The prime function of the universities is to generate knowledge through research and disseminating that knowledge through lectures, colloquia, workshops, conferences, and all the other related activities in the best way possible. The university, therefore, is termed as an industry of knowledge and is essential to the development of a society. Likewise, the university teachers have perhaps enjoyed the greater esteem in society than any other professionals. But, one might have noticed that the charm of this career and the degree of respect extended by the society towards this profession is constantly fading. None other than the “Teacher” himself is responsible for this fall from grace.
Nowadays, majority of the university teachers happily take up additional university’s administrative responsibilities at the expense of their prime job, teaching, and research. While the administrative experience is claimed with great enthusiasm, the same is used as an excuse for reducing their teaching credit hours. Interestingly, the majority of the universities already have designated administrative staff. Otherwise, they are legally bound to hire permanent administrative staff for such positions. Mostly, to fill this deficiency of credit hours, a visiting faculty member is hired without taking into consideration the financial liability it incurred on the university’s budget. Can the universities, going through a transitional phase of development in Pakistan, afford to waste the professional expertise of a university teacher for routine administrative tasks?
In most cases, these administrative positions are exploited for getting undue favors from their subordinates mainly the contractual academic staff, the research scholars who are inducted in universities through IPFP (Interim placement of fresh PhDs) program, or even the visiting faculty members. These favors may range from getting gifted authorships in publishing research papers to making them CoPIs (Co-Project Investigators) in various projects submitted for funding to Higher Education Commission (HEC) and other funding bodies. Some of their contractual subordinates/colleagues are forced to help them in their assigned courses such as making lecture slides, checking assignments, quizzes, and even marking the exam’s term papers. More often than not, the fresh Ph.D. faculty members are kept engaged by their concerned chairman in reviewing and evaluating the thesis and research papers that they receive as an external reviewer for which they are either paid or acknowledged by the reputed journals.
Majority of the university teachers though considering teaching jobs as a passion are less hesitant to switch their job status from teaching to administration in search of getting early promotion or improving scale. Once they get the administrative positions with an improved scale they still request the Chairman/Head of the concerned departments for course allocation not because of their love for teaching but to acquire parallel teaching experience for future opportunities. Nevertheless, this switching continues for some of the university’s’ employees throughout their whole professional life if they ever see the chance for early promotions both at academic and administrative levels. From this, one may evaluate the degree of passion they had/have for a university profession.
The HEC in general and the university’s’ leadership in particular must keep an eye on such practices and take steps to counter it. The following steps provide a blueprint for the authorities to consider:
- Critical evaluation of the project submitted for funding on the above-mentioned parameters.
- Develop and implement policies to discourage gifted authorships and allocating a due weightage (in promotion) based on genuine authorship and their contributions as well as the quality and impact of the published research work (rather than only counting the numbers).
- The university leadership needs to do away with the underutilization of its academic and administrative staff.
- Consider the financial consequences of unjustified hiring of the visiting faculty members.
- Providing policy guidelines for course allocation in different programs based exclusively on the expertise and experience of the faculty members.
The issues highlighted are of prime importance needing a serious consideration to discuss and rationalize. Now it is up to HEC, University’s’ Leadership, and even the various academic staff associations in different universities to decide whether they want to maintain the grace of this sacred place of learning as well as the teaching profession? If not, then sooner or later people around us will call these universities as the places only for sponsoring academician and their vested interest rather than promoting the public welfare to disseminate knowledge and research.