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HEC Must Retain Central Role to Help Build Pakistan's Human Capital

Those who cite the 1986 World Bank study to argue that the social rates of return for h

igher education are 13 percent lower than return on basic education must remember the following: Hundreds of millions of lives in Asia were saved as a result of the success of the Green Revolution that was enabled by a combination of US aid, and the capacity of the recipient nations to absorb it by virtue of the availability of local college graduates in agriculture and engineering.

The Green Revolution succeeded in South Asia and failed in Africa mainly because of the differences in domestic technical and institutional capacity to absorb foreign aid and technical know-how in the two regions. Simply put, Africa did not have the basic critical mass of people who had the benefit of higher education and training in agriculture and irrigation that was available in India and Pakistan in the 1960s.

Going forward, the importance of tertiary education will only grow bigger in developing nations. The physical capital that was essential for development in the 20th century will no longer be sufficient in the 21st century. Instead, the human intellectual capital will determine success or failure of nations in this century. In addition to basic health care, the key input for the development of human capital is quality education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

The key role of higher education is to enable basic institutional capacity building for economic, political and social development. The college and university graduates with arts, business, science or technology degrees help promote economy, democracy, social mobility, entrepreneurship, and intellectual and industrial competitiveness of their entire nation.

Pakistan's Higher Education Commission has led a successful transformation of higher education in Pakistan since 2002 through reforms initiated by Dr. Ata-ur-Rahman, appointed by President Musharraf.

In a paper titled "Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan: Political & Economic Instability", Fred M. Hayward, an independent higher education consultant, assessed the success of the HEC-led reforms as follows:

"By 2008, as a result of its policy and financial successes, most universities had become strong proponents of the Higher Education Commission. For the first time in decades university budgets were at reasonable levels. Quality had increased significantly, and several institutions were on their way to becoming world-class institutions. Most universities had signed onto the tenure-track system. The first master’s and PhD students were returning from their studies to good facilities and substantial research support. Many expatriate Pakistanis returned from abroad with access to competitive salaries. About 95 percent of people sent abroad for training returned, an unusually high result for a developing country in response to improved salaries and working conditions at universities as well as bonding and strict follow-up by the commission, Fulbright, and others. Student enrollment increases brought the total enrollment of college age students to 3.9 percent—well on the way to the target of 5 percent by 2010.

"Research publications more than doubled between 2004 and 2006. Especially important was the emphasis on quality in all areas including recruitment, PhD training, tenure, publications—all requiring external examiners. While the percentage of PhD faculty has slipped slightly from 29 to 22 percent, largely because rising enrollments have taken place faster than increases in PhD training with higher standards, the extensive faculty development programs of the commission will soon result in the return of sufficient numbers of PhDs to more than reverse that trend. During this time the student/faculty ratio has improved from 1:21 to 1:19, and a number of universities have focused on upgrading the quality of their teaching programs. By 2008, a broad transformation of higher education had taken place."


Over 5,000 scholars have participated in Ph.D. programs in Pakistan. Thousands of students and faculty have been awarded HEC scholarships to study abroad. The HEC has instituted major upgrades for laboratories and information and communications technology, rehabilitation of facilities, expansion of research support, and development of one of the best digital libraries in the region. A quality assurance and accreditation process has also established.

Unfortunately, the leadership in Pakistan in recent years has demonstrated its total lack of the most basic appreciation of the critical importance of education in the South Asian nation.

Earlier this year, a Pakistani government commission on education found that public funding for education has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2005 to just 1.5% - less than the annual subsidy given to the PIA, the national airline that continues to sustain huge losses.

The commission reported that 25 million children in Pakistan do not attend school, a right guaranteed in the country's constitution, and three million children will never in their lives attend a lesson, according to the BBC.

Now there is an attempt to dismantle the HEC in the name of provincial autonomy under the recently approved 18th amendment of the Constitution. By all indications, this attack on the HEC appears to be politically motivated to punish the HEC for its role in exposing fraudulent degrees of many leading politicians in the country.

More immediately, about $550 million in approved foreign grants and loans are on hold because of HEC's uncertain future.

What is at stake here is not just the future of the current students on HEC scholarships, but also the entire nation's future prospects as the world rapidly moves toward knowledge-based economy. The Pakistani government must acknowledge the potentially serious harm its actions are going to inflict on the nation and reverse course immediately.

Related Link:

Haq's Musings

Dr. Ata-ur Rehman Defends HEC's Role in Higher Education Reform

Human Capital and Economic Growth in Pakistan


Musharraf Legacy

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Politicians' Incompetence Worse Than Corruption in Pakistan

Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan

Beyond the ABCs: Higher Education and Developing Countries

UK Aids Pakistani Schools

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

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Tags: Capital, Education, HEC, Human, Pakistan

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 19, 2012 at 6:57pm

Here's a Daily Times story on higher education growth in Pakistan: Shaikh also highlighted the performance and achievements of government during last 10 years. He said that there are 71 universities in Pakistan in 2002, but in last 10 years, 66 new universities have been added in Pakistan. Previously, female enrolment was 37 percent, now it is 45 percent. Previously, numbers of PhDs were 1,500, now 10,000 new students have been enrolled in PhD, added the minister. He also mentioned that federal government has spent Rs 160 billion on promotion of higher education in the country. The federal minister said that federal government has transferred additional Rs 800 billion to provinces during the last four years to enable the provinces to provide their population best social services like health education. He also advised students to be proud and loyal Pakistanis. Shaikh said that it is a great day for the degree holding students, so they must thank their parents and teachers. He also assured that the government is doing every effort for the promotion of education sector in Pakistan.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\05\20\story_20-5-2012_pg5_1

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 21, 2012 at 3:43pm

Here are excerpts of a Nature magazine article on higher education support in Musharraf years: Despite the problems, science has been flourishing in Karachi and other Pakistani cities, thanks to an unprecedented investment in the country's higher-education system between 2002 and 2008 (see 'Rollercoaster budget'). As funding increased more than fivefold in that time, new institutes focusing on proteomics and agricultural research sprouted, and the University of Karachi's natural sciences department rose from nowhere to 223 in the 2009 QS World University Rankings.
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The surge in higher-education investment occurred after the rise to power of General Pervez Musharraf in 1999, who as leader of the army had led a low-key coup d'état and installed himself as de facto president. Musharraf was a liberal progressive who hoped to modernize Pakistan. "It was a moment in Pakistani history that now seems so distant," says Adil Najam, an expert in international development at Boston University in Massachusetts.

With the economy booming in the early 2000s, Pakistani academics sensed an opportunity. Higher education had never had much popular support in the country, where literacy hovers at about 50%, but in Musharraf they saw a champion. In a series of reports, Najam and others made the case that if the nation could mobilize its universities, it could transform from a poor agricultural state into a knowledge economy (see Nature 461, 38–39; 2009). The group called for a new Higher Education Commission (HEC) to manage the investment, as well as better wages for professors, more grants for PhD students and a boost in research funding.
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Rahman, a chemist at the University of Karachi and, at the time, the minister for science and technology, enthusiastically set out to overhaul the nation's universities. With Musharraf's support, annual research funding shot up 474% to 270 million rupees (US$4.5 million in 2002) in the first year alone. The HEC set aside money for PhD students and created a tenure-track system that would give qualified professors a monthly salary of around US$1,000–4,000 — excellent pay by Pakistani standards.

Rahman's strong scientific background, enthusiasm for reform and impressive ability to secure cash made him a hit at home and abroad. "It really was an anomaly that we had a person of that stature with that kind of backing," says Naveed Naqvi, a senior education economist at the World Bank, based in Islamabad. "Atta-ur-Rahman was a force of nature."
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Between 2003 and 2009, Pakistan churned out about 3,000 PhDs, roughly the same number awarded throughout its previous 55-year history. More than 7,000 PhD students are now in training at home and abroad. Meanwhile, scientific research publications have soared from roughly 800 in 2002 to more than 4,000 in 2009 (see 'Publishing power')...

http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100922/full/467378a.html

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 8, 2012 at 10:51am

Here's a BR report on HEC sponsored research scholars:

Higher Education Commission (HEC) has awarded 1647 scholarships to PhD scholars, studying in higher education institutions of Pakistan, for undertaking research at top ranking universities of 37 academically advanced countries.

The scholarships has been awarded under International Research Support Initiative Programme (IRSIP).

These foreign scholarships have been awarded in all the major disciplines including physical sciences, agriculture and veterinary sciences, biological and medical sciences, social sciences, management sciences and engineering.

It was informed during the 22nd meeting of IRSIP award committee which was presided over by the Executive Director HEC, Prof. Dr. Sohail H. Naqvi.

The meeting was apprised that through this innovative programme, HEC is offering six month research fellowship abroad to full time PhD students enrolled in Pakistan to enhance their research capabilities.

It is of utmost importance that the doctoral studies carried out in Pakistan are of a standard that is at par with any international reputed institution. This is only possible if candidates are provided with adequate support in research projects.

The indigenous PhD students sometimes face problems in research due to paucity of resources therefore the scheme is helping to provide doctoral students exposure internationally so they could carry out research projects of high standard.

It was also informed that the scheme is also assisting ongoing Indigenous PhD programmes by providing a mechanism for PhD scholars to travel abroad and conduct research in academically advanced countries.

This is providing exposure to the PhD scholars which will enhance the quality of research that they will be conducting in Pakistan.

The programme has also been greatly helpful to develop academic linkages between Pakistani and leading foreign institutions. The fellowship package covers travel, bench fee and living expenditure.

As an outcome of this programme, the number of international research publications by Pakistani scholars has been increased from 304 to 662 with 117% increase while the number of local publications has also been increased from 380 to 552 with 45% increase.

The Executive Director HEC and participants of the meeting appreciated the outcome of the programme and termed it as flagship programme of the HEC.

The establishment of the HEC in September 2002 has heralded a revolution in higher education in Pakistan; the HEC has accomplished more in nine years since its establishment than was achieved in the first 55 years of Pakistan's existence.

In Pakistan, under the HEC, in addition to quality reforms, there has been a strong resurgence of research and innovation.

In particular, there is a significant growth in the number of PhDs awarded out of Pakistani universities.

As a result of phenomenal increase in research publications, the world share of Pakistan's research has gone up by 300 percent in the last five years.

http://www.brecorder.com/pakistan/general-news/72612.html

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 31, 2013 at 7:09pm

Here's Daily Times on US-Pak cooperation in human capital development:

* Grant to help researchers turn their research into commercially viable projects with private sector partners

* Symposium on ‘Economic Growth through Technology Transfer’ kicks off

ISLAMABAD: US Ambassador Richard Olson has announced new funding for Pakistani researchers during the first Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Programme Symposium on “Economic Growth through Technology Transfer”, which started at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) on Thursday.

The two-day symposium is being jointly organised by the Higher Education Commission (HEC), Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), US Department of State, US Agency for International Development and US National Academy of Sciences. The main objective of this academic activity was to introduce concepts of technology transfer and foster new interactions between research projects and the private sector, enhancing translation of research across these domains.

The participants included principal investigators, private sector, government representatives and universities. Delivering the keynote address, Ambassador Olson said that international science and technology cooperation is essential in addressing global challenges. Examples of research cooperation that can improve lives include more efficient water treatment to conserve and reuse wastewater; systems that rapidly detect deadly, drug-resistant tuberculosis; and solar water-heating systems for remote, rural areas, he said.

Ambassador Olson explained several other ways that the United States promotes scientific cooperation with Pakistan. He also announced new funding for Pakistani researchers to turn their research into commercially viable projects with private sector partners. This year’s Pakistan-US Science and Technology Symposium mark the 10-year anniversary of the Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement and highlights a new focus on economic growth through scientific cooperation.

The two-day symposium brings together American and Pakistani researchers, universities, research institutions, government officials, and entrepreneurs to help build partnerships between researchers and private sector. The sessions include hands-on workshops on establishing private sector partnerships, intellectual property, and how to “sell” a business idea to potential investors. Earlier in the inauguration session, HEC Member Dr Nasser Ali Khan informed that over the last decade, the United States and Pakistan have jointly contributed $38 million to fund 73 Pakistani-US scientist-led research projects among 40 different institutes and universities in both countries. He also shed light over the decade-long achievements of higher education sector.

The Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Programme will sponsor two competitive seed grant programmes in 2013: “Innovate! and Collaborate”. Under these programmes, researchers can apply for seed grants of up to $15,000 starting in summer 2013. Application details will be available in summer 2013. HEC chairperson Dr Javaid R Laghari, Ministry of Science and Technology Secretary Akhlaq Ahmad Tarar, National University of Science and Technology Islamabad Rector Engr Muhammad Asghar and University of Agriculture Faisalabad Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan were also present on the occasion.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\02\01\story_1-2-2013_pg11_1

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