Islamabad: (March 30, 2018): Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, Chairman, Higher Education Commission (HEC) briefed Mr. Akbar Hussain Durrani, Secretary, Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training on the functions, powers, initiatives and achievements of HEC since its inception in 2002 during a meeting held here at the Commission Secretariat. The meeting was also attended by Dr. Arshad Ali, Executive Director, HEC and senior management of the Commission.
Talking to the Secretary, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed shared the background of HEC establishment and said HEC, earlier used to be University Grants Commission, was initially tasked to improve equitable access to higher education, ensure quality, and relevance of research to the country’s needs. He added that HEC took a number of measures to accomplish its targets. He said Pakistan had only 59 universities before 2002, while gross enrollment was only 2.6 per cent. He maintained that the number of PhDs at that time was only 3,110 and only 800 research publications could surface from Pakistan. He revealed that the number of universities has now reached 188, whereas the gross enrollment is currently nine percent. He revealed that the country presently has 11,960 PhDs. He informed the Secretary that the female enrollment has increased from 32 percent in 2002 to 48 percent in 2017.
The Chairman underlined the core functions and powers of HEC, stating that various HEC divisions including Accreditation and Attestation, Human Resource Development, Research and Development, Travel Grants, Academics, Quality Assurance, Administration and Coordination, Information Technology and Planning and Development perform their respective assignments with professional efficiency and dedication. He said HEC spends 41 percent of its total funding on human resource development, 33 percent on improving access, 23 percent on learning and research support initiatives, and four per cent on other allied academic activities. He underscored that HEC has started establishing sub-campuses of universities in each district of the country, as 67 districts of the country including 27 districts of Balochistan, six districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, seven districts of the Punjab, 10 districts of Sindh, two districts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, seven districts of Federally Administered Tribal Areas, eight districts of Gilgit-Baltistan do not have any university sub-campus. He stated that the initiative will cover 21 districts in the first phase and 34 districts in the second phase.
Dr. Mukhtar informed the Secretary that the number of publications annually has now reached 12000, while research conducted by Pakistani students has earned remarkable acknowledgment nationally and internationally. He said Thompson Reuters has recently released a report highlighting Pakistan as a country with highest percentage of highly cited papers as compared to Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed asserted that HEC follows a policy of no-compromise on quality of education. “HEC has closed down 450 MS, MPhil and PhD programs for not fulfilling the set criteria,” he informed. He said owing to its policies, HEC has consecutively worn Global Good Governance (3-G) Award in 2016 and 2017.
The Chairman also informed the Secretary about various other endeavors of HEC pertaining to research and development, award of travel grants to research scholars, faculty development programs, and development of National Qualifications Framework.
With reference to promotion of ICT in the country, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed said Pakistan has one of the best ICT infrastructures of Asia. He said HEC has set up a Cloud Data Center, while connecting universities across the country through Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN). He said HEC has started online degree attestation in view of convenience of applicants. He highlighted that HEC has established Education Testing Council to conduct free, standardized entry tests for admission in universities.
He said HEC has so far awarded over 270000 scholarships to Pakistani students, adding that the award of scholarships has cast a very positive socio-economic impact. Majority — 57 percent — of scholars who received HEC scholarships belong to rural areas or small cities and towns of the country, he affirmed.
Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed shared the targets set under Higher Education Vision 2025 in light with the Government of Pakistan’s Vision 2025. During the briefing, the Chairman also shed light on the challenges being faced by HEC. “The major issues the higher education sector is confronted with include governance in higher education institutions and quality of education,” he highlighted.
Expressing his views, Mr. Akbar Hussain Durrani assured HEC of his ministry’s full support to its programs and policies. He stressed the need for strict action against institutions operating illegally and running academic programs without fulfilling HEC criteria. He urged the universities to ensure administrative control apart from focusing on quality of pedagogy. He stated that teachers have a great role in nation building, so they have great responsibilities on their shoulders. Teachers must be honest and not become a commodity, he emphasized. He urged people associated with academia to forge professionalism and sincerity to their job. “People sincere to their professions are always sincere to their institutions,” he underlined.
Later, the Secretary visited HEC Cloud Data Center and expressed satisfaction on the initiatives HEC has taken for development of ICT.
Higher Education Commission, Pakistan