The Higher Education Commission (H.E.C) of Pakistan was established in order to facilitate the development Institutes of Higher Education in Pakistan to centers of excellence in education, research & development, hence putting Pakistan on the path to becoming a knowledge-based economy. In order to do this, first Medium Term Development Framework (MTDF 1) (2005-2010) was laid down by the H.E.C, underlining ease of access, quality & relevance to national needs as key factors of a successful Higher Education Institute (H.E.I).
The MTDF II (2010-2015) was drafted after the first one, in which the H.E.C outlined the importance of continual improvements in standards of quality & effectiveness of processes for all H.E.Is. The top management at H.E.C now tends to recognize institutions on the basis of their performance. A total of eleven standards, stated as the Performance Evaluation Standards for H.E.Is, have been outlined in order to measure institutional performance. These standards articulate 11 specific dimensions of institutional quality & must be met by the institutes in order to secure recognition form the H.E.C as a certification of provision of quality education. A brief summary of what each standard stands for is as follows:
Standard 1: Mission Statement & Goals
This is the single most important standard in the development of any institute. This is the defining statement of why an institution was made & what end shall it aim to meet. The mission statement is the starting point: it defines why an institution exists, more broadly the ‘purpose’ of its being & what the institute intends to achieve in the long run. In addition to giving structure and direction to the institution, it communicates the core values or principles that the institute is built up upon. While a mission is a statement of what is, a vision is a statement of what or how the institution would like things to be; a picture of the institute that the management would like to see in future. It guides, motivates & facilitates an action plan. While mission & vision are philosophical, goals & objectives are more realistic. Goals are the manageable stepping-stones to achieve the mission & vision: a road-map of milestones as a part of the action plan.
Standard 2: Planning & Evaluation
This standard goes to investigate the next logical step as the direction for the organization; comprising of a clear mission & vision for the organization; has been set & objectives have been clearly stated, the organization is on the verge of planning stage, where a plan of action has to be laid out by the management in order to optimally achieve the goals & objectives. All constituents of an organization, large or small, must contribute in this action plan in varying degrees towards the successful completion of these objectives, in which they all have stake, to choose realistic positive thoughts among many so that the organization might have all the mechanisms in place to not only address its objectives but also any issues that might arise along the way. Planning is vital to an organization as it is a focused, systematic and collaborative effort to quantify what contributions each stake-holder should make in the scheme of allocation of duties & how to perform them, towards a mutually beneficial purpose with a view for the future of the organization. The results must then be communicated to all tiers of management accordingly. Measures for quality improvement are also a vital part for increased accountability across the board. The process of institutional planning is comprised of identifying program needs, formulation of a planning strategy, allocation of duties & sufficient resources to the action teams & ensuring administrative & technical support to all that may require it.
Standard 3: Organization & Governance
Having gone through the crucial stage of planning & evaluation of activities in the action plan, practical work can now start. This standard aims to constitute how the management articulates the important task of deciding who does what. This is a very important constituent of institutional make-up. The very definition of management incorporates Planning first, then Organizing (assigning tasks to different tiers of management), Staffing (appointing people for the said tiers), Leading (from the front (leader)) & finally Controlling (making sure everyone does their bit) in the most optimal way possible. This philosophy makes use of the strength of synergy, teamwork & ‘group-think’ in the organization. All organizations have a management structure that determines relationships between the different activities and the members connected to each other through certain levels of hierarchy and subdivides and assigns roles, responsibilities, and authority, in the forms of organograms, to carry out novel tasks. Organizations are open systems--they affect and are affected by their environment. The achievements of an organization are the fruit of combined effort of a group of individuals. This is organization & why it is so important for organizations is because of the effect it can have on the organization in real-time, hence effectively determining institution’s operational effectiveness. This standard stresses that a strong organogram with strategically placed human resource is the recipe for success for organizations, as duties are assigned to each tier of management starting from the bottom all the way to the top, with a view to optimal use of available resources. Where a strong organizational structure culminates in faster & easier achievement of objectives, a strong governance system makes sure that this machinery works in a way most conductive in learning, so that there is no compromise on quality of the operation. A non-effective organizational system might render processes to move slower, in-effective governance & hindrance in smooth completion of objectives. Roles are assigned with a strong consideration of policy development & ease of decision-making to ensure & strengthen the responsibility, integrity of information, commitment to action plan & subsequent resource development. Focus is also on effective resolution of conflict of interests among peers & generation of a healthy feed-back loop for the management by utilizing student data gathered from the target population i.e. the students.
Standard 4: Integrity
The mission statement bases itself on core values: the sacred canons of the institution which it does not go against. This standard aims to find out how well these core values of goodness, fairness, non-discrimination & justice in conduct etc. are being implemented. This standard delves deeper into the nature of conduct of the institution in its dealings with the major components of the institution. These include human resource such as its students (quality education being provided, addressing grievances, respect of equity & diversity etc.), faculty & employees (fair & impartial hiring procedure, addressing their grievances, equity & respect in conduct etc.) as well as all external parties including the governing bodies of the country (openness & integrity in sharing information, mutual respect, no illegal practices etc.). All this coupled with the strong ethical practices & fair conduct across the board, mutual respect among all individuals & in-built practices of protecting all intellectual property rights, may they be in any form, are indicators of institutional integrity.
Standard 5: Faculty
Teachers are an integral part of an educational institute. They mold minds by the immense impression they can have on their students. Teachers at higher education institutes have an even greater responsibility: training of young & willing students into of professionals of tomorrow. It is only under the guidance of able faculty members that a young, impressionable & seemingly simple mind turns into a great mind, changing raw talent into finesse. A faculty member with vision imparts in the students a will to move forward with his/her ideas: the eternal ‘enabler’. This standard aims to investigate the ways in which the institute retains, sustains & develops the best faculty in its aim to complete its mission. Also measured is the ability of the faculty in terms of academic capability, responsibility & quality of disseminated knowledge. The salient points that the standard questions are the faculty appointment criteria, Research credentials, Quality evaluation & professional development, services to the community & Integrity in conduct (adherence to plagiarism policy, steps for conflict resolution etc.) as well as such factors as job satisfaction, Salary & Promotion structures & quality initiatives.
Standard 6: Students
Students are the life-blood of an educational institute. If the teachers have the maturity & vision to vision to steer the stoutest of minds to greatness, it is ultimately the students, without whose will, this greatness cannot be achieved. The teacher is the sensor, the student the actuator. This fact becomes more & more relevant due to the fast pace of technology, keeping up with which is a bigger responsibility of the student. That is why, normally, it is the students that elevate an institution. It is, therefore, pivotal for the educational organization, that the best minds from the available lot be selected, which would ultimately help not only the organization in the completion of its mission & vision but also the student who would be provided an opportunity to use his/her natural talent & abilities to scale the heights in the intended field. This standard aims to investigate how the institution admits & sustains students in its constituent colleges, fitness of these policies to mission & vision, periodic student success assessment & intimation to their guardians & degree of provision of other student-centric services such as transfer of credits, grants, scholarships, refunds, infrastructural & other facilities, teacher to student ratio etc. The major purpose of setting up a quality enhancement cell is actually facilitation for students & this standard sometimes proves to be the defining factor for academic accreditation by many government bodies.
Standard 7: Institutional Resources
Institutional Resources, after faculty & students, are the most important part of an institution. This comprises of almost all the hard-ware at the management’s disposal. These resources enable an institute to effectively address an institute’s mission, vision & objectives. Resource acquirement, calculated allocation & strong management can go a long way towards contributing to the institutional performance in promulgation of knowledge, research & development. Planning & Allocation of resources includes decision-making after an in-depth study of what is in hand & where should it be used efficiently whereas the evaluation stages effectively measure & feed-back of whether the system is working as per out need. This standard shall investigate the institute’s performance based on how well the institutional resources, like human (staff), physical (infrastructure), technological (labs, internet facilities etc.), financial (capital) & information, were utilized & managed in a way most beneficial to the institute in completing its objectives. This is depicted by the strategies that underline how well all the resources have been planned & duly allocated, supply & maintenance according to new technological advancements, an independent audit system mechanism to measure the fitness of resource utilization with periodic assessment & provision of a comprehensive Master Plan & Life-Cycle Management (LCM) plan encompassing facilities at the institute’s disoposal.
Standard 8: Academic Programs & Curricula
A pivotal point in the development of an educational institution is the development of an evolving curriculum for the students. Development of a framework that clearly states how the curriculum is set, how it benefits the students & the society in general can go a long way towards the success of an HEI. This standard aims to effectively dig out how the institution outlines its policy of setting academic programs congruent to its mission & vision, adequacy & currency of knowledge-base. This investigates how effectively the courses offered in Undergraduate, Graduate & Post-Graduate programs inculcate in the students the abilities of learning, application & contribution to future research & development in the future. This necessitates, on the part of the institution, development of a framework of learning outcomes from these programs, how to incorporate those into the future plan to increase the level of learning & contribution of the student, keeping in mind the provision of adequate faculty, infrastructure & other resources for a wholehearted learning experience for the student.
Standard 9: Public Disclosure & Transparency
Non-discriminatory dissemination of data of educational concern is the main point of this standard. Communication is a two-way process, but there can be no communication when the sender is idle. It is so important for institutions to typically maintain with the public a system of communication that is not only beneficial for the public, but also helpful in making sure that the institutional mission, vision & objectives can be effectively addressed. This standard necessitates that the provided information must be clear, accessible, without fault & adequate for the public so that the students, prospective students, all stakeholders as well as the general public are able to make decisions regarding education. This can be done by electronic media through maintenance of an internet website with complete administrative support regarding any queries, & through print media to reach put to the masses & educate them in making informed decisions regarding education & abiding by the ethical policy. Speedy expedition of all inquiries also is included.
Standard 10: Assessment & Quality Assurance
One of the salient points of what these standards are being put in place for is summarized in this standard. This standard represents one of the main reasons behind performance evaluation of an H.E.I: to investigate whether quality education & learning is actually being accorded by the university. This point aims to drive home the importance of standards of quality as well as ways & means adopted by the university to effectively measure & improve it periodically over a course of time. Thus, the standard is to check whether the institution has a well-defined self-assessment mechanism in place, how is it drafted, how are results drawn, how the decisions are taken for improvement of the processes currently in place & whether those decisions are actually being implemented. Reports like Self-Assessment Reports (SARs) along with Internal Quality Assurance processes (The QA Framework) prepared by the institute as defined by the H.E.C, which are compliant of national as well as international standards, help the institution in achieving their mission, vision & objectives through periodic evaluation & improvement of processes while making sure that the major objective of provision of quality education to its students is being met. This can be done by making use of several quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis of data & information collected through collaboration of students & faculty to constitute a relationship with the goals & objectives of the institution, through consistent & standard periodic evaluation & assessment mechanism. This standard must be taken in totality to the institution, where the institution not only must have documented plans to reflect the consideration of QA techniques but also evidence of how this data was used in creating a positive difference in future processes.
Standard 11: Student Support Services
This standard is for the express benefit of the students in their every-day needs, apart from provision of knowledge. This constitutes in development of efficient services for students that helps in creation of an environment more conducive of knowledge & learning. This system ultimately is for the good for the institution also. This standard investigates how efficiently the institute addresses the issues of the students. This includes setting up of a student support group responsive to their needs, strengths & learning objectives, with easy access. Student support services include student advisory services (during & after education), addressing student grievances & conflict resolution with an in-built mechanism that evaluates how happy students are. These services also include facilitation of the artistic, athletic & innovative capabilities in them by provision of resources for several events & competitions to give the students an experience conducive to an increase in the overall learning curve.