How HEC Kills Creativity and How PEC Kills Creativity

How HEC and PEC kill creativity! They kill creativity by targeting the roots from where creativity and innovation originate. Creativity, innovation, new paradigms, new frameworks and and new ideas originate from out-of-the-box thinking, lateral thinking, inter-disciplinary aha experiences. However, HEC/PEC’s notion of quality works in the reverse direction; they force faculty, curriculum as well as research to be imprisoned in rigidly defined boxes or cells! They compartmentalize knowledge and think that knowledge can be captured in boxes and in silos designated by the names of the disciplines, programs or departments. This helps the bureaucracy in imprisoning the faculty into existing rigidly defined boxes i.e. the name of the discipline written on the degree or the name of the department on the transcript. This box then becomes the territory on which turf wars are fought for future promotions and fancy designations of professors, chairpersons, and deans. It is on this turf that departmental politics is played out. This imprisoning of knowledge in silos has nothing to do with academics or the quality of higher education.
This is also discussed in my blogpost What does it Mean to Have a PhD: Myths of Specialization and Departmental Expertise

Strictly speaking no discipline and no degree program can be confined into a strict boundary. Knowledge knows no boundaries. Names of disciplines and subjects are artificially created, and the subject boundaries are specified only for administrative convenience for classifying, categorization and logistics. The issue becomes very clear when you force a book to be placed in a particular shelf of the library under a particular Library of Congress (or Dewey’s Decimal) Classification. It is clear that knowledge has multidimensional and hyperlinked connections to multiple areas. No wonder that hyperlinked Wikipedia had won out over centuries old sequential-compartmentalized knowledge structure of Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

Knowledge, innovation and creativity abhors boundaries. In fact, all new exciting discoveries and inventions and progress take place when the boundaries are dismantled. Creativity is the result of cross disciplinary and interdisciplinary linkages. Creativity is the result of lateral thinking across conventional modes of thoughts and disciplines. It is only when you apply the paradigm from one discipline to ideas in to another unrelated discipline that new connections are formed and new ideas germinate.  The current information age and the inventions and innovations in technologies has progressively demolished the boundaries of disciplines, industries, and old classifications.

  • Businesses merged and went from office buildings into the cloud
  • Supply chains went from transportation and logistics to virtual movements from one inventory to another in the cloud
  • Social networks went from physical interactions to virtual interactions in the cloud
  • Neuroscience merged neuro-psychology with computers
  • Orthopedics integration with mechanical prosthetic 
  • AI merged intelligence and cognition and psychology with computer technology.
  • Medical imaging changing medical diagnosis future for ever. 
  • Biochemistry merging into electronic equipment in the medical technologies and equipement. 
  • Philosophy in the social network design 
  • Google using ontology and epistemology from philosophy and incorporating its ideas into data structures that has led to the phenomenal growth of the huge enterprise.
  • Facebook using graph theory to rule the social networks.
  • Politics and public opinion controlled through data analytics. Cambridge Analytica managed to sway the US elections through the investment of a few tens of thousands of dollars. 
  • Flying cars represent the convergence of mechanical and automotive engineering with avionics, computerization and AI.
  • Same is the case for self driving cars and unmanned drones. 
All huge global problems are multidimensional problems and are multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary. The global warming which is created by the coincidence of issues created through unbridled progress, capitalism, economic progress, poverty, rich-poor divide, resource exploitation and so on. Similarly, depletion of water resources, extinction of species, changing climate patterns, forests depletion, food shortages, health and virus outbreaks, and so on are issues on the global scale that require multi-disciplinary solutions.

HEC stipulations will not allow an MS Material Engineering with an MBA and stupendous experience of management to supervise Engineering Management or Management. The case in point is Sunder Pichai who is CEO of Google (Alphabet) who has MS in Materials Engineering from Stanford and  MBA from Wharton, and a stupendous over 15 years experience in Google. However, HEC of Pakistan will not allow Sunder Pichai to supervise MS Engineering Management.

HEC will not allow PhD in Electrical Engineering with vast experience in top engineering firm like IBM of over 25 years to supervise PhD in Engineering Management or PhD in Management. For instance, Arvind Krishna who has PhD in Electrical Engineering from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and over 30 years of Engineering management at IBM which is a multi-national technology company that is spread over 170 countries and one of world’s largest employers with over 350,000 employees. He was recently promoted as IBM’s CEO. However, HEC will not allow even Arvind Krishna to supervise PhD in Engineering Management because his degree does not mention “Engineering Management” as the name of the discipline.

Noam Chomsky is an American linguistphilosophercognitive scientisthistorian,[b][c] social critic, and political activist. Sometimes called “the father of modern linguistics”,[d] Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. He holds a joint appointment as Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Laureate Professor at the University of Arizona, and is the author of more than 100 books on topics such as linguistics, war, politics, and mass media. Starting with his PhD in Linguistics in 1955, and his work on universal grammar, he is considered as the founder of cognitive psychology and Chomsky Hierarchy is considered as a pivotal part of computer science core subject Automata. His multidisciplinary work in Artificial Intelligence and other fields made him the most cited scholar for over 30 years in late 20th century. [From Wikipedia].

However, HEC rules will not allow Noam Chomsky to be counted in any faculty other than linguistics. Just because his degree or transcript would be saying that his PhD in 1955 states him to belong to the field of Linguistics. What a pity!

It is for this reason that many of the universities do not state the name of the discipline or the department name on their PhD degrees, including University of Texas at Austin, University of Massachusetts, Wayne State University, Northwestern University, etc.

PhD is Doctorate in Philosophy; it is the philosophy of creation of new knowledge in a particular field.

However, HEC and PEC think that erecting huge impregnable walls will ensure quality. Instead of building quality these restrictions kill creativity, vitality and growth of the disciplines as can be seen by the engineering disciplines around the country since the signing of the Washington Accord which imposed OBA (Outcomes Based Accreditation) accompanied by the draconian implementation of the silos mentality in the engineering disciplines. The growth of academic programs in engineering has been stultified and the disciplines are withering away. PEC does not even count the faculty unless the name of the degree matches the name of the department. No mechanical engineering PhD can be counted in Electrical Engineering department and vice versa although Robotics, Flying Cars, and industry automation are multi-disciplinary working on the convergence of electrical engineering with mechanical engineering with avionics engineering and computer science.

Melbourne University definition of PhD says:

“The degree of Doctor of Philosophy signifies that the holder has undertaken a substantial piece of original research, which has been conducted and reported by the holder under proper academic supervision and in a research environment for a prescribed period.”

Yale University doctoral manual says that a PhD dissertation should:

“demonstrate the student’s mastery of relevant resources and methods and should make an original contribution to knowledge in the field. The originality of a dissertation may consist of the discovery of significant new information or principles of organization, the achievement of a new synthesis, the development of new methods or theories, or the application of established methods to new materials.

It actually makes you an expert in how to extend the frontier of knowledge (original contribution) using established methods of research, and that it gives you the ability to formally communicate this extension of knowledge to the community of researchers working in the area of your specialization, as indicated by your publications.

By implication, if you can extend frontier of knowledge (original contribution) in one area, you have the capacity (given enough time) that you can understand and extend the knowledge in another area also. It is this expertise that makes some of the PhDs outshine others through their prolific publications in diverse areas, and across disciplines. This brings us to the second myth about PhD.

The reason why departmental turf wars are fought on the name of degree is because it protects the faculty of departments in government universities from encroachment from other researchers.

See My Other Posts Related to PhD:

What is PhD?

Why PhD is Difficult: 

Starting with your PhD

Reading Research and Writing your Research
Qualitative Learning from a PhD

See Also:


  1. great Sir, what a thoughtful insight!

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