How Did the Higher Education Commission Fare in 2016?

While pursuing its policy of no-compromise on quality and governance issues of higher education institutions, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan took many new steps in year 2016 to further strengthen country’s higher education sector.

HEC reviewed a total of 293 PhD programmes and 57 MPhil programmes of 171 universities, of which 31 PhD and 26 MPhil programmes of different universities were closed due to lack of fulfillment of minimum quality standards.

In 2016, HEC also launched the first phase of establishing sub-campuses of different universities and degree awarding institutions at 31 districts of Pakistan. The project aims to open 16 campuses of public sector universities in those districts which have potential intake of 1000-1500 students in addition to setting up campuses of Virtual University in districts where the population is relatively thin. The second phase of the project will cover another 35 districts with regard to establishment of university campuses.

The sub-campuses being established in this phase include Karakoram International University, Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan; University of Poonch, Forward Kahuta, Azad Jammu & Kashmir; University of Balochistan, Pishin, Balochistan; University of Balochistan, Quetta, Dera Murad Jamali, Balochistan; Lasbela University of Agriculture Water & Marine Sciences, Uthal, Balochistan; Sardar Bahudar Khan Women University, Naushki, Balochistan; University of Hazara, Battagram, Khyber Pakhtunkha; University of Swat, Shangla, KPK; Gomal University, Tank, KPK; Kohat University of Science & Technology, Hangu; Shah Abdul Latif University, Ghotki and Shahdadkot, Sindh; Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University, Sanghar; IBA, Kashmore; Sindh Agriculture University, Umerkot; and, Mehran University of Engg & Technology, Jacobabad. Likewise, a total of 15 Virtual University sub-campuses will be established including two in Gilgit-Baltistan, one in FATA, five in Balochistan, one in KPK, four in Punjab and two in Sindh.

In the same year, HEC inaugurated Cloud Data Centre with an aim to facilitate universities to become part of the world-class research environment. Building of the Centre has been donated by Huawei Technologies. The Centre is meant for improving productivity, enhancing business processes, and accelerating change. HEC’s Cloud services aim at increasing efficiency, productivity and collaboration between the universities of Pakistan and reduce costs by using an optimized IT infrastructure. This data centre provides services like Virtual Data Centres (VDC), Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), Safe Campus Central Solution and Central Surveillance, Unified Communication and Shared Services, Storage as a Service, and Training as a Service.

Besides, HEC launched the country’s first government testing body for education sector named Education Testing Council (ETC) to conduct free, standardized tests for university admissions. ETC will conduct test free of cost for all students desirous of taking admission in public and private universities. It will be held twice a year and its results will be valid for two years.

In 2016, Pakistan emerged as a country with highest percentage of highly cited papers as compared to BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries. A report entitled “Pakistan: Another BRIC in the Wall” issued by Thomson Reuters stated that though Pakistan’s R&D environment faced substantial economic challenges, despite this the most influential research was not affected. It reveals that in last decade Pakistan’s scientific productivity increased by more than four times from 2000 articles in 2006 to more than 9000 articles in 2015. During this period, the number of highly cited papers featuring Pakistan based authors increased 10-fold, from nine articles in 2006 to 98 in 2015.

The percentage of Pakistani documents cited during 2006 to 2015 was 62.27% of the total published documents as against 59.73% of the documents published by all BRIC countries. “Percentage of cited documents gives a starting perspective on efficiency of the published documents.” It added that, “in 2012, Pakistan’s Category Normalized Citation Impact (CNCI) was higher than all of BRIC countries. Also, percentages of documents cited and percentage of highly cited papers are higher.”

HEC has received 198 plagiarism complaints since 2006, in which 160 cases have been finalized; 90 complaints have proved to be false, while 38 faculty members have been blacklisted. About 38 cases are under process and six cases are *sub judice*.

The newly formed Technology Development Fund, a project worth Rs. 2.91 billion, is for a duration of five years and will cover 200 proposals. Its priority areas will be IT/Computers, Micro-electronics, Biotechnology, Material Sciences, Telecommunication and Robotics. The Fund aims at promoting prototypes for problem-based solutions. The first year target will be 50 joint proposals from university and industry projects.

Apart from various other initiatives for promotion and transfer of technology, HEC entered into a strategic partnership with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and signed a Document of Understanding (DOU) to enhance collaboration through research and development initiatives aimed towards promoting and encouraging higher education institutions for joint development of technologies in Pakistan. For this purpose, Huawei will assist HEC to set up its R&D Laboratory in Pakistan.

With its unflinching commitment to human resource development, HEC took numerous steps to provide Pakistan with highly qualified and skilled human capital. For this purpose, it extended 1036 foreign and indigenous scholarships, over 23,000 need-based scholarships, and 24640 scholarships under the Prime Minister Fee Reimbursement Scheme in addition to the scholarships provided to Pakistani students under various programmes developed as a result of foreign collaboration. HEC has also been executing the Prime Minister’s Laptop Scheme.

Meanwhile, HEC has also launched a new faculty development programme costing Rs. 7142 million to provide qualified faculty in universities. Under the project, approved by ECNEC in December 2016, as many as 2000 faculty members from public sector universities will be provided opportunity to enrol in PhD programme in local universities. There will be a provision to spend six month to one year in foreign university for research purposes. During their stay in foreign universities, their research will be jointly supervised by Foreign and Pakistan faculty members.

During the year, FATA University was made operational and work was initiated on University of Gwadar as well as University of Central Asia, Pakistan. Besides, the number of Offices of Research, Innovation and Commercialization, and Business Incubation Centres has also increased remarkably. HEC took valuable initiatives to boost academia-industry linkages so as to turn the country into a knowledge economy and follow the Government’s Vision 2025. Likewise, HEC announced the 5th Ranking of Pakistani Higher Education Institutions for 2013-2014 with an aim to boost academic and research culture among Pakistani universities, and encourage them to compete at international level. The ranking was carried out under various categories including Engineering and Technology, Business Education, Agriculture and Veterinary, Medical, and Arts & Design. The major criteria for evaluation of universities were Quality Assurance, Teaching Quality, Research, Finance & Facilities, and Social Integration/ Community Development.