Monday, June 11, 2012

HEC Scholarships and grants are not for the Poor

Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC)  is renowned for providing lots of PhD and MS scholarships to the eligible scholars of Pakistan.  Since last year, there is lot of criticism in the media against the HEC especially that HEC scholarships are for rich people only. After the criticism of people HEC had also responded that their scholarships are for eligible people irrespective of poor or rich.  Who is the correct one, people complaining or HEC ? Unfortunately my experience and findings have proved that HEC have flaws which restrict many poor scholars even from applying for the scholarships.

Contrary to the claims of the HEC chairman, there is a big clause in HEC legal bond which proves that scholarships are not for poor people. “Declaration of Assets of at least 6 million rupees” ( point e in the terms and conditions of HEC legal Bond  ).  It is really strange, that how a student from a poor family can show the assets (property) of 60 Lac rupees. Similarly at the same time, if someone have so much money, why he/she needs the scholarship. HEC normally claims that guarantor could be anyone but again scholar has to beg in front of many rich people as mostly people do not put their property on guarantee. So honestly this clearly indicates that HEC scholarships are not for the poor Pakistanies.

HEC use the property of the scholar as guarantee that scholar will not break the bond or will not run away. Those who cheat and want to leave Pakistan, this guarantee is not able to stop them. This is the reason that HEC have a long list of defaulters although every one of them had shown this guarantee.  Administration at HEC doesn’t realize that they are unable to stop people from breaking bond with this clause but they are surely stopping many eligible candidates because they are poor and not able to show property equivalent to 60 Lac rupees.

Another problem with HEC scholarships is that HEC never openly display the list of the candidates who won the scholarships. They just show the CUT-OFF merit on their website.  Just look at the merit list of overseas scholarship phase 2 batch 4, merit cut-0ff for engineering is 89 marks where as computer science (that comes in Physical Sciences) is 91marks out 100 in NTS GAT test. From the merit list no one can detect who got the scholarship. This creates so many doubts in mind that might be awardees are related to someone in the HEC or NTS. If HEC claims that their scholarships are for everyone who is eligible than at least they should display the names of the awardees so that poor Pakistani scholar should not accept the conspiracies that HEC only award scholarships to the persons of their own choice and not the poor.

NTS GAT test is a local test based on the pattern of International GRE test. When someone can score so high (91 out of 100) in a local GRE and only took the HEC scholarship, which in comparison to other international scholarships, is very low in amount, creates so many doubts. Why he does not take international GRE, score as high as in local GRE and get admission and best scholarships  in world best universities in USA and around the Glob. If he complains about the cost of International GRE test ( around 17k PKR), than my question is how you can show the property of 60 LAC rupees but unable to pay 17 thousand rupees for  International GRE fee.   This seriously creates doubt on the credibility of NTS tests as well.

Similar to the scholarships, the system of providing travel grants to the scholar for the presenting their research papers in international conference, is also flawed and restrict the poor scholars from applying. According to HEC  scholar has to apply 6 weeks before the conference as HEC decides  to whom they have to award the grant,  4 to 5 weeks before the conference. Conferences normally require to register 6 to 7 weeks earlier than the conference otherwise paper doesn’t get published. So scholar has to pay the registration fee much earlier than HEC decision to grant him the amount or not. Poor scholar is unable to risk 400 to 600 US dollars (average conference registration fee around these days) as it is unpredictable that HEC will give the grants or not.

I put my example for this case. One of my papers was accepted in international conference and I applied for it around 13 weeks earlier than the conference. Conference registration date was 11 week earlier than the conference date.  So I registered for the conference and had to wait for the HEC decision. 5 Weeks before the conference, HEC send the rejection in the email without any reason.

Firstly they didn’t gave me any reason secondly if there was any reason, they should have informed me before the registration date.  Their system doesn’t take care of registration date, as a result, I lost huge amount (saving of my 4 years), neither I was able to get my money back nor was able to attend the conference.  And for the next time, I might never have the confidence to apply for travel grants from HEC.

Summarizing all of the above, I can clearly state that HEC scholarships and travel grants are not for the poor Pakistanies.  You can blame my opinion to be biased as I had lost huge amount due to HEC but no one can deny the faults in the scholarships and travel grants awarding systems of HEC. HEC should rectify these things so that every Pakistani should get benefits from the HEC.