The Higher Education Commission (HEC)’s role in terms of strengthening institutions of higher learning along with their integral components, faculty and students, is known to all. The body was meant to play a supportive and facilitative role. This is exactly what the new chairman of the HEC, Professor Dr Tariq Banuri, a scholar, academician, researcher and administrator of international eminence, articulated during his maiden address to senior members of his team. He was speaking immediately after taking over the country’s premier higher education regulatory body. The question is whether the HEC, since its creation 15 years ago, has played the role that was expected of it. One would find it rather difficult to respond to this question in the affirmative. Regrettably, the role that the HEC has played, and continues to play, is more dogmatic towards its stakeholders rather than supportive and facilitative. Instead of making things easier for its stakeholders, the actions that it has taken hinder institutions rather than help them.In the realm of higher education world over, the institutions of higher learning are primary stakeholders. The other two equally significant stakeholders are the faculty and students. A supportive and facilitative higher education authority mandates itself to strengthen the principal stakeholders, the higher education institutions (HEIs); the secondary stakeholders, the faculty and students, automatically become the ultimate beneficiaries. The HEC felt enormously content in closing down a number of institutions, and completely blocking a large number of academic programmes in the process; it targeted both public and private universities. Some of these institutions, it would be pertinent to state, were previously given the highest rankings by the Commission itselfUnfortunately, the scenario in our part of the world has been totally different. It has conspicuously been devoid of such progressive philosophy. The HEC has, particularly during the past five years, played an autocratic role in dealing with its principal stakeholders.The universities, both public and private, have been governed with needless vehemence. The commission felt enormously content in closing down a number of institutions, and completely blocking a large number of academic programmes in the process. Some of these institutions, it would be pertinent to state, were placed in the highest (W4) category of university rankings by the HEC itself, and they have made a phenomenal contributions towards the cause of higher education in the country. Undeniably, the institutions which have become a victim of the commission’s autocratic stance may have been deficient in some areas of their academic endeavours. But this shouldn’t have led to the total or partial closure of their academic programmes. Had the intent of the HEC been positive and had it played a role of a mentor rather than a tenacious regulatory body, the scenario certainly would have been very different.HEC should have invested in institutions all along. It should have mentored, nurtured and bolstered them to maintain high standards in their endeavours to impart top-quality education; and make them stand out conspicuously among high ranking and venerable universities of the world.It wouldn’t be inappropriate to quote an appalling instance recently reported in Pakistan’s print media that stridently speaks of serious mismanagement on part of the commission. According to the published report, about 671 PhD degree holders are jobless in the country since the last two to three years. They are running from pillar to post in search of jobs but in vain. HEC and some notable foreign funding agencies invested huge sums to produce these high profile scholars.This was done with the specific intent of addressing the dire need for PhDs in institutions of higher learning in the country. The move was expected to raise the standard of higher education and promote a culture of quality research.When seen in the backdrop of this sad and abysmal situation, it seems that all efforts of the commission to attain this vital goal have proven futile. Closing down academic programmes of various institutions and the inability to establish quality research centres and vocational training institutes unquestionably have had a key role to play in the joblessness of a huge number of PhDs.All of this shows that a crucially important factor the commission has, for some reasons, completely failed to appreciate vis-à-vis its principal stakeholders is that institutions are not built in days. It takes decades and a lot of pain and hard work to build institutions.In view of the foregoing facts, it can be candidly said that in the process of asserting its power and authority vested in it as the country’s highest regulatory body in the field of higher education, HEC has endeavoured more to make itself stronger rather than its stakeholders.With a new leader at the helm, one sincerely hopes things will change for the better. Professor Dr Tariq Banuri’s profound exposure to the academic world, both within the country and abroad, must enable him to take judicious decisions.It is expected that he will mandate the HEC to play a guiding and facilitative role in dealing with all stakeholders of higher education in the country.The writer is a freelance columnist based in IslamabadPublished in Daily Times, June 29th 2018.