Higher Education Government's Top Priority, Says Shafqat Mahmood
Islamabad, November 26, 2018: The promotion of higher education is the highest priority of government, said Mr. Shafqat Mahmood, Federal Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training.
He said this while addressing the launching ceremony of Pakistan-UK Education Gateway held at the Commission Secretariat on Monday. Dr. Tariq Banuri, Chairman, HEC, Lt. Gen. (R) Muhammad Asghar, Executive Director, HEC, Mr. Thomas Drew, British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Ms. Rosemary Hilhorst, Country Director, British Council, Ms. Joanna Newman, Secretary General, Association of Commonwealth Universities, Dr. Mahmood-ul-Hassan Butt, Consultant, HEC and large number of Vice Chancellors also graced the ceremony. A delegation of 20 representatives of top UK universities currently on visit to Pakistan also attended the meeting.
Pakistan and the United Kingdom have a long history of friendship and academic collaboration between the two countries. Pakistan-UK Education Gateway Programme will prove to be a constant means of cooperation between the higher education sectors of the two countries. The critical areas to be covered in the Pakistan-UK Education Gateway include split PhD programmes, full-fledged PhD programmes, student and faculty exchange, easy student mobility, involvement of funding agencies and research entities, quality and governance at higher education institutions, and capacity building through short training programmes. There are seven elements of the Pakistan-UK Gateway. From Research Partnerships; helping to find PhD Scholarships for Pakistanis; supporting Leadership development and introducing Quality Assurance systems; bring more opportunities through Distance Learning; more Pakistani students studying in the UK; building on Pakistan's position as a market for Transnational education and finally a compulsory three credit course on Citizenship- modelled on Active Citizens.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Shafqat Mahmood said the launch of Pakistan-UK Education Gateway is an august occasion in the history of Pakistan-UK relations. He said the two countries enjoy deep and strong cordial relations, adding that the initiative will further strengthen the bilateral relations between Pakistan and the United Kingdom. He said Pakistan has a long way to go in its efforts to develop the higher education sector. Identifying challenges facing the higher education sector, he said the country needs to exert tremendous efforts on improving quality and ensuing relevance of higher education and research. He urged the Vice Chancellors to prepare students for the future challenges and work on improving the methodology of imparking knowledge, as the knowledge base of future will be different. It is also imperative to develop skills of our youth in consonance with the job market needs, he underlined. He maintained that the government is going to complete its 100 days and it has identified areas to focus on for the socio-economic development.
Dr. Banuri said Pakistan and the United Kingdom have developed outstanding academic relationship. He informed the audience that as many as 386 Pakistani scholars have completed their PhD studies from the UK universities in the recent years.
"It is a brilliant start. Yet, we want to take it not only to thousands but to tens of thousands," he underlined. He stressed the need for developing the bilateral academic relationship in a way that helps Pakistan build up its universities. He underscored that global parity is essential to help the future generations address the challenges. "We need to train our children to be global citizens, as we know for sure that the challenges they will face will be of global character," he stated. He emphasised that all academic institutions need a strategy to enhance global engagement. He said HEC has marked tremendous success in the last 15 years achieving a number of goals set at the time of its inception. He said tenfold increase in the enrolment ratio has been marked with proportional increase in the number of faculty members. He added that the number of research publications has increased up to 15 times as compared to 2002. He observed that amid this rapid expansion and tremendous cultural change, two areas including quality and relevance need more attention. He said HEC plans to greater integration of programmes, as the time has come to give Social Sciences and Humanities their due.
Ms. Hilhorst said, "the successful future of several million young people in our hands, as they have great expectations and aspirations." She said through this partnership, we continue to bring the UK's knowledge and expertise to Pakistan in support of HEC in their ambition to develop and build the capacity of higher education institutions in the country. We look forward to working with the HEC and our UK partners in making this gateway a success and add value to bilateral and mutually beneficial relationships.
The additional investment of GBP one million will fund Research and Partnership Grants; the development of a Research Excellence Framework; building the capacity of Pakistan's research and doctoral base.
The ceremony was also addressed by Ms. Joanna Newman and Dr. Mahmood-ul-Hassan Butt who shed light on the significance of Pakistan-UK Education Gateway.