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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Apr 22, 2014

Sustainable development: Varsities asked to focus on research, welfare of society

Higher learning institutes need to focus on research,
innovations and capacity-building of individuals rather than awarding

This was the gist of views expressed by a half-a-dozen
vice-chancellors (VCs) of universities at a lecture on "State of higher
education in Pakistan" organised by the Sustainable Development Policy
Institute (SDPI) here on Monday.

The session found itself embroiled on discussing the already known
issues in the higher education than offering solutions to Pakistan’s
problems and development issues.

The newly appointed
Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmad in his
lecture said since the formation of the HEC in 2002, the state of higher
education has improved significantly in terms of research output and

"It is now time to think of ways in which higher education can have
real impact on society at large." He stressed the need for a value-based
education system and increased investment from private sector,
especially university-industry linkage to ensure research as the
government alone could not support universities.

Dr Mukhtar said that he was not against the devolution of the HEC but
it should be done after carrying out a complete paper work, and putting
in place alternative system in provinces instead of adopting the "switch on, switch off approach".

A consultative process was being pursued with provincial governments regarding the new higher education policy.

He also said that budgetary allocations for higher education should be increased progressively and not in an abrupt manner.

He said that higher education institutes were focussing on major
urban areas and neglecting the rural areas. There is an equal need to
focus on smaller cities and rural areas, he exhorted.

"It is high time to explore ways to have a real impact of knowledge on the whole society," he said.

SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Suleri said it was important that
real world problems and development issues should be part of curricula
taught in universities.

He said that in Bangladesh and India, universities were more
proactive in linking research with policy, while in Pakistan
think-tanks, not the universities, were playing the role in the policy

Karachi University Vice-Chancellor Dr Muhammad Qaiser said that
allocations for higher education needed to be increased to at least 4
per cent of the GDP in the upcoming budget. He said that there should be
a balance between basic research and applied research to find solutions
to the real-world problems.

Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) Vice-Chancellor Dr
Asad Zaman said that liberal arts and culture were being neglected by
higher education institutes. "This is unfortunate, since we have a
strong poetic heritage which can be very important in inspiring students
to serve the nation."

Quaid-i-Azam University Vice-Chancellor Dr Eitzaz Ahmed emphasised on
quality education at college and school levels. He said that there was a
need for adopting qualitative measures to gauge the impact of education
in the society.

Fatima Jinnah Women University VC Dr Samina Qadir stressed the need
for capacity-building of teachers besides giving more seriously to
college education. “Education should also be gender-responsive,” she

International Islamic University Rector Dr Masoom Yasinzai observed
that investment in higher education over the last one decade have
changed the landscape of the country. Pakistan now has a share of 0.25%
in global academic literature. Allama Iqbal Open University VC Dr Ali
Asghar Chishti emphasized on adequate training and workshops for
teachers as well.