In higher education, tenure is a professor’s permanent job contract, granted after a probationary period of six years. A faculty member in such a probationary position is said to be in a “tenure-track appointment.” Tenure track system (TTS) was introduced in Pakistani universities in 2002 as part of administrative reforms.

The main objective of introducing it was to improve performance of higher education in the country through attracting qualified people and improving performance of academic faculty of higher education. The system was to focus mainly on public sector universities. Prior to the introduction of TTS in Pakistan a report entitled, ‘higher education in developing countries – peril and promise’ published by the World Bank and UNESCO in 2000, following this report the government of Pakistan initiated a process of reform in the higher education sector. “The report developed as part of the process recommended for making certain revisions in the higher education including the recruitment and selection, compensation and performance management systems in order to make them more efficient and better performance oriented.” We Pakistanis are very quick to follow or copy foreign systems without assessing our own situation.


TTS in Pakistani universities is one such example out of many. Another particular failure has been introduction of semester system, particularly in public sector universities. Nowhere it is being strictly followed. TTS introduced by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan 46% (HEC) in 2002 draws heavily from the findings of the World Bank and UNESCO Report. Based on the findings of an empirical study conducted on the subject the paper assessed TTS as an administrative reform and identified its prospects and challenges to the higher education institutions in Pakistan. It also discussed policy implications and offered guidelines towards strengthening the system by removing the weaknesses at an early stage of implementation. Pakistani universities are offering two pay scales these days. Basic pay scale and tenure track system. This is a huge dichotomy in service and pay structure. According to a report published in daily The Nation on November 08, 2018 officials told the newspaper that the system failed to meet the targets and a large number of scholars fell short of the criteria of international performance based system in the universities. Officials said that in 12 years only 10 percent of the faculty remained successful in getting the TTS.


A teacher of University of Engineering & Technology, Taxila said “TTS system has almost flopped. People working on TTS are not given any incentives and pay has not been revised for the last 4 to 5 years. The difference in pay of BPS and TTS is marginal. BPS system has attraction of pension with job security which TTS faculty can’t think of. HEC has no idea how to give incentives to those who perform well  on TTS system. All performers and non performers are treated equally. So, the purpose of TTS to promote research is no longer there. Also, it’s common practice now to victimize TTS faculty in many universities.” Another very senior teacher of University of Karachi is also of similar view.


“I agreed with Dr. Hafiz Ali. The system is a complete failure. Here in KU people are waiting for their arrears for more than a year. No one in the university or HEC is in a position to reply to the queries of the TTS faculty.” Majority will prefer to go for BPS if both options are given to them. The TTS was not according to the ground realities of the country where there were less research facilities available in the universities for the PhDs. Former chairman HEC Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman, who introduced the TTS in the HEC says that TTS was introduced to encourage best brains for research and the idea was to gradually phase out the BPS from higher education system. He said, however, the universities didn’t implement the system in letter and spirit and two systems kept running parallel to each other. Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman added that when it was launched TTS was giving nearly 300 percent and above incentives to the scholars. Now difference between TTS and BPS is only 25 percent. Initially the TTS offered hefty salaries to PhD faculty members of public sector universities if they met a certain


A professor who is judiciously and honestly supervising some five to eight PhD theses and similar amount of M Phil theses can he get time to write papers to please HEC.


The objective was to stop the ‘brain drain’ phenomenon, encourage research and make faculty members productive. Over the years, not only has the HEC come up with more relaxed versions of the TTS one after the other in order to bring more candidates on board. Educational institutions have enacted their own statutes, which do not comply with even the relaxed rules of the H EC. At present, the TTS has been approved by the board of governors/syndicates of 55 universities, degree awarding institutes and centres. There are 67 public sector universities in the country, of which over 40 are on the TTS. Some have, however, not yet begun implementation of the system. Unknown fears haunt the teachers as well as the universities. The biggest fear and point that goes against TTS is what will happen when a TTS professor retires reaching superannuation. No pension means no financial security after retirement. At the face of it TTS looked rosy but it was certainly not so. The daily The Dawn in its May 3 issue observed, “Major irregularities are being committed in the tenure track system (TTS) presently under implementation in over 40 universities of the country. In order to gain the monetary benefits offered by the system to PhD faculty members, the relevant rules have been relaxed to such an extent that the basic purpose of the TTS seems to have been compromised.

At present, the AIOU has only one teacher on the TTS, while the NWFP Engineering University has eight teachers on the system. The AIOU administration had to face much resistance from teachers when it came to the system, as many rejected it on the grounds that it would create two ‘classes’ amongst teachers. Another element of severe ‘headache’ attached to TTS is publication of research papers in international journals. The HEC’s rules require the candidate to prepare a comprehensive application dossier that includes letters of reference from his/her PhD supervisor as well as others from eminent researchers in his/her area of specialization. It also asks for a list of all publications in internationally abstracted journals, recognized for the purpose of appointment on TTS by the HEC. Demand for writing of research papers and their publishing in international journals is not a simple demand. International publishers often say they have a huge backlog and cannot consider the paper immediately. These journals have a long and cumbersome process of evaluation of the papers. HEC also accepts some nationally produced research journals. To make the teachers’ life more miserable they have been categorized as x, y and z. I wonder how a full time professor who is fully engrossed in proper teaching  and who updates his/her every lecture how can he get time to produce research paper and get it published as well. In many cases senior professors of several universities are engaged in supervising PhD and MPhil theses.

A professor who is judiciously and honestly supervising some five to eight PhD theses and similar amount of M Phil theses can he get time to write papers to please HEC. If the HEC thinks he can and he should then let me suggest that all the officers of HEC who are in scale 18 and above should also write at least two research papers every year in international journals. Let the ‘Charity begin at home. If the high-ups of HEC can do this it will be a great incentive for teachers to emulate. These papers or their extract should be published in HEC Newsletter. Currently this newsletter carries nothing but reports and pictures of higher-ups of HEC showing them chairing a eeting, cutting tapes or inaugurating some show or exhibition.

 Dr Shaukat Mahmood is a well-known writer and the man behind popular Maxim cartoons. He is currently heading Research Centre for Doctoral Studies at University of Punjab. He can be reached at drshaukatmahmood@gmail.com.