STAFF REPORT ISB: Higher Education Commission (HEC) has proposed an amount of Rs25 billion for financial year 2016-17 to run its ongoing and new initiatives in line with the Vision 2025 and the governments priorities.

The information made part of the draft PSDP 2016-17 proposal shared in National Assembly Standing Committee on Federal Education and Professional Training recently held at the HEC secretariat. The committee was briefed in detail by Chairperson HEC Prof. Dr Mukhtar Ahmed about the current projects and future plans of the Commission.

It was informed on the occasion that HEC received Rs70.98 billion as a regular grant and Rs12.91 as additional funding from the government in the financial year 2015-16. An additional funding of Rs10.600 billion was allocated for Prime Minister Lap Top scheme whereas Rs1.8 billion for PM Tuition Fee Reimbursement Scheme. Under recurring Grant, 68 per cent of funds were distributed to provincial HEIs, 17 per cent to national research and other programmes and 15 per cent to federal HEIs.

The HEC chairman said during 2015-16, Rs2,000 million were allocated for promotion of research, Rs3,000 million for tenure track system, Rs625 million for Pakistan Education and Research Network, Rs935 million for Digital Library, Rs650 million for Inter University Academic Activities, Rs450 million for Technical Assistance for Capacity Building, Rs598 million for different university programmes, in addition to Rs42.2 billion recurring grant for different categories of universities, including engineering, medical, agriculture and general.

Dr Mukhtar shared that there are total 135 higher education institutions in the country including 85 universities, 12 Centres of excellence, 12 Pakistan Study Centres and 26 other institutions with total enrolment of 643,600 students.

Referring to the outcome of Fee Reimbursement Scheme, the chairman said that scheme covers tuition fee, admission, laboratory, registration, examination, library, and research related expenditure for MS/MPhil and PhD studies. He said that initially 59 districts were covered under the scheme, while currently students from 114 districts are benefitting from this initiative, adding that a total of 94,751 students have so far benefitted.

Terming HECs overseas scholarship scheme for MS/ MPhil and PhD a flagship programme, Dr. Mukhtar said that since its inception in 2002, the Commission has initiated various HRD scholarship programmes from undergraduate to PhD and post-doctorate level for development of human resource in different fields for socio-economic development of Pakistan.

He said that total 8787 overseas scholarships were awarded to Pakistani students with 59 per cent of them belonging to less developed areas. He said that there are 60 defaulters of these scholarships. Among 40,000 total faculty members of HEIs, he shared that only 10,000 are PhD.

He added that specific programmes have been initiated for students hailing from less developed areas of the country. He said that HEC is encouraging universities through various initiatives to promote a research culture in the country. He maintained that different measures are afoot to strengthen academia-industry linkages so as to derive outcome of research carried out in universities.

Highlighting the importance of commercialization of research, the Chairman said that ORICs established in many universities are playing their due role to market research of faculty and students.

Answering to different questions raised by the committee members, Dr. Mukhar said that there are 9 universities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa without regular vice chancellors. He said that he has raised the concern before the KPK government and it has been ensured that Vice Chancellors will be hired in next two weeks.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Amirullah Marwat, who chaired the meeting, assured HEC of their complete support. He also assured to take action against illegal campuses of universities so that future of students could be safeguarded.

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