PESHAWAR: Even as the provincial government claims to have made education their topmost priority by allocating large sums of money for the sector, success at the elementary levels has not translated in the higher education sector where not even one university from the province managed to make it into the list of top ten varsities of the country.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), every successive government has expressed its commitment to higher education, working to allocate funds and land to set up more educational institutions. Often at times, longstanding colleges were granted the status of universities.
The Awami National Party (ANP) had set up nine universities during their five-year term in the province from 2008 to 2013. Before them, as many as 11 varsities were functional in different parts of the province.
The Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) too jumped on the bandwagon for new universities, setting up three new universities while announcing a further five universities. At the moment, there are as many as 23 universities operating in the province.
However, neither the ANP nor the PTI has taken take care to improve the standard of education at these educational institutes.
According to Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) annual ranking. since 2010, not a single university of the province has made it to the list of top ten universities of the country.
In the last session of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly held on February 21, Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) MPA Mufti Fazal Ghafoor questioned the incumbent government’s resolve over higher education and why not even a single university had not made it into the elite list.
The legislator lamented that on the one hand the standards of higher education in the province are declining day-by-day. On the other hand fees at these public sector varsities keep increasing every year.
Ghafoor pointed out that the University of Peshawar was ranked fourth across the country in 2006 but has slipped out of the overall top 10 list. A testament to how its standards have declined over the years.
K-P Higher Education Minister Mushtaq Ghani had responded to the criticism on the floor of the assembly by stating that the government was planning to set up an independent provincial higher education commission which would look after and deal with educational standards of public sector universities in the province.
In what was a consolation, the minister presented a specialized list of higher education institutions in which the Agriculture University of Peshawar was listed at fourth and at six in the list of agricultural and veterinary universities.
HEC’s ranking qualifies universities on different indicators such as quality assurance, teaching quality, research, finance and facilities, social integration and community development. They set 100 marks for these indicators while evaluating the performance of universities.
In 2010, the top ten universities included Quaid-i-Azam University, Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Aga Khan University, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, University of Punjab, National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University in Rawalpindi, University of Health Sciences Lahore, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) Islamabad and the Lahore University of Management Sciences rounded up the top ten.
Similarly, the same universities were included in the list of 2013-14-15 and 2016 while not even a single university from K-P was including in this list.
The K-P government’s tall claims of improving quality of education and allocation worth billions have not seemed to have had the desired result.
It is thus unclear how much impact would a provincial higher education commission have in improving their quality.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2018.