HEC, Varsity Heads Deliberate on Measures to Consolidate Higher Education Policies, Strategies

Islamabad, March 20, 2024: The two-day 52nd Vice Chancellors Committee meeting began in Islamabad on Wednesday to synergise for consolidation of key higher education policies and standards for the development of higher education sector. The meeting is being attended by around 170 heads of public and private sector universities.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Chairman Higher Education Commission (HEC) Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed emphasised the need for coordinated efforts by all the stakeholders for the development of higher education sector. He appreciated the role of university heads in the sector’s uplift and termed the universities as beacons of hope for society. Reiterating HEC’s commitment to universities autonomy, he urged the universities to, “exert the powers, provided that they are in line with the HEC policies and parameters.”

The Chairman spoke in detail on the prevailing challenges facing the higher education sector, including financial hardships, quality of degree programmes, governance at higher education institutions, relevance of research and development, authentic data collection, affiliation of degree awarding institutions, Transnational Education (TNE), graduates skill development, and training of youth alongside provision of education.

Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed urged the universities to launch only quality degree programmes that are relevant to the national needs. He made it clear that HEC will shut down all the degree programmes, including BS, MS, and PhD programmes, that do not meet the quality criteria. He categorically stated that HEC will not grant a one-time exemption for attestation of degrees issued in violation of its policies.

Regarding the HEC Affiliation Policy, he emphasised that universities must implement the revised Affiliation Policy 2024 to ensure quality of higher education “before it is too late”.

He said HEC is putting efforts for internationalisation of universities through a one-widow operation by bringing foreign students to Pakistan. He further added that the sector is making remarkable progress in terms of the efforts for promoting Transnational Education (TNE). He underlined that the Pakistani universities can now develop partnerships with foreign universities under the new TNE Policy.

The Chairman also noted that the growing number of social media blasphemy cases is a matter of grave concern. He said the university heads, faculty, and parents have a great responsibility to inculcate respect in youth for all religions, sacred personalities and associated literature to stop sacrilegious activities on social media.

Appreciating the Sindh Government for contributing over Rs. 26 billion to the universities operations, he said the Provincial Governments must significantly contribute to the higher education sector. He termed the development of education and health sectors a prerequisite for Pakistan’s uplift.

In his welcome remarks earlier, Executive Director HEC Dr. Zia Ul-Qayyum underlined the importance of continuous improvement in quality standards, relevance, and quality of graduates. He underscored that consolidation of HEC policies and standards is a must for a strong higher education sector. He stated that HEC aims to formulate policies and strategies with evidence-based decisions based on data received from universities. “The sector cannot make progress unless the HEC roadmaps are implemented in letter and spirit under the supervision of the academic leaders,” he asserted.

Dr. Zia Ul-Qayyum affirmed that HEC fully trusts the academic leaders in terms of the execution of policies. He said the HEC’s regulatory role will continue to keep the operations streamlined. He also elaborated the measures to improve HEC operations keeping in view that the sector has expanded with 262 universities operating in the country.

The Chair of the Vice Chancellors’ Committee, Dr. Iqrar Ahmad Khan thanked HEC on behalf of the VCs for assembling the university heads from the public and private sector HEIs, for deliberation and solution of the key issues. He said the VCs stand by HEC for revival of the HEC Ordinance and resolution of the critical challenges, such as financial crisis in universities, human resource management in universities including the appointment of faculty on Basic Pay Scale and Tenure Track System; search committee for appointment of Vice Chancellors; University Acts; affiliation of degree awarding institutions; MOOCs and online education; internationalisation of universities; quality of PhDs; and formulation of student representation platforms.

Expressing their views, the Vice Chancellors of different public and private sector universities demanded of the Provincial Governments to make significant financial contribution to the operations of universities in their respective provinces, urging the Federal Government to continue supporting the provincial universities alongside the federal universities.

The opening ceremony was followed by panel discussions on Quality Assurance, Research & Innovation, Finance, Accreditation and Attestation, and Information Technology & Connectivity. HEC officials shared presentations on these themes to seek input from the participating Vice Chancellors. The panelists expressed their views about various policies and regulations, which were noted for further deliberation and incorporation. During the second day, each session chair will present recommendations and the same will be discussed by the forum for finalisation.