan–but also fine tune its own policies and programs. I think that if HEC could take a leaf from the findings of this survey and devise policies to help bridge some of the gaps identified above, it will finding a receptive and willing audience of young, educated, ambitious, and patriotic Pakistani researchers and scientists willing to return back and serve their homeland.

Dr. Athar Osama holds a PhD in Science and Innovation Policy and is the Founder of Pakistan Research Support Network and Muslim-Science.com

30 Comments on “HEC Scholars: Will They Return? And Stay?”

  1. Eidee Man says:
    August 9th, 2008 6:28 pm

    Well-written article. I am sort of in the same boat, although I don’t have a bond, etc since I’m not funded by HEC or other government program. The majority of Pakistanis in Ph.D. programs in the U.S. are actually not funded by HEC; I think a sizable proportion of them would like to return and contribute to their country, but there are many obstacles, as this article points out.

    People who successfully complete a Ph.D. in the sciences from a top school in the U.S. have a lot of great options open for them. Frankly, for most of these people, whether or not they decide to return comes down to finances, and no, this does not make them petty or greedy. Having to put up with mediocre bosses, outdated and inadequate facilities, little to no research funding, and being controlled by illiterate politicians is bad enough, but if you add on top of that not being able to provide a decent and safe life for your family even after getting world-class education, the calculus quickly shifts against returning, unfortunately.

    Also, quite a few people think that Pakistan should target middle-aged professors and researchers instead: anyone who has the slightest understanding of the ex-pat environment here will tell you that recruiting such candidates would be much harder than recruiting fresh graduates.

    The LUMS SSE starting this year will probably be a good testbed for these issues; I hope it becomes successful.

  2. Anwar says:
    August 9th, 2008 7:00 pm

    Good post. In order to have return a on the investment, there needs to be a market for the qualified individuals in Pakistan. Furthermore, the output of these great minds also needs to be absorbed in the country.
    HEC is pursuing an intellectual/academic revolution within the country which is a commendable goal. However, in parallel, an industrial revolution is also required.

  3. ASAD says:
    August 10th, 2008 1:21 am

    The lesson from China and India is that it does not matter whether they go back or not. It is still beneficial to create a base of highly trained professionals and academics. This is because (a) at least some will eventually come back once conditions are ripe for return, (b) a culture of respect for knowledge gets created in society and that is important, and (c) once people succeed outside they are are able to attract more attention and investment in their country because they become (even if they are not trying consciously) the agents of an improved reputation.

    So, whether they come back or not lets get more people trained.

  4. ASAD says:
    August 10th, 2008 1:33 am

    To add to my last comment, the most important thing is that we send only the best students and only to the best schools.

    If you send second rate scholars to second rate schools you will get only second rate results.

  5. Obi Wan Kenobi says:
    August 10th, 2008 1:44 am

    HEC has canceled all scholarships for this year until further announcement saying that new govt. has not issued them funds and they are not sure what would be the funding policy in future. So much for democracy. I Love Pakistan, muhhhhah …

  6. Mansoor says:
    August 10th, 2008 5:43 am

    The aim of these scholarships is noble; national development. The approach of these ‘scholars’ should be noble too; return to Pakistan and serve the country which funded their studies. They become aware of the western standards and then compare conditions back home and have second thoughts (if they did not have them already before coming for the doctorates). I see them as potential trail blazers who can not only bring to the country hard earned knowledge but more importantly the awareness that waht all is wrong here and then strive (Jihad, if I may say so) to set the things right while disseminating the knowledge that they gained.


  7. wasiq51 says:
    August 10th, 2008 8:43 am

    As an academic, I see returning to Pakistan and to engaging in serious academic research with like minded colleagues and talented students as an almost-dream-like opportunity but one that would entail significant professional costs. An uncle of mine who was once chairman of the electrical engineering department at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad decided to return to Britain where his sons were enrolled in University, but he could never again find academic work because his years in Pakistan were black holes in the Western-academic job market.

    The greatest educational problems in Pakistan exist in primary and secondary school. Students emerge from secondary school without the training that would allow them to survive in almost any university of internationally recognized quality.

    Shouldn’t primary-secondary school education be emphasized over and above an expansion in post-graduate research activity?

  8. Ahmad R. Shahid says:
    August 10th, 2008 9:01 am

    I would ask the same question. Why is it important to people do PhDs just for the sake of it and how it would help Pakistan? I think all these PhDs won’t be able to help Pakistan in anyway except taking away any incentives for the PhDs since there would be too many of them vying for some very small pie. The share of each PhD would be miniscule.

    I think only nations who have reached a certain level of technological development need the PhDs and the research. We are still doing the catch up and for the catch up you don’t need to create new technology but try to master what is already there. That is easier to achieve than trying to build a research base, in terms of training of the professional manpower and money, which we both lack in.

    PhDs are essentially trained in research. In order to professionally train the technical manpower we don’t need them. That job can easily be done by Bachelors and Masters, what we have been doing over the last many years. Probably the reason that we were not producing too many engineers was that we didn’t need them. We produced what we actually needed, the rest were trained on job. If there was really a shortage then the payscales of the engineers should have been really high, which was essentially not the case. So there was no apparent shortage of engineers.

    But with the opening of so many universities, there would just be too many engineers in the market, who would do nothing but depress the salaries of the people in the market, taking away the incentive to be an engineer and leading to mass exodus of so many of them in search of greener pastures. If that is the aim of the government to send as many of them abroad as possible then HEC would surely achieve its aim. But in my view that surely is not the aim.

  9. Yasir says:
    August 10th, 2008 9:28 am

    Good Artcile and nice comments.
    I would like to say a few words. Pakistan today is at a brink of dearth of professioanls and hardworking people due to the lack of instituions where they could comfortably fit. Inorder to start the reaction and get required products, Govt. of Pak and HEC scholars and others would have to interact and contribute their role. The establishment of new universities of international standard would be worth making scholars return to Pak and utilize their skills in novel research areas of their interest. So the policies of HEC matters a gr8 deal. The research insituions already present at Pak like NESCOM and likewise may play a major role due to their stronghold in financial and labs aspects to absorb fresh scholars and let them do what they find themselves best in and providing them access to scientific databases which is falls in top 3 pre-requisits.

    The govt. would have to be stable to get this reaction sustained
    otherwise invested funds would have no use. 1 Man could improve the destiny of the Nation and destroy as well (latest examples). Mansur said q8 nice word of Jihad. Its really like a Jihad doing any thing for gud reasons in Pak. and Jihad needs
    consistent toil. So lets be selfless and honest for the cause. May Allah Bless us all. Amen

  10. Eidee Man says:
    August 10th, 2008 11:46 am

    @Ahmad R. Shahid

    I’m afraid I disagree with you completely. Oh, how I WISH we had the “problem” of having too many people with doctorates instead of the problems that we have now.

    I agree that Pakistan needs loads of skilled workers with bachelors and masters degrees so that we can move into the sectors India and other countries are already beginning to dominate. However, we must recognize that long-term, sustainable progress can only come through research. Ask yourself this question, why is the American economy as large as it is, even though it produces (relatively) only a trickle in the way of tangible goods? Take away Stanford, and you no longer have Yahoo, Google, and a sizable portion of Silicon Valley….the examples are endless.

    Just in the past few years, there has been a very significant rise in the number of research papers coming out of India and China which is just one indicator of the fact that they are already investing in these areas.

  11. Ahmad R. Shahid says:
    August 10th, 2008 1:01 pm

    America, with such an advanced economy, and such a high per capita income does really need research like all the advanced economies of OECD. But a poor country like Pakistan doesn’t need it. Surely research papers being published in China and India are increasing, probably so are in Pakistan. But it doesn’t mean that it is the reason behind 8-10% growth rates of their economies. By the way how much is the Google and Yahoo as %age of the US economy? How much they really contribute to the US economy and employment? I wonder how many really. If you have any data please do let me know.

    As for Standford, and your contention that where would the USA be without it, probably at the same level. If the US economy is really that advanced, which it really is, and there is demand for the high-end products (which actually require research), which there really is, and even if you take Stanford out of the USA, another Stanford would emerge there in no time, becuase their would be great demand for what Stanford does and in its presence some other university would come up.

    My point is that at this level of development we don’t have any demand for the high-end products and hence no demand for the people who would do research to produce such products. Hence the wastage of money in producing PhDs, which could have been used for better end.

  12. omega-3 says:
    August 10th, 2008 1:30 pm

    @Ahmad R. Shahid

    I would also add to Eidee Man’s comment that you’re basing y0ur argument of possibly-depressed wages for engineers (brought about by a supply glut) on the idea that demand for such services is not changing much. Fair enough. But that should not be the case. We, for instance, are in dire need of more and better infrastructure in Pakistan. If there is investment in these and related sectors and projects, there isn’t sufficient reason for engineer’s wages to drop. Of course, this suggests the need for a variegated policy that emphasizes education as well as other sectors that contribute to a higher quality life.

  13. Eidee Man says:
    August 10th, 2008 7:16 pm

    @Ahmad R. Shahid,
    again, I disagree with you that high-tech research makes sense for the U.S. only because there is demand for “high-end products.” The majority of research funding in the U.S. goes to the NIH, the National Institutes of Health; are you saying that Pakistan doesn’t have the need for such research programs?

    Also, having our own crop of researchers does not mean that they have to work on exactly the same problems that researchers in the West are working on. They can work on our unique, third-world problems in health, and even infrastructure. Sure, one doesn’t need to have a Ph.D. to be able to build dams, bridges, and roads…but you cannot expect someone with just a bachelors degree and not much experience to come up with novel and elegant solutions. A lot of people have the misconception that the Ph.D. is simply a step up from the masters; in fact, it has a completely different purpose which is to train people to come up with new ideas independently, rather than be able to follow instructions given by others.

    Please tell me, why are we seeking Chinese help to build roads and dams? Why aren’t Pakistani scientists and engineers supervising the construction in Gwadar? Why did we have to wait for “foreign experts” to solve the big telecom-link problem we had some time back? Why are patients in our country having to go to India and other countries for critical treatments that Pakistan has the capacity to provide? Most of all, what’s the reason we have not been able to come up with an IIT-like program; remember that India’s poor are much worse off than Pakistan’s poor.

  14. HJ says:
    August 11th, 2008 1:56 am

    Dr. Osman,

    You have highlighted a very important point about the HEC’s plans – the post-education opportunities for these talented individuals will partially determine the success or failure of this program.

    In some countries, such as Singapore where talent is valued, individuals who attend university overseas on scholarships (several hundred are funded every year to the world’s best universities) are required to serve an insitution for a stipulated period of time upon completion of their education. These individuals are often also given more responsibility (which means more money also) and “fast-tracked” through the system. Many serve out their bonds periods, which range from four to eight years, and then are snapped up by private sector companies – or even better, set up their own companies or research labs. Those who stay within the government, for example, attain positions of high responsibility very quickly.

    At the end of the day, these individuals, funded by the small number of tax payers in the country, will contribute. Whether they do it within or outside of the government or academia, or in the private sector, or even within or outside the country is really a moot point.

    For the sake of transparency, would you kindly share the details of the survey (sample, size, questions ect), if it has not already been done elsewhere.

  15. Usman Akram says:
    August 11th, 2008 9:19 am

    It doesnt matter if they return or not.
    If they do return, they will add value to our local system directly, if they do not return and choose to work abroad, they will atleast add value indirectly (sending money home, improving pakistani repu, supporting other pakistanies, giving good advise to follow pakistanies and if have kids they will be more educated adn well mannered compared to generation in pakistan).

  16. BelligerentPacifist says:
    August 11th, 2008 10:55 am

    If someone like Rashid Jalal (in the middle pic above) who could’ve used his amazing peoples abilities to at least prolong his stay (a paid stay at that for some time) actually chose to return, most others sure would!

    What I gathered from the HEC scholars in France, Germany and Austria, most do wish to return to Pakistan and more importantly contribute to technology development here. Many are wary of the organizational politics and lack of funding and growth though. Some who wish to return wish to do so one or two years after completing their doctorates and make some dough during that time, others wish to stay a while and take their doctoral work to the next level or see it materialize in concrete, indeed commercial, technology.

  17. Akhtar says:
    August 11th, 2008 2:51 pm


    Most will return not because they want to, but because they have to. The top 10% most likely will manage NOT to return and pay any penalty as a result of breaking the “bond”. Ph.D from average schools in the Eastern Europr and South East Asian countries may not be recognized outside these countries. In order to prove the value of these newly acquired degree these individuals will have to spend a number of years as Post-doctoral Fellow, if they can obtain one outside of these countries. Interestingly, the South East Asian countries are sending their bright students to Britain, Canada, USA for higher education followed by couple of years of post-doctoral training.
    Only time will tell if the wholesale production of Ph.Ds has been a a worthwhile exercise at the expense of other programs.

  18. Abdul Hai says:
    August 11th, 2008 11:13 pm

    I recently me a freshly minted Ph.D. in electrical engineering from a US university here in USA. The person is 30 years old and doing post doc at a university. His condition for going back was to make him head of nano technology at UET Lahore and government to spend $2 Million dollars to open a new institute of Nano technology. I felt he has placed high value to his degree for going to Pakistan as compared to doing Post Doc in USA. I told the individual that he is never going to back since his demands will not be met.

    This reminded me of our own situation in early 1970s when a number of our age group completed studies in the UK and USA. We also thought highly of our worth in Pakistan, and never went back. I still do not know the reason why we want more for going back to Pakistan. In addition, some of our friends who went back became professors but never did any research after there Ph.D.

  19. Ahmad R. Shahid says:
    August 12th, 2008 5:12 am

    Graduates from the USA and the UK put very high value on their degrees, even though there are so many of them back home. Even if they return back they won’t be on a very high pedestal because of their qualifications.

    The reason the PhDs don’t do any research after returning home is that there is not much market for that in Pakistan, otherwise they would have done it. Only a handful of organizations require such skills specially the ones in the defence sector, but not every one wants to work there.

    Regarding China and India, China is still behind UK in the number of research papers published, not talking of citations. Despite the fact that China has a total populaton of 1.3 billion as against 60 million of Britan and China’s economy being bigger than Britain’s. India is still quite behind.

    The simple is reason. Even though China has taken great strides in the last 30 years yet most of what they do is not highly value added, thus lesser need to do research.

    As for the IITs in India, the question is not why we don’t have one but do we really need one. Apart from all the rhetoric about the IITs I don’t really know how they are contributing to India’s economy

    Also in the wake of credit crunch now gripping the world and its aftershocks, the demand for more sophisticated products would go down, increasing demand for more lower-end products. Thus the demand for research would go down except in areas where either the prices are going up or there are shortages, for instance: agriculture, oil, alternative energy, gaming, mobile phones, internet etc.

  20. Aqil Sajjad says:
    August 12th, 2008 5:21 am

    1. With regards to the issue of opportunity cost, the spending on research is still a very small portion of the national budget and therefore, the arguments that this money is taking away something substantial from other projects is somewhat misplaced.

    2. Having said that, there is certainly the issue of spending in accordance with what can properly be absorbed. If Pakistan does not have a decent research background and a large enough pool of good academics, it can not be changed imediately. Therefore, setting overly ambitious and unrealistic targets and throwing more money at the problem than the capacity for its proper utilization is a trap that seriously needs to be avoided. I don’t know exactly what level of spending and targets would be reasonable; answering that is a non-trivial question. It needs a lot of thought and careful study on part of HEC. If we indeed achieve the targets being set by HEC, then it would be great, and I certainly hope we do. But the HEC would inspire much more confidence if it were not treating this issue very lightly.

    For example, the HEC is talking about 9 new universities that would be developed as ‘centers of excellence,’ but there is no indication that this number has been reached after a thorough feasibility study. The French university, for instance, was supposed to start last year, and that has not materialized, but there virtual silence from HEC on the matter.

    3. The issue of improving research output needs to be de-coupled with the issue of improving undergraduate education. HEC appears to be working a lot on the former and is hoping that promoting a research culture will automatically lead to an improvement in the whole academic environment enough to improve the quality of teaching too. But this is a mistake. Realistically speaking, not every university is soon about to have excellent faculty and research output. However, there are many institutions which do have the potential to produce much better undergrads even with the current faculty without necessarily becoming research centers. Specific reforms aimed at improving undergraduate teaching can help these schools realize that potential.

    Efforts to promote a research culture and having more Ph.D faculty should be made in parallel with and not in place of apparently smaller, specific steps targetting undergrad education.

    It is strange that while there is talk of developing world class ‘centers of excellence’ on one hand, the HEC has not paid enough attention to the basic issue of campus violance, which is a very major problem at many university campusses across Pakistan.

    Likewise, there is a simple problem at many universities that some faculty members, despite being qualified enough to teach a course reasonably well, just do not bother to sit down at the beginning of the semester and make a basic plan for the course. As a result, they cover material haphazardly and even waste time on some topics that can be covered in a shorter period. Just a bit of effort that pushes universities to make their course outlines available on-line and raising public awareness about this could make a substantial difference. That way, everyone will expect the material to be on-line and then the university administration would have to take this matter seriously. I say this because I have been to one such university (Hamdard university Isb) and I have discussed this with several former classmates and also some students at other similar universities in the Isb area who all agree that this could make a substantial difference.

    Another possible step for improving undergrad teaching would be to make a final year project a necessary condition for the recognition of 4-year bachelers degrees. There should be at least one external reviewer for this project, and the thesis should be a public document also made available on-line. The quality of the project reports would then serve as an additional indicator for the quality of undergrad teaching at the school. Universities churning out lots of graduates who can not put together a few proper sentences could thus be put under more pressure to step up their quality. And perhaps more importantly, institutes like Hamdard campus Isb, who do have the potential, would get that extra push to bring their undergrad programs at par with any other in the country.

    Other such steps aimed at promoting greater transparency should also e thought of.

    Of course these are just a few ideas and can even be questioned. But the basic point is that if the HEC could just spare a few moments from ‘grander’ things and engage in a broader consultation process that also involved people other than the Harvard-MIT types, then I’m sure the exercise would generate a lot of workable ideas coming directly from those who have had first hand exposure to teaching related issues at our universities.

  21. Ahmad R. Shahid says:
    August 12th, 2008 5:34 am

    All universities are not the same and thus have different purposes. Stanford and MIT prepare students to target a specific market, which is quite smaller in number but higher in value, even though if they were plucked out of the USA it might not make much difference to their economy.

    Then there are other first-tier, second tier and what not universities with community colleges filling the gaps. All these different universities are targeting different market segments preparing students to enter those market segments with skills enough to make a mark.

    The same is also true for Pakistan. Not every organization or company needs a graduate from LUMS because so many skills they require may not be imparted by LUMS. Institutions like LUMS cater to a specific market, preparing students basically to pursue higher studies abroad. Our defence organizations, which perhaps do the greatest amount of science, don’t normally go after these students, because their expectations are high and these organizations can’t meet those.

    On the other end of the spectrum, I have seen graduates from Al-Khair occupying a lot of jobs in different organizations at different levels. Initially they have the problem of recognition but gradually using whatever they have learned at the uni and having on-job training, they start progressing in their organizations.

    For the progress of the country, both these kind of institutions are required, since every economy has many segments, some advanced and some at the basic level, and you need good qualified people to take these jobs. LUMS and its like can target the higher end, and Al-Khair and its like the lower end.

  22. Aqil Sajjad says:
    August 12th, 2008 5:36 am

    Just to add, I think the tendency to get carried away focusing on grander things and ignoring more basic, common sense things is not just limited to education.

    I think by and large, we tend to think this way. Just gather 10 Pakistanis in a room and make some humble suggestions on any issue. You can be sure that some idiot will come up with the ridiculous objection that your suggestion will not suddenly solve all problems. We somehow seem to think that unless an idea is a magic wand that will serve as a panacea for all problems, it is not worthy of our kind attention.

    A similar tendency is also visible for instance, with regards to the restoration of the judiciary. Some proponents of restoration have unrealistic expectations from a restored judiciary. And on the other side, there are opponents of restoration making the most stupid remark that it will not bring prices down or some other such nonsense, implying that unless something will suddenly bring prices down, it should not be supported.

  23. August 16th, 2008 6:44 pm

    anyone who goes abroad on a government scholarship and doesn’t come back to serve the nation should be tarred and feathered.

  24. Shah Bano says:
    August 17th, 2008 7:42 am

    Dear All,

    I am very enthusiastic about the future of Pakistan. I appreciate the way H.E.C. is making efforts for the development of research culture in Pakistan. I know, Pakistan’s economy is wavering these days and basic necessities are not provided for all, in such a situation it will be quite unrealistic to say that I can see Pakistan becoming a Knowledge Based Economy. I believe, once high targets are set: scholarships and fellowships are given to scholars inland and abroad, they work in international universities, a research attitude is developed, people start thinking in innovative manners, scholars return back to Pakistan, we will change the fate of Pakistan. All we need is honesty and patriotism.

    Love Pakistan and do something on your part for your Mother-Land. If we all do a little, we can do a lot! Hve faith in youself and in what you are doing*


  25. Ahmad R. Shahid says:
    August 17th, 2008 8:42 pm

    There is nothing wrong with the HEC scholars staying abroad after their PhDs if they payback the amount they owe to HEC as per the bond they sign with it.

  26. Akram Khan says:
    August 22nd, 2008 8:49 am

    contrary to Mr. Ahmad R. Shahid’s comment, I strongly oppose the HEC bond dictating that you may sign out by paying the money back. This clause is plain cheating and ridiculous allowing people to have the opportunity to begin their study on an interest free loan from the TAX money of people of Pakistan. This allows students to have a fall back plan to rely on HEC if they do not secure another scholarship from abroad and if they do so, they turn their back towards Pakistan and go out of the HEC contract by manipulating the sign out clause. It does not make any sense to me. I myself have funded my studies abroad and I know as you enter the academic system abroad, the opportunities grow and you can have interest free loans, 100s of scholarships based on your performance etc etc. So HEC basically does all the hard work of injecting you into the system and then IF you get established, you dump HEC first and foremost. Does not sound fair to me. This also destroys the career of all those students who could have genuinely come back to Pakistan and work towards the prosperity of Pakistan.
    Assuming that by sending students to the eastern EU countries where they will have problems finding jobs, subsequently return home is merely a poorly thought plan. Pakistani students can communicate well in English as compared to the natives of these countries. English language advantage in combination with an EU degree offers them a complete uplift and thereby opens a world of career opportunities in USA/UK/Germany/Canada/Scandanavia/AUS etc etc…
    Lastly, If you get to know these scholars on a personal level, they are all waiting for the day; Govt. is Pakistan is changed, effectively HEC gets dissolved, therefore no strings attached. I guess serious thinking needs to be done on the HEC side because at the end of the day, its TAX payers money who work and contribute to the economy of Pakistan. Pakistan Paind-a-bad.

  27. Abdul Wadood Siddiqui says:
    August 24th, 2008 2:50 pm

    Assalam o alaikum
    I am a muslim Indian and and an infrequent but passionate visitor to this blog for reasons unknown to myself. I have learned a lot of things about Pakistan through the articles posted here and more so from the comments made on them. Small details which I would never get from any newspaper or magazine how-so-ever much in-depth reporting it does.
    My comments on this article may not have much credibility because of my being not a Pakistani, but nonetheless I can not stop myself. Almost all the comments hope HEC program does get the results in the end and a few have expressed their concerns over the possibility of the scholars sent abroad on taxpayers’ money deciding not to return or wrangling their way out of the bond. But no one has cast any doubt over the utility of this program except for one Mr. Ahmad R. Shahid. I am primarily addressing him.
    Dear Shahid sahab, what I gather from your comments is that you are trying to stress the need of tackling with basic problems first before plunging in to high end research. Sir, the basic problems of ANY country (including USA, which seems to be the benchmark for everyone in Pakistan, and India also) can not be corrected overnight or even in years. Even if they do get overcome, they will not remain so forever. They are recurrent by nature and need a continual maintenance effort. We cannot ask our men of brains to sit idle till kingdom come.
    A two pronged effort is needed. One with short term goals and the other with long term aspirations. The HEC program is the long term effort needed.
    You say that China is still behind UK in the number of research papers published, and India is still quite behind. Agreed. So do you propose to wait till these two overtake UK to start doing research in Pakistan?
    You also contend that as for the IITs in India you don

  28. Ahmad R. Shahid says:
    August 27th, 2008 8:39 am

    Some figures from Pocket World in Figures 2008 Edition:

    Total Expenditure on R&D (% of GDP, 2004)

    1. Israel 4.55
    2. Sweden 3.95
    3. Finland 3.48
    4. Japan 3.20
    5. Iceland 2.87
    6. United States 2.66
    7. South Korea 2.63
    8. Denmark 2.61
    9. Switzerland 2.57
    10. Germany 2.49
    11. Taiwan 2.42
    12. Austria 2.26
    13. Singapore 2.24
    14. France 2.16
    15. Canada 1.90
    16. United Kingdom 1.88
    17. Belgium 1.85
    18. Luxembourg 1.78
    19. Norway 1.75
    20. Netherlands 1.72
    21. Australia 1.69
    22. Slovenia 1.47
    23. Czech Republic 1.27
    24. Croatia 1.25
    25. China 1.23
    26. New Zealand 1.22
    27. Ireland 1.19
    28. Russia 1.17
    29. Italy 1.13
    30. Spain 1.05
    31. Brazil 0.93
    32. Estonia 0.91
    33. Hungary 0.88
    34. India 0.84
    35. Jordan 0.81
    36. Portugal 0.74
    37. South Africa 0.73
    38. Hong Kong 0.69
    39. Turkey 0.66
    40. Chile 0.65
    41. Malaysia 0.63
    42. Greece 0.62
    43. Poland 0.54
    44. Slovakia 0.53
    45. Bulgaria 0.50
    46. Venezuela 0.46
    47. Argentina 0.44
    48. Mexico 0.39
    49. Romania 0.39
    50. Thailand 0.28

  29. Asad says:
    September 4th, 2008 8:36 am

    There is a rumor around that current scholars abroad are not being paid their stipend. If that is the case, it is really alarming, as thousands of students are studying abroad on these scholarships. The government cannot endorse the ‘bond’ if it cannot pay the cost of study.

  30. Noor says:
    October 9th, 2008 12:48 am

    Asalm-O-Alikum Everyone,

    I read in the THE NEWS, this story about plight of HEC students in South Korea.

    I chat with some of my friends who recently left to Korea on same scholaship. I was surprised to know about the truthfullness of the story. How HEC offcial unethically response to students and no action is taken against them. In one university stiudents have not rceived the stipend from last three months, other recived a week back.
    I was also told that HEc is not allowing students Internship and PHD against bond agreemnet. All HEC offcials including Chairman knows well all details. My friends also confirmed me as printed in the NEWS story that Korean professors are not interested in having pakistani students in their labs, as they are not able to do PHD, and as well as the Korean did good thing to support Pakistani Students PHD, but HEC decline to give students permission for it. HEC is paying about 40Lakh for a PHD in Korea, and Korean universities was doing for free for exsisting pakistani students.

    Doing so HEC is just making prople mind more corrupt and against Pakistan. This will cause braiun drain in presnt situation. I think HEC officals instaed of saving seats. HEC started good, but now its fate it similar to other Pakistani institute due to their own deeds.

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