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Ahsan Iqbal urges universities to become engines of knowledge-based economy

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday appreciated the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and academic fraternity for a good teamwork for the uplift of higher education sector in the country and said the country’s future lied in a knowledge-based economy.

“The government believes in turning the country into a knowledge-based economy by investing in the higher education sector. So, the universities should prepare quality PC-Is of their projects and submit them in due timeframe so that they may be approved for implementation.

“Serious efforts need to be made to ensure quality of PC-Is, as compromise on quality of PC-Is leads to failure in project approval,” he said while addressing the meeting of vice chancellors hosted by the HEC to review progress on higher education sector projects approved and funded under Public Sector Development Fund (PSDP) during the last five years.

The meeting chaired by Ahsan Iqbal also deliberated on the plans for the next Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) projects.

Dr Arshad Ali, Executive Director, HEC, Dr. G. Ghulam Raza Bhatti, Member Operation and Planning, HEC, and as many as 35 vice chancellors from across the country, in person and through HEC video conferencing facility, attended the meeting.

Expressing concerns about serious capacity constraints, the federal minister stressed the need for proper project management. In the budget for FY 2018-19, 46 development projects have been unapproved, he informed. The minister stressed the importance of good management for execution of projects after due approval.

Read More: Rs 45 bn approved for HEC development

He said the government approved a total of 130 projects for various regions of the country during the last five years, adding that the sector has witnessed a remarkable increase in its development budget in this period.

“The sector had only Rs12 billion development budget in 2012, while its development budget has now reached Rs47 billion,” he informed.

Ahsan Iqbal said the government launched Pak-US Knowledge Corridor under which it has funding, on annual basis, for 1000 scholars to study in best US universities.

“We need to ensure that the Pakistani scholars avail the opportunities being offered under this initiative to study in the best US universities,” he underlined.

He maintained that the government has launched a similar programme named UK-Pakistan Knowledge Gateway which offers Pakistani students to acquire quality higher education as well as exposure by studying in the leading UK universities. He also informed the meeting about the government’s plan to initiate Pak-Russian knowledge platform.

Sharing future vision for higher education sector, the minister stressed the need for evolving a strong mechanism to annually evaluate progress on the seven pillars of Higher Education Vision 2025.

He said the seven pillars focused in the Vision 2025 include turning the universities into centres of excellence in instruction, research and innovation, strong academia-industry linkages, community engagement, technology enablement of universities, corporate governance of higher education institutions, and producing quality products.

Ahsan Iqbal emphasised on universities to develop a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Matrix to examine development on the goals set under the Vision 2025. He said the human resource development must be aligned with the Vision 2025, adding that project management needs to be given due importance to ensure proper execution of projects and utilisation of funds in the future.

He also shed light on the key initiatives of the government in the higher education sector apart from the academic significance of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

He said the government established FATA University, University of Gwadar and sub-campuses of various universities at district level, launched Technology Development Fund (TDF), set up National Centre for Excellence in Big Data and Cloud Computing, and initiated Faculty Development Programme for 2000 faculty members. The security of our country depends upon the uplift of higher education sector, he concluded.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Arshad Ali said the HEC is committed to keeping up with the government’s expectations of playing its pivotal role in building the knowledge-based economy.

He thanked the minister for his personal interest in the uplift of higher education sector. He said the HEC and the Planning Commission closely worked for the holistic development of higher education sector and the coordination will be kept intact.

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