Govt's continued support to promote HE promised
Munawar Naqvi ISLAMABAD: Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Thursday assured the Vice Chancellors and Rectors of all public and private sector universities that the Government will continue to support and further strengthen higher education sector and increase funding for building a knowledge economy. He was addressing the Vice Chancellors of all public and private sector universities who met in Islamabad. The Minister emphasized that the continuity of policies was indispensable if we have to develop higher education sector in line with international practices and make our universities become real engines of socio-economic progress. He stressed that no developed country in the world had progressed without a clear roadmap and that is the reason the Government has defined very clear goals in its Vision 2025, and education and research have been included in the toppriority areas. The Minister said that the universities should be fac- tories of ideas as well as solutions to problems of our economy and society. He said that the knowledge platform of Pakistan will have to be aligned with the production platform if we have to ensure economic progress of Pakistan, adding that to achieve this objective, our universities will have to play a key role. All the heads of higher education institutions across Pakistan had gathered in Islamabad to deliberate on the role of higher education sector in the post 18th Amendment scenario as well as discuss various issues related to the quality of education and research. The meeting also discussed mushroom growth of sub-campuses of universities without obtaining No Objection Certificate as well as grant of affiliations to colleges without completing required formalities. Earlier in his presentation, Prof. Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, Chairman HEC while discussing quality issues said that steps taken by HEC and the universities have led to improvement in quality of higher education, adding that pace of improvement is slow. He said that quality is becom- ing a major concern. He said: "Whether it is quality of students, faculty members, research, governance or any other aspect of higher education, there needs to a serious effort to ensure that quality is not compromised at any cost. Even in some cases, steps taken by some institutions are having adverse effect on the quality of higher education." The Chairman brought up issues regarding up-gradation of faculty positions, faculty appointment, promotion criteria and especially the Tenure Track System. "TTS has not been implemented as originally envisioned while many universities have yet to adopt TTS and many universities are not having fresh PhDs on TTS." Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed said that the HEC has taken strict notice of the opening of University campuses without obtaining No Objection Certificate (NOC). He said that the universities have been repeatedly reminded on opening of new campuses directly or through the concept of franchises public private partnership but response from universities was not encouraging. He reiterated that those institutions which do not comply with the minimum criteria for establishment of a degree awarding institution or its campus will not be recognized by HEC. The Vice Chancellors' Committee Meeting, after two-day detailed deliberation, unanimously adopted a resolution which said that the HEC Ordinance be implemented in letter and spirit and let HEC, Islamabad continue performing as a central controlling authority to ensure quality, relevance and access to Higher Education through its existing policies. The resolution further recommended said that the universities, especially the ones from smaller provinces are passing through a critical transition and they will take at least another 10 to 15 years to stabilize. Any change in the Higher Education governance, structure and system will adversely impact their performance. The Vice Chancellors agreed that in the national interest and in the interest of Higher Education, the provision of 18th Amendment that may be in conflict with the HEC may be revisited.