Smart university concept for future challenges evolved

LAHORE:20 April:Punjab Higher Education Minister Syed Raza Ali Gilani visited the Higher Education Commission (HEC) Secretariat and met HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed and senior management. According to a press release issued here on Wednesday, Dr Mukhtar Ahmed told the minister about the achievements of HEC since its inception in 2002. He elaborated different steps taken by HEC for a strengthened quality assurance system in higher education sector across Pakistan.Underlining the strong connection of academia with rapid technological advancement and ongoing digitisation process, he said that HEC had taken a number of measures in this regard. HEC has taken various initiatives, including establishment of Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN), Digital Library and Cloud Data services. He said that HEC had evolved Smart University concept in view of future challenges and opportunities in the higher education sector. He said that HEC had set up Offices of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation as well as Business and Technology Incubation Centres in many universities in the country. Speaking about the whole journey of HEC, Dr Mukhtar Ahmed said the number of PhDs produced from 1947 to 2000 was only 176, however, now the country’s universities had over 10,000 PhD faculty members. “We aim at having at least 40,000 PhD faculty members in the next decade,” he underlined. He said that the number of recognised universities had now reached 188, while HEC was working on the programme of setting up university campuses in every district. Through different schemes of overseas, indigenous, need-based scholarships as well as Prime Minister’s Fee Reimbursement Scheme, over 200,000 faculty members and students have been given scholarships, he said. He maintained that HEC had been playing an active role in increasing equitable access to quality higher education and encouraging relevant research activities. He said the core objectives of HEC included ensuring equitable access to quality education, technological readiness, research and innovation, and governance and management in higher education institutions. He said HEC was the highest policy-making body for higher education sector having representation from all the four provinces, adding that the commission had a Chancellor’s Committee jointly chaired by president, prime minister, Azad Jammu & Kashmir president, governors and chief ministers. He maintained that HEC also had a Vice-Chancellor’s Committee, National Scholarship Management Committee, National Quality Assurance Committee, and National Curriculum Review Committee in addition to various other committees. Dr Mukhtar mentioned the core functioning areas of HEC, including attestation and accreditation of qualifications, academic upgrade, human resource development, provision of instructional information technology, learning innovation and knowledge management, monitoring and evaluation, quality assurance, and statistical data gathering for policy making. Briefing the minister on quality and standard of higher education and research in the country, the chairman informed him about the establishment of Quality Assurance and Enhancement Cells, development of National Qualifications Framework, and establishment of 15 accreditation councils in various disciplines. He said the number of research publications reached 9,359 in 2015. According to Thompson Reuters, Pakistan has emerged as a country with highest percentage of highly-cited papers as compared to Brazil, Russia, India and China, he added. Referring to the Pak-US Joint Academic and Research Programme, the chairman said that 13 projects had been selected for payment during Phase-VI of the programme. He said that three centres for advanced studies had so far been established in the country, adding that work on setting up more centres was underway. He also shared with the minister the outcome of the programmes being executed by HEC under the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme. He said more than one and a half million e-journals and e-books were available at the HEC Digital Library for researchers, students and faculty. The government has remarkably increased the budget of higher education sector in view of the significance of higher education and research in the development of a country, he concluded. The minister praised the wide-scale initiatives taken by HEC. He said that the provinces should work together with the HEC for the progress of the country. He emphasised that development and prosperity of Pakistan was his foremost focus and even in the schemes executed at Punjab level, inclusive approach was adopted.The news.

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