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Provision of higher education to remote areas a great challenge: Dr Laghari

Lahore: Chairman Higher Education Commission (HEC) Prof Dr Javaid R Laghari has said that the greatest challenge faced by higher education was to reach out to the people in remote areas at their doorstep and financially support the students who cannot afford higher education.

He stated this while addressing a meeting with Punjab University Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran, Deans, Chairpersons and other faculty members at Al-Raazi Hall of Undergraduate Study Centre. Senator Jahangir Badar, who had come to attend his PhD class, also attended the meeting.

Addressing the meeting, the HEC chairman said that Punjab University was the heartland of education in Pakistan which was also contributing to global knowledge. He said that in 2008, the ratio of higher education in Pakistan stood 2.5 percent but after special initiatives taken by the HEC in the recent years, it had reached 7.8 percent in 2011 and the government had the vision to increase the figure by 15 percent till 2020.

But unfortunately, he said, Pakistan was away behind other Muslim countries in this field. He said that there were over 12,000 research publications a year in Iran while Pakistani universities were producing 6000 to 7000 research publications annually.

He said that higher education was meant for creation of new knowledge and our real challenge was knowledge creation. For this purpose, he said, Pakistan needed qualified faculty for research.

He said that there was an average of 25 percent Phd faculty members in Pakistan but it was amazing that the number of regular PhD faculty of Punjab University was 40pc, which was appreciable. He said that he was happy to hear that Punjab University was producing over 100 PhDs a year while all Pakistani universities collectively produced 700 PhDs last year.

He said that the commission was supporting 7,500 scholars out of which 3,500 scholars were studying in foreign countries who would join Pakistani universities in the next 3 to 4 years. He said that the government had planned to have 15,000 PhDs in the next 10 years. He said besides focusing on quantity, the HEC was also ambitious in ensuring quality education and quality research.

For this purpose, the chairman said, various steps had been taken including establishment of directorate of distance education, introduction of associate degree programs, efforts for regulating colleges and keeping a check on them by affiliating universities, Quality Enhancement Cells (QECs), accreditation councils, pilot project of Institute of Performance Evaluation of the universities etc.

He said that as many as 89 QECs were functioning in Pakistan. He said that 3 technology parks were being setup in the country while more incubators were being set up, the number of which would touch 12 soon. He said that every single reported case of plagiarism was being pursued and there was an annual increase of 15 percent in research. He said that despite inflation in all the expenditures, the HEC was funding universities with 300 million rupees in that term.

He said that although we were facing financial constraints but higher education was our future else we would be nowhere. He said that because of lack of money, academic institutions could not afford to pay 50 percent basic increase in salaries announced by the federal government.

He said that if the government didn’t pay heed on provision of facilities to universities and financial benefits to faculty members, foreign countries like Saudia Arabia and others might attract our human resource after offering good salaries.

Stressing upon the importance of knowledge exchange, Dr Laghari said that we should think that what the country was getting out of it that we were doing at varsities and what universities could do for nation which was tangible? Citing examples of 40-billion-dollar Facebook, Hawlett-Packard etc, he advised that the graduates should focus on creating jobs for themselves. He lauded the services of Mr Badar against the devolution of the commission.

Mr Badar said that no country could develop without education and he would talk to government functionaries and at all levels about the academic projects briefed to him.

Earlier in his welcome address, Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran lauded the services of Prof Dr Laghari for promotion of higher education in Pakistan as the commission had a dynamic head and all the universities had benefited from his services. He recognized HEC help for gradual improvement of the varsity and thanked HEC for funding various projects.

He said that in 2008, 29 percent of regular faculty members were PhD and now after three-and-a-half-year, the figure had reached 40 percent. He said that 102 teachers were doing their PhDs abroad out of which 52 were receiving funds from HEC. He said further that PU was producing over 100 PhDs annually.

He said that in 2007, there were 162 research publications while in 2010, the number had increased to more than double to 352 while till 31st of July this year, 320 research publications had been published in impact factor journals which might lead to improvement in PU’s ranking again this year.

He said that in 2007, 29 books were published by faculty members while in 2010, over 60 books were published by faculty members. He said that if the policies of the administration continued, the varsity might make its place among top 500 hundred varsities of the world in a reasonable period of time. Later, PU hosted a lunch in the honour of the HEC Chairman at Executive Club.

For more information, contact:
Punjab University
Tel: +9242 9923 1102
Fax: +9242 9923 1103
Email: registrar@pu.edu.pk

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