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Government Fully Committed to Supporting Higher Education: Shafqat Mahmood

Islamabad, August 30 (Staff Report): The Government is committed to supporting the higher education sector so that the Pakistani youth can succeed in the job market and play their role in the country’s socio-economic uplift, and become valued members of the society.

This was stated by Mr. Shafqat Mahmood, Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training in his maiden visit to the Higher Education Commission (HEC) where he met with Dr. Tariq Banuri, Chairman, Dr. Arshad Ali, Executive Director, Vice Chancellors and senior HEC officers here on Thursday. Mr. Arshad Mirza, Secretary, Ministry of Federal of Federal Education and Professional Training was also present in the meeting.

The Minister appreciated the HEC’s efforts for promotion of higher education and endorsed its core objectives of access, relevance and quality. He stressed that all of these goals were of fundamental importance and needed to be pursued together. Apart from ensuring relevance of research to the national needs, the relevance of education being imparted in the higher education institutions must be given high significance, he emphasised. He stressed the need for measures to ensure improvement of basic skills of graduates. “There must be no compromise on quality,” he stated.

The Government is fully committed to implementing the promises made in the election manifesto of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which include the highest priority for education and health. He said that that will do its best to extend required funding to the HEC for promotion of higher education.

Sharing the HEC’s achievements, challenges and prospects with the Minister, Dr. Banuri said that HEC pursued three major objectives including access, quality and relevance. He said that enrolment has reached 9.1 per cent as compared to 2.6 per cent in 2001-02. “This is indeed phenomenal progress,” he maintained. He added that the female enrolment ratio was 37 per cent in 2001-02, while it has now reached 44 per cent.

The number of universities has increased to 192 from only 60 universities in 2001-02, while a robust increase in the number of research publications has been achieved, the Minister was informed.  Dr. Banuri said that the higher education sector received only 0.10 per cent of GDP in 2001-02, which was increased in 2006-07 up to 0.33 per cent but it declined to 0.19 per cent in 2011-12. He regretted that the percentage has stagnated in the last two years, and reached only 0.26. He emphasised the need to increase funding to the sector to at least one per cent of GNP.

He also stressed the need for creating conditions for the Pakistani PhDs and scholars serving abroad to come back and serve the country. He said that HEC aims to take tangible measures for university autonomy, increased global engagement, capacity building, systems reforms and ICT-based solutions to academic issues. The HEC intends to establish National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE) for providing pre-service, in-service and executive trainings. He also highlighted the HEC’s initiatives for promotion of innovation in the country by establishing Offices of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation (ORICs), Business Incubation Centres (BICs) and Open Source Laboratories. He also shed light on the HEC’s efforts to develop international collaboration and mentioned US-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor, China-Pakistan Intellectual Corridor, UK-Pakistan Education Gateway and other international programmes.

Dr. Banuri said that HEC is working on a strategy — a twinning model — to attract foreign faculty to come to Pakistan for teaching and collaborative research endeavours. He emphasised on efforts to ensure university autonomy, transparency and accountability. “We have to move towards international standards on quality,” he underlined. He informed the Minister that the HEC has conveyed to universities to evaluate the market relevance and scope of a programme before launching it.

During the course of meeting, Dr. Banuri also shed light on Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS), Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN), quality of research journals, Technology Development Fund (TDF), mobilisation of students for increased literary rate, and training of potential university leadership.

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