Leaders of higher education institutions in Pakistan visiting the United States will play a pivotal role in promoting people-to-people contacts and educational linkages between Pakistan and the United States. They would also project the shared soft power of the two countries.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Masood Khan, made these remarks while addressing the Vice Chancellors (VCs) of 9 public sector universities who are visiting Washington DC under the US-supported Higher Education System Strengthening Activity (HESSA) Project.
HESSA is a $19 million project, which has been awarded to the University of Utah by USAID/Pakistan to support the delivery of high-quality education and research by public sector universities in Pakistan.
Ambassador Masood Khan said that the US universities have established their leadership in natural and social sciences as well as cutting-edge technologies from which countries around the world have benefitted.
Pakistan’s relationship with American universities, he said, dated back to the 1950s and 1960s when Pakistani academics were trained in the US in the STEM disciplines as well as social sciences.
“That legacy survives up to this day”, he said adding that many of the Vice Chancellors in Pakistani public sector universities had received higher education in the United States’ prestigious universities. “These relationships would be strengthened in the years to come and HESSA is a very good vehicle for that purpose”, he added.
The Ambassador said that Pakistan’s higher education leadership is here in the US to observe and learn from its universities, best practices in academic governance, research, and planning.
Turning to Pakistan, the Ambassador said that Pakistan was trying to revive a Knowledge Corridor between the US and Pakistan whereby 1,000 Pakistani students and professionals would come to the US for higher education in all disciplines with a sharp focus on new technologies.
“Pakistan has invested heavily in new technologies and thousands of graduates are specializing in AI, Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, 3D-printing, nanotechnology, and biotechnology. This is creating a good resource base for innovation and markets. It is now our effort to enhance the absorptive capacity of these graduates. In this regard, the US higher education institutions can give great help”, he said.
The Ambassador said that greater compatibility has to be developed between higher education curricula and the latest market trends, especially those driven in cyberspace to increase the employability of fresh graduates and professionals.
The Ambassador said because of the massive digitization of the Pakistani economy and with the growth of fintech, health tech, and agritech startups, Pakistan is ready to attract more US investment in educational institutions as well as regional economic projects. Pakistan’s startups’ exposure to the markets of the Gulf, Middle East, and Central and West Asia would spur demand for Pakistan’s tech products.
Ambassador Masood Khan said Pakistan is keen to foster collaboration between Agriculture Universities of the two countries. The University of California Davis and the University of Agriculture Faisalabad were connected in the past, the same model could be replicated in other universities.
The meeting was attended by Vice Chancellors of the Institute of Business Administration (IPA), Fatima Jinnah Women University, Karakoram International University, Abdul Wali Khan University, Sindh Agriculture University, BUITEMS, Swabi Women University, and University of Engineering and Technology.
The USAID representatives were also present at the meeting.
Dr. Aslam Chaudhry, Chief of Party, HESSA Project briefed the participants about the objectives of the project. He said that the aim of this project is to equip Pakistani public sector universities with technical expertise and provide support services to students to train them as per the market needs. This framework will ensure the quality of learning and access to job opportunities for Pakistani students.
In addition to the training workshops by the American instructors, regular exchanges of students and teachers of both countries are also part of the HESSA project. Such exchanges would provide exposure and learning opportunities to the students and staff of Pakistani public sector universities.