SOS call for higher education
The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has functioned brilliantly in recent years.
It had numerous achievements, but one of the more tangible ones was the significant improvement in the quality and quantity of the research work undertaken in universities across the country.
The present government has announced that it will devolve the HEC to the provinces, while stating that this was required under the 18th Amendment, and that education will now be the sole domain of the provinces. HEC officials however dismissed the proposed devolution under the 18th amendment, while maintaining that the commission was an independent institution that was functioning directly under the prime minister.
HEC’s hard-earned credibility and respect is its greatest asset; if it is devolved to the provinces, this asset will be destroyed. It is evident that if this devolution occurs, each province will make its own policies that will be vulnerable to political pressures; this phenomenon will eventually erode HEC’s credibility. And this credibility — which was established as a result of its closely-guarded independence — is important in raising the higher education standards across the country.
When Dr Attaur Rahman was at the helm of the HEC, its budget was increased manifold. The then government seemed to have invested heavily in higher education. This made sense since investments in higher education should give a high return in terms of producing able graduates who could then help improve the country’s image, and the quality of research and learning. Considering this, it would rather be unfair if credit is not given to former president Pervez Musharraf, who supported Dr Rahman and was able to provide the HEC substantial funding.
The present government should follow the former government’s example, in case it is not able to further develop this sector. Obviously, a lot still has to be done in this regard but Pakistan was at least on the right track— until the present government decided to drastically cut down funds for the HEC during the last two years.
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