VCs & Senior Educational Administrators Participated In Meeting. Theme Of Meeting Was “Emerging Trends And Challenges Of Higher Education”.

By Dr Bakht Rawan

Education, Especially Higher Education Plays A Very Pivotal Role In Transformation And Development Of A Nation. Higher Education Institutions Impart The Knowledge And Skills To Youth And Make Them Ready For Shouldering Future Responsibilities Of Running The Whole System Of A Country. Moreover, besides teaching and learning universities are the places where knowledge is created, which further adds to importance of these institutions in the development of a nation. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic besides other walks of life also badly affects the educational activities throughout the world. Pakistan is no exception, however, the question arises here that even prior to the present pandemic higher education institutions in Pakistan were discharging their responsibilities which they were supposed to perform.

Was there any pragmatic linkage between university and industry? Could the university graduates get jobs as per their qualification? Were the higher education institutions conducting applied research keeping in view the needs of the society? Did good governance prevail in our universities? Did our universities adopt new educational innovations in their teaching, research, and other academic and administrative operations which have already been adopted by universities and other higher educational institutions in other countries? And more importantly, did the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC), which is regulatory body of higher education in the country, was taking any serious and practical steps for alleviating this miserable situation of higher education in the country? Unfortunately, answers to these questions are “no”.

No doubt, this state of affairs was in dire need to be taken care of. Luckily, Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) and Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU), Islamabad shouldered this responsibility and jointly convened a consultative meeting of vice chancellors of the Pakistani universities on April 26 at the main campus of AIOU. Vice chancellors and senior educational administrators across the country participated in the meeting. The theme of this consultative meeting was “Emerging Trends and Challenges of Higher Education”.

Prof Dr Zia Ul-Qayyum while explaining objectives of the meeting said that higher education in Pakistan is going through a very difficult time these days and the Covid-19 pandemic has further aggravated the situation. The recent policies of HEC regarding higher education in the country were not welcomed by all stakeholders, hence an academic discourse which may discuss all such issues in a professional and academic way without criticizing any individual or some national institution was warranted. He hoped that while taking the advantage of these galaxy of experts they would be able to suggest to the government, a suggestive document which may be considered for incorporating into the policies of undergraduate programmes as well as M.Phil and PhD programmes made by HEC recently.

Prof Dr Khalid Mahmood Khan, Chairman, PAS, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, Ex-Chairman HEC, and Prof Dr Masoom Yasinzai, Rector, IIUI who were among the guests of honor on this occasion highly appreciated the role of AIOU and QAU by convening the conference to discuss this important topic. The consultative meeting while discussing the future roadmap of higher education in Pakistan focused on four sub-themes: (i) HEC Undergraduate and Graduate Policies, (ii) Future of Higher Education, (iii)Technology-based Governance and Instructional Management, and (iv) Information Influence as a Global Challenge. These themes were discussed in four sessions.

The first session was chaired by Prof Dr Fazal Ahmad Khalid, Chairman Punjab Higher Education Commission while Prof Dr Mahmood ul Hassan Butt was the keynote speaker. The session took stock of the latest policies of HEC regarding undergraduate and graduate programs. The panelists expressed dissatisfaction over the new PhD policy of HEC. They viewed that vice chancellors and other stakeholders need to be taken on board while making any policy regarding higher education in the country.

The second session deliberated over the theme of “Future of Higher Education”. Prof. Dr. Talat Naseer Pasha, was in the chair, while Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ali, VC Quaid-e-Azam University, and Prof. Dr. Shahid Mahmud presented their papers at this occasion. The session viewed that higher education around the world is evolving very fast, and hence we need to take some bold steps to keep pace with the global emerging trends in higher education. Our education and research must cater to the needs of the society. There must be a strong link between industry and university. They viewed that quality of higher education needs to be enhanced to create better chances of employability for the passing out graduates. For ensuring these steps the government needs to sanction special grants to higher education institutions.

The third session discussed “Technology Based Governance and Instructional Management”. The session was chaired by VC, University of Haripur, Prof. Dr. Anwar-ul-Hassan Gilani while Prof Dr Zia Ul-Qayyum, VC, Allama Iqbal Open University was the keynote speaker. The session viewed that technology has played a vital role in education throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Technology is very important as it can save time, bring transparency in the system. Prof. Dr. Zia Ul-Qayyum while sharing experiences of the AIOU said “we are living in a global village which is getting more competitive every passing day.”

The fourth session discussed “Information Influence as a Global Challenge” and was chaired by Prof Dr Mansoor Akbar Kundi, VC, Bahauddin Zakria University while Prof Dr Wasim Qazi, VC Iqra University, and Prof Dr Riffat Hussain, a renowned media analyst and educationist were the keynote speakers at this session. The session urged for checking the quality, sources, authenticity, and credibility of information which is poured from different sources with different objectives. They viewed that universities should prepare their students to deal amicably with this information influx for the benefit of the country and society.

No doubt, the consultative meeting in its threadbare discussions diagnosed the issues and problems which the higher education of Pakistan is confronting currently, now it is the responsibility of the government to take proper and immediate measures and reexamine the future roadmap of higher education in Pakistan as the future of Pakistan is dependent on the quality of its higher education.

This news was originally published at The News.