‘DISAPPOINTING’, ‘distressing’ and humiliating’ are the few words that best describe one’s response to an advertisement published recently by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) who announced its policy to hire academic professionals on high salaries from aboard. It is unimaginable that they are ready to pay high amount to the people who are living abroad but unwilling to pay the same who are settled in Pakistan even though the competency standard is the same.

One can understand that the Pakistanis might face discrimination in foreign nations abut to see this happen in one’s own country, and that as a part of official policy, is disturbing. The HEC’s approach is discriminatory and irrational and sends a very wrong message to qualified people with foreign degrees looking for suitable jobs in academia in Pakistan.

According to various reports, the commission will pay out to $3000 per month to employ professionals from overseas. In a letter to this newspaper, the HEC’s head of human resource development and strategic planning, DR S. Naqvi, mentioned that the focus of the program was to hire expatriate Pakistani professors, who would otherwise be unwilling to return and work here.

However, it seems that the HEC does not have much consideration of the fact that many Pakistani professionals residing in Pakistan have good degrees from the reputed foreign institutions but unable to fix a reasonable job. Ironically, the commission has advertised 10 positions for which it sought applications from university teachers (holding PhD degrees) who had either already retired or were close to retiring. The job was for researchers and carried a monthly salary of Rs.25, 000 per month. The text of the advertisement seemed to suggest that the requirements were quite high much more compared to the relatively puny amount that the HEC was offering as monthly remuneration.

One is unable to understands to why a qualified professional should be offered such a low salary if she or he has achieved a high standard of excellence while working in Pakistan. Is the HEC saying that those who went abroad to study, came back and then worked here all made a mistake and had they not returned and worked in academia abroad they would have been in a much better position to apply under the foreign faculty hiring scheme.

The commission failed to appreciate the fact that that some people shoes to come back to work in Pakistan due to sheer patriotism but the HEC policy appeared to be discouraging this sentiment. They are being discouraged and punished for showing dedication and loyalty to their profession and country.

In any case simply hiring loads of professors from abroad will not necessarily lead to a long-term improvement in higher education. Besides, one could well argue that even such a scheme might not get the desired results. A salary of three thousand dollars a month might seem a lot from the point of view of people working in Pakistan but it could not be attractive for academics working in North American and European countries. I contacted several senior professors at the European universities asking them if they would consider working in Pakistan at such a salary. None of them said they would consider moving out from their home countries. So, the result of the foreign faculty hiring scheme might be that it would able attract a few brand new PhDs or doctorates but not high profile academic staff as proclaimed by the HEC.

In short, the discriminatory and unfair hiring policy that the HEC has embarked upon could well backfire and create a hostile environment between local and overseas academics. Such an environment will clearly not be conducive for carrying out research because it will lead the creation of an unnecessary two-tier class of researchers; the ‘haves’ (who will be hired from abroad at phenomenal salaries) and the ‘have-nots (those already working in Pakistan).

At the very least, those who have degrees from foreign universities but who are already working Pakistan should be considered at par with those working overseas. After all, ‘the fact’ that someone chose to come back and work in Pakistan after studying overseas should not be held against him.

Nadeem Yousaf

The article published in 2003 in the Daily Dawn, Karachi, Pakistan

The scheme has proved to be flopped and the recent reports show that HEC initiatives did not bring expected results.

HEC’s Wrong Faculty Hiring Policy