Islamabad, September 30, 2015 (PPI-OT): “Increased resources for higher education and their effective utilization is inevitable if Pakistan has to build a strong knowledge economy that will ultimately lead to achieve country’s economic and social development goals.” This was unanimously recommended in a day-long consultative session organized by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for development of higher education sector’s Medium Term Development Framework (MTDF-III) for 2015-20.
Intellectuals, professionals, researchers and educationists including founding members of the task force created in 2002 as well as some Members of the Commission attended the session, and deliberated the identified areas of priorities to be focused in MTDF-III for country’s higher education sector.
Prominent among those who attended the session included Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, Chairman HEC, Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman, Ms. Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Lt. Gen (R) S. Shujaat Hussain, Dr. Muhammad Akram Sheikh, Dr. Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, Senator Mrs. Razina Alam Khan, Engr. Ahmed Farooq Bazai, Engr. Muhammad Asghar, Dr. Masood Hameed Khan, Dr. Nilofar Shaikh, Dr. Mujahid Kamran, Dr. Khalid Mehmood Khan, Dr. Naveed Malik, Dr. Khalid Aftab, Dr. U.A.G. Isani, Dr. Najma Najam, Dr. Samina Amin Qadir, Dr. Fazal A. Khalid, Dr. Raza Bhatti, Dr. Mahmood ul Hassan Butt, Mr. Atta ur Rahman, Secretary Higher Education KPK, and Syed Shahid Mohyuddin Qadir, Secretary Higher Education, AJK.
The gathering agreed that it was imperative to further strengthen the higher education sector, and align the academic and research priorities of higher education institutions with the national economic goals, with a particular reference to achievement of targets set for 2025 as well as objectives of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The need to create awareness regarding significance of knowledge economy among parliamentarians and policy makers, and sensitizing media for bringing a change in mindset was highly emphasized.
Applauding the Chairman HEC for holding this important session, the participants called for a wider engagement with all the stakeholders including politicians, businesses, industry, faculty members, students, parents, etc. It was agreed that a multi-disciplinary approach in both academics and research is inevitable, given the rapid scientific developments and their impact on societies.
The meeting also focused on ways to promote entrepreneurship among not only students but also faculty members. Different entrepreneurial models being implemented at international universities were discussed. Another important aspect highlighted in the discussion was character building of the youth, and creating an environment in the universities for strengthening the moral and social values which have, unfortunately, been ignored in the past.
Human resource development was another key topic of the discussion. The meeting was informed that HEC is holding a national conference in October aimed to identify key areas where Pakistan will need qualified people in the coming decades. It was agreed that in addition to scientific fields, Social Sciences and Humanities must be given special attention. An area which was specially focused for HR development was that of Educational Management with the argument that people must be trained in this discipline for overcoming governance issues of the universities.
The state of primary and secondary education in the country also came under discussion and the meeting agreed that, though it is not HEC’s purview, still recommendations to improve educational standards at these levels must be given since the quality of intake to higher learning institutions is directly proportional to improvement of higher education and research.
Other key points of discussion included increasing equitable access, innovation and commercialization, ICT initiatives, financial management and enhanced investment, further strengthening of Accreditation Councils, proper monitoring as well as enhanced funding for medical education, focus on allied health sciences, mechanism for funding of private universities and strengthening them in critical areas, distance education programmes, college teacher training, intelligent syllabus, and special programmes for qualified women who are disconnected from their professions.
Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, Chairman HEC, while presenting an overview of Commission’s achievements over the last 13 years, said it was necessary to consult with major stakeholders of the higher education sector especially those who dreamt of the HEC and its ambitions prior to its inception in 2002, to ensure that we are on the right track and that can come only through consensus.
Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed thanked all the participants for taking out time to discuss the future path for country’s higher education sector. He said that the higher education sector has overseen the increase of universities from a mere 59 to 171 to date while student enrolment has reached 1.4 million while gender enrolment too has increased from 32 to 48 per cent. “But access to education has not reached to 10 per cent as per the previous plan, it would be wise to keep ground realities in mind therefore it was important to re-adjust our targets.”
He said that the last 13 years had also witnessed a remarkable increase in number of PhDs produced countrywide. Last year alone, 1351 PhD completed their studies. While challenges and constraints had made achievements of target difficult, many areas did see them being met.
He hoped that the new plan would cover increased equitable access of higher education, excellence in governance, leadership and management, increased faculty with highest academic qualification, enhanced quality of curricular offerings, research, innovation and commercialization and financial management and enhanced investment. He further said that the Government of Pakistan has supported the efforts of HEC by granting additional financial resources during the last couple of years.
Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman, former Chairman HEC strongly recommended a massive increase in the budget for foreign scholarships through 50 per cent of annual development funding. He pointed out that Pakistan’s requirement for PhD faculty could only be met in this manner. He said that Pakistan requires additional 60,000 PhD faculty.
The participants also called for 25 per cent increase in research grant programme and promotion of innovation, technology park, joint projects and creation of a revolving innovation fund to support indigenous technology development. It was also suggested to transform 10 of our best universities into research universities, and 10 of the best research centres into international centres by enhanced grant.
For more information, contact:
Higher Education Commission, Pakistan
Sector H-9, Islamabad
Tel: +92-51-90402404, +92-51-90402412