People from different walks of life on Wednesday continued to record their apprehensions and protests against the devolution of Higher Education Commission (HEC). The move, they said would destroy the decade-long investment in higher education.
The critics pointed out that there is no alternate institute to successfully handle higher education, which is crucial for national development in the long term.
Former education minister and Information Secretary Ahsan Iqbal said, “The 18th Amendment does not make it mandatory for the HEC to be devolved to the provinces.”
He pointed out that no alternate institution is present at the provincial level to take the place of the HEC, which has acquired tremendous experience in managing research and development projects in higher education sector.
Iqbal termed the devolution unwise, urging the government to review it in the larger interest of the country.
Professor Dr Attaur Rehman, who is the founding chairperson of the HEC, said the commission had performed well in the past eight years and it “must” not be devolved.
The HEC is the only central regulatory body that links education to national development projects, enabling universities to produce skilled manpower, he said.
Dr Rehman added, “Higher education is far more important than the nuclear progress as no war can be won without excelling in the education.”
The total university enrolments between 1947 and 2003 were 135,000, which increased to about 400,000 in the following five years from 2004 to 2008, Dr Rehman said. There were 59 universities and degree awarding institutes in 2001. By 2008, they had grown to 127.
HEC’s efforts helped University of Karachi achieve a world rank of 223 in some disciplines. Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) was ranked 270 in Natural Sciences and NUST was ranked at 350 in overall world university rankings, according to Times UK Higher Education Ranking, November 2009, he said.
Dr Masoom Yasinzai, Vice Chancellor of Quaid-i-Azam University, said, “The HEC has been a true success story, producing more PhDs scholars in eight years, than there were in the last 56 years.”
He added that a recent grant of $300 million from the World Bank was issued because of HEC’s performance.
Provinces lack the capacity to handle higher education, he said, adding there is need of an organised and centralised body to independently develop and implement educational policies.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2011.