The HEC Graduate Education Policy 2023 or HEC PhD Policy 2023 is intended to ensure that PhD programs in Pakistan are of high quality. The HEC’s Graduate Education Policy is intended to ensure that PhD programs in Pakistan are of high quality and that graduates have the skills and knowledge necessary to serve highly consequential functions in society.
HEC Graduate Education Policy 2023 is applicable to all HEIs in Pakistan, whether public or private. It is effective from Fall 2023, and any additional requirements in the policy compared to the HEC’s previously applicable policies shall not be retroactively applicable. There are some special conditions for students already studying and for universities that adopt these new rules. But, importantly, the HEC says universities can make things even better than the minimum rules if they want, but they can’t make them worse.
Summary of the HEC Graduate Education Policy 2023 is given below, however, click here to download PDF version of the HEC PhD Policy 2023 from HEC website
The minimum requirements for obtaining a Doctoral Degree (Level 8) are outlined as follows:
Qualification / Admission Requirements:
- Before entering a PhD program, a student must have already earned an MS/MPhil or an equivalent degree as specified in this policy.
- Alternatively, students currently pursuing MS/MPhil studies can get provisional admission if they convince the Admission Committee about their Statement of Purpose and commitment to the PhD program. However, final admission depends on meeting certain conditions within a year, including obtaining the MS/MPhil degree and clearing an admission test.
Intra-disciplinary admissions (within the same field) may be allowed under certain circumstances:
- If the university/HEI policy permits it.
- If the applicant is genuinely interested in pursuing a PhD in a different discipline.
- If the applicant has passed the GRE-Subject/Equivalent Test with a minimum of 50% marks in the relevant discipline and has taken 6-9 credit hours of deficiency courses at Level 7.
- If the admission committee believes that the applicant’s knowledge in the primary area (Level 7) adequately prepares them for the doctoral program, or additional courses may be taken at the beginning of the program to ensure preparedness.
CGPA (Grade Average):
- To get into a PhD program, you need a minimum CGPA of 3.0 (if your grades are measured on a 4.0 scale) or 60% (if it’s in the annual system). This applies to your MS/MPhil or equivalent degree, no matter if you got it from a Pakistani or foreign university.
- If your transcript doesn’t show your CGPA, you must get an equivalent score from your university.
- If you’re super interested in getting a PhD but your CGPA is below 3.0 or 60%, you might still get in by doing some extra courses (9-12 credit hours) and scoring at least 3.0 out of 4.0. The Admission Committee should also be convinced that you know enough about the subject.
- The university has to either create a test similar to GRE/HAT General with a passing score of 60% or accept a test from a recognized testing body accredited by HEC with the same passing score.
- Besides what was mentioned earlier, the university might want you to take a subject test if they think it’s necessary.
Degree Completion Timeline:
- PhD degree should take between three to eight years (or six to 16 regular semesters), excluding exceptional cases.
- The completion date is when the university officially notifies you of the PhD degree.
- If there are delays, the university can extend the duration, considering factors like force majeure (unexpected events) or administrative reasons.
Credits Transfer, Evaluation, and Grading:
- Policies for the semester system apply to Level-8 programs, including credit transfer, student assessment, and grades.
- Transfer of research work is allowed if the host university accepts the research done at the parent university.
Statement of Purpose (Why You Want to Do This PhD):
- When you apply for a PhD, you have to write a statement of purpose. This is like a letter where you explain why you want to do the PhD. The Admission Committee uses this to see if you’re ready for the PhD and if the department has what you need for the specific area you’re interested in.
- Your statement should have:
- The title of what you might want to research.
- Clear explanations of what you already know about your field and your ideas for research.
- Why your research could make a difference.
- You should show that you’re really excited and passionate about the research area.
Coursework and Residency Requirement:
Before you can get a PhD:
- You need to finish some courses, at least 18 credit hours if they’re in the same subject.
- These courses should be taught on campus by full-time teachers, and it’s better if they’re at an 800 level.
- Importantly, the PhD is mostly about your research, not just completing a certain number of credit hours.
Comprehensive Examination (Big Test):
- After finishing your courses, you have to pass a big test to become a PhD researcher.
- You get a second chance if you don’t pass the first time.
- You should finish your required courses, pass the comprehensive exam, and defend your research plans within the first six semesters of starting the PhD. If not, your registration might be canceled.
- If there are really unavoidable circumstances (force majeure), the university might look into it, following a specific procedure.
- The big test covers everything you learned in your subject, usually from your graduate-level courses. It’s not graded; you just need to pass.
Doctoral Dissertation Basics:
- Your dissertation (big research paper) needs to be relevant, credible, effective, and legitimate.
- It must be an original and innovative contribution to knowledge, helping to solve real-world problems.
Selection of Research Area:
- Your research should meet local needs and align with the country’s research priorities.
- It should cover basic and pure research and focus on emerging areas related to sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Quality in Reporting:
- Your dissertation should be well-written, balanced, organized, and free from errors.
- It needs to follow international formatting standards.
- If it involves numbers (quantitative research), it must have a valid statistical design for data analysis.
- For qualitative research (studying people’s experiences):
- Does your research show the meaning, actions, and context of the people you’re studying?
- Did your research design adapt to real-life situations?
- Is your sample creating the right kind of knowledge?
- Can readers understand the meaning and context of what you’re studying?
- How are different sources of knowledge about the same issue compared?
- Are people’s subjective perceptions and experiences treated as valuable knowledge?
Qualitative Research (Studying People’s Experiences):
- Your research should go beyond describing data; it should analyze and interpret the meaning and significance of the data.
- It needs to show how you move from describing data to analyzing and interpreting its meaning.
Quantitative Research (Involving Numbers):
- Your research needs to be:
- Reliable: Can others get the same results if they repeat the study?
- Valid: Does your research measure what it claims to measure?
- Internally Valid: Do your results accurately represent what they seem to represent?
- Externally Valid: Can your results be applied to different settings and populations?
- Replicable: Can others reproduce your study’s results?
Appropriateness of Methods to the Study’s Aims:
Your research methods should:
- Include the latest knowledge and techniques related to your study objectives.
- Have clear and easy-to-understand discussions about the methods you used.
- Justify why you used specific methods to achieve your objectives.
- Evaluate the results you obtained in relation to your study objectives.
- Justify how your methods led to the results you got.
- Ensure that your results support your study objectives.
Relevance to Policy and Practice:
Your research should give meaningful answers to questions related to policy and practice in that field.
- Your dissertation needs to:
- Evaluate Results in Relation to Policy Goals: Assess your results in connection with the policy goals you set when starting your research.
- Discuss Practical Implications: Talk about how your results practically apply to the evolving practices in that area.
- Establish Usefulness for Policy: Show how your results can be useful in creating policies, just like you said at the beginning.
- Explain Benefits for Organization/Society: Discuss how the policies resulting from your research would benefit the organization or society.
- Output Should Be Significant: Your research findings should be important enough to be published or patented.
- Author’s Assessment Should Be Thoughtful: Your evaluation of the results should be thorough and not just on the surface.
External Evaluation of PhD Dissertation:
Your dissertation must be evaluated by external experts. These experts can be:
- PhD faculty members from the world’s top 500 universities.
- Distinguished National Professors, Meritorious Professors, or professors from national universities, top HEC-ranked universities, or any Pakistani University with a certain research impact.
- If you publish your dissertation research in a peer-reviewed journal classified by the HEC, you need at least one external expert meeting the conditions above.
Choosing External Evaluators:
When picking these external experts, you should consider:
- Relevance of Expertise: They should know about the same or related fields as your dissertation.
- No Conflict of Interest: They shouldn’t have personal, financial, or professional stakes in a particular decision.
- Objectivity: They should give unbiased evaluations.
- Diversity: It’s good if they come from different places and backgrounds.
- Reputation: They should have a good reputation in their field.
- Availability: They should have time to review your dissertation.
- Professionalism: They should act professionally and respectfully during the evaluation process.
- Communication: They should give clear and constructive feedback.
- Confidentiality: They should keep your dissertation’s details confidential.
- Compatibility: They should understand the research methods, approach, and theories used in your dissertation.
Plagiarism and Similarity Test:
- Plagiarism (copying someone else’s work) is a big no-no. Both PhD researchers and their supervisors need to make sure this doesn’t happen.
- Follow guidelines and ethical standards to avoid plagiarism.
- If plagiarism is found, it will be dealt with according to the Higher Education Commission’s Anti-Plagiarism Policy.
- Before submitting the dissertation to external experts, a similarity test must be done according to HEC’s Anti-Plagiarism Policy.
After a positive dissertation evaluation, there’s an open defense. This means:
- Public Announcement: It’s shared on the university website and other places so anyone interested can join.
- Public Access: The defense is open to the public in places like community halls.
- Neutral Chair: Someone who isn’t biased oversees the defense.
- Review Committee: A group that evaluates the dissertation and defense.
- Presentation: The PhD researcher talks about their dissertation.
- Q&A Session: The audience can ask questions to evaluate the defense.
- Objective Evaluation: The defense is evaluated based on research quality and the researcher’s ability to defend.
- Final Decision: It’s either a pass, a pass with minor changes, deferred for resubmission, or fail (only in exceptional circumstances, with reasons recorded).
- To get a PhD degree, you need to publish research articles.
- For science disciplines, it’s at least one article in a top-tier journal or two in slightly lower-ranked ones. For social sciences, it’s either one in a mid-tier journal or two in lower-ranked ones.
- You must be the first author, and the articles should be relevant to your PhD research.
- These articles should be published after your research synopsis is approved and in relevant research journals.
Award of Post Graduate Diploma/Certificate:
- If you complete coursework and pass the comprehensive exam but can’t defend your PhD synopsis or finish the required research within the time limit, you might get a diploma/certificate or another MS/MPhil, following HEC policies and university rules.