Categories
Commentaries

Library Systems and Labs for Tier 1 Universities

Introduction:
While the HEC Vision 2025 document does mention the need for libraries and labs for research institutions, it seems prudent to recognize the integral connection of libraries and labs to the long-term mission of innovative research. This brief document offers a few insights, gleaned from my experience of research universities in the US, about library systems and labs that could be useful for the future planning of HEC
Libraries
In the US university rankings, the library holdings (print and digital) along with the availability of trained staff is crucial to maintaining Tier 1 status. Most research Universities have one major main library and several other subject-related libraries. My campus, for example, has one main library and five other subject-related libraries.
Research Librarians:
A research university must have highly trained research librarians. At UNT, for example, each department has a liaison research librarian. During our research, if we need information on any materials not held in our library, we send a query to our Liaison librarian, and she not only finds the sources for us but also procures them from other libraries.
The research librarians also train our students in how to use the library resources, and also help each department develop the collection according to the needs of the department.
Inter-Library Loans:
The inter-library loan system allows our library to request books throughout the United States. In this way, even if our library does not have a book/ paper they can acquire it from us at any time. The online library catalog allows us to request a book through the loan system simply by logging in and requesting the item.
HEC could encourage this initiative at regional level and maybe one such program could be piloted first to see how it materializes.
Libraries of Record;
Quite a few Tier 1 libraries also act as libraries of record either for state government documents or for the local government documents. UNT, for example, is the library of record for the state of Texas. All public state documents and proceedings are therefore housed and archived in our library and becomes a resource for local, national, and international researches interested in Texas history, culture, or politics. HEC could also test this practice to see if it would be viable at national level.
Special Collections;
All research libraries also have a special collections section. These could vary from collection of rare books [Like the collection of Islamia College University Library] or archives of authors, scientists, leaders, and other local or national figures/ projects. The special collections can provide a university the opportunity to develop a niche research resource that draws a lot researchers if they are writing about the topic related to the special collection holdings.

Research Labs
There are usually two kinds of labs in tier 1 research university. General purpose labs that the students use during their education and the research labs of science professors who are active researchers. Generally, when a tenure track professor is hired at a research University he/ she is provided his/her own lab so that they can develop their r research and also train their respective graduate students in their lab. Only those hired as teaching professors only have no labs of their own. This could be enormously expensive, but HEC could try it on a limited scale and then, depend on the finding available, extend this practice to all major universities. Of course, this could also be done in research clusters, and I know that it is already being done at some major universities.

Categories
Commentaries

Brief Guidelines for Applying to US Universities for Doctoral Studies and Post-Doc Research

Introduction:

This draft document elaborates the general application process to US research universities. For a more detailed understanding of the process, the candidates should research the application criteria on the particular University websites. These draft guidelines are prepared voluntarily to aid the aspirational guidelines of Higher Education Commission as contained in the HEC Vision 25, Section D and are primarily focused on the Pakistani scholars interested in applying to US PhD programs or Postdoc research projects.

Applications to Doctoral Programs:

General:

Most US universities require certain general qualifications that apply to all Doctoral candidates regardless of their discipline of study. Please bear the following in mind before applying:

  • Most US universities only consider PhD application for the fall admissions (Starting in August or September).
  • The application deadlines are usually in December or January: For example, if you are applying for admission for Fall 2019, your application deadline could be either Dec 31, 2018 or January 31, 2019.
  • US universities very rarely admit doctoral students in the Spring semester.
  • The reason for this schedule is connected to funding. The Universities decide their graduate funding once a year, and thus all funding is made available for the fall semester as the beginning semester of the academic year.
  • Admission to a good US university, therefore, is almost a one year process.

Basic Requirements:

The admission at all universities is a three-tier process and you will be dealing with three entities on any US university campus: The Office of International Studies; The office of Graduate Studies/ Admissions, and the College or department to which you are applying.

First Stage (Required by the International Office/ Graduate Admissions Office to Move your application to the College/ Department

  • An Official TOEFL score (Unless you have masters from an English-Speaking Country (Pakistan does not qualify for this).
  • Transcripts of all your previous work
  • A GRE/ GMAT Score depending on your area of study.
  • A statement of Purpose (Usually up to 700 words)

Second Stage: College/ Departmental Requirements

  • Three letters of recommendation
  • A Writing/ Research sample

Final Stage: (After Admission has been granted)

The Office of International Studies will ask you to provide proof of Payment ability. Usually a bank statement or a letter stating that you have a scholarship. [Note: Ability to pay is not considered in making a decision about your admission; that is why you are asked for finances only after you have been admitted]

Issuance of I-20 Student Visa Form.

Transition to US:

Here are some of the important steps:

  • Accommodation: if the institution provides graduate housing, immediately apply for it through their online request forms.
  • If you cannot get University accommodation, contact the International Office to suggest any off- campus accommodation. Reach out to Pakistani/ South Asian Student associations on campus to see if they can help you find a place to live.
  • Arrange with the International office to see if they will arrange picking you up at the airport; most universities will make this arrangement.
  • Get in touch with the Grad advisor in your future program to seek guidance about registering for classes etc.
  • Bring all your credentials in original to the US.

Post-Doc Applications:

The US universities do not charge a bench fee for post-docs. The post-doc students come under the J1 visa program. In order to get the visa, you may follow the following steps:

  • Contact a specific faculty member who works in the area of your interest.
  • Send them a query email, clearly stating your research interests and ask if they would be willing to work with you as a mentor.
  • If they agree, then send them your research proposal.
  • It takes only a few days for a faculty member to fill the necessary forms and refer you to the Office of International Studies.
  • The office of International Studies will gather more of your information including your ability to bear the cost of your stay [usually calculated based on cost of living statistics of the state]
  • After you have proved the ability to sustain your stay, they will issue you a J-1 visa.
  • As a J-1 scholar, you can also work on campus for up to 30 hours per week.
  • Your spouse can also accompany you on a J-2 visa if you can prove your ability to pay the cost of his or her stay.
  • You will also need the proof a health insurance plan that meets the J1 Visa stipulations.

Useful Links:


Categories
Editorials

US-Pakistan Knowledge Program: How to Negotiate with US Universities

Introduction:
These observations are based in my personal experience at three US research universities and including also the experience of negotiating such a deal, at smaller level, with the University of North Texas. I offer these insights to the HEC initiative as described on Pages 37-39 of the HEC Vision 2025 Document.

Who to Contact:
In all cases, instead of initiating contact at the Chancellor level, it is more prudent to talk directly with the university administration, as the university Presidents are pretty autonomous in such cases.

Selecting the Universities:
We should target all major Research 1 universities, but especially those which are located in places with low cost of living. We could also research and target various universities based on their most highly ranked programs.
How to Contact:
A brief note should be developed that explains the Pakistani initiative to send 10000 PhD scholars to various US universities.
A designated person should first reach out to the office of the provost or the office of the president of the University and send a query email about whether or not they will be interested in discussing the project.
If they show interest, then HEC should send a team of experts to start the negotiating process. The team should have all the information and a really good presentation. Please make sure to invite the people from the department that you are interested in.
If possible, involve a diasporic Pakistani academic in the process.
What to Negotiate:
That the partnership will offer a certain specific number of seats, for certain specific number of years to qualified Pakistani candidates.
Ask them to charge you only the In-state tuition. You have the numbers on your side, so they should be willing to work with you. Various states have different laws for offering in-state tuition. Note that International tuition rate is almost always double that of the in-state tuition.
If your candidates have teaching experience, the host university can very easily adjust them at in-state rate by employing them as Teaching Assistants/ Research Assistants.
In the state of Texas, if Pakistan contributes $1000.00 to a general fund at the host university, the host university can issue that to the students as “scholarship” thus legally qualifying them to pay in-state tuition.
Where possible, negotiate that the host university should provide the health insurance.
Conclusion:
All major US universities love diversity and are desperate for International graduate students. In any such negotiation, Pakistanis, therefore, have an edge over their US counterparts, as the latter are never using their resources at an optimal level and bringing in more graduate students looks good in their annual reporting.

Categories
Editorials

Pakistaniaat No Longer Affiliated with HEC

Yesterday I received an email from Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, an organization that we supported on this forum last year when it was about to be axed, informing me that according to their “new criteria” Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies could not be considered an approved journal of HEC. I was also instructed to delete our assertion that our journal was approved in their “Y” category.

Needless to say I found this decision acutely autocratic: if their polices have changed , why were we not informed to comply with the policies? professional courtesy requires that things like this should not be sent to us sounding like an arbitrary decision.

I have looked for the new criteria on the HEC website, and all that I have been able to gather is that since our journal does not have an Impact Factor and as it is not listed with Thompson’s Index, we, somehow, are not worthy of inclusion into their database. That Pakistaniaat is now a leading peer-reviewed journal on Pakistan and that it is also a sponsored journal of American Institute of Pakistan Studies, and indexed by the MLA does not mean much to the people at HEC.

The reason we are not listed with Thompsons is because it costs a lot of money to register a journal with them and we neither have the resources nor the need to waste our money on corporations that specialize in deciding whether we are a worthy journal or not. I am really disappointed at the outlook of HEC, which seems too corporatized to me, and at the callous method of informing us about this unjust decision.

The reason I wanted Pakistaniaat to be listed with HEC was to encourage quality submissions from Pakistani scholars and to offer our editorial expertise to them in the process. It seems our this mission has been stymied. But we will continue on with or without HEC recognition.

Those of you still interested in publishing with us, please be assured that we are now an established and internationally recognized academic journal. It is, however, sad that a beaurocratic institution of the very country that our journal hopes to represent has failed to find value in our work. In any case, the loss is theirs.

With this decision, HEC has lost my support and in the future I will not waste any more of my time defending their causes. I am pretty sure that Pakistaniaat will keep growing with the help of our contributors and with the great work of our volunteer editorial team.

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