A task force, chaired by the Higher Education Commission’s chairperson, is expected to reach Balochistan by the end of this month to assess the violence-hit province’s higher educational needs and to enhance the current infrastructure of its education institutions.
The idea to form a special body for the Balochistan was presented by the Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch on July 25 during his visit to the HEC.
Though the number of universities in the province has increased from two to eight and student enrollment has gone up to 76,000 from 30,000 in 2011 there is a need for improvement to meet the demands in the disciplines of science and technology.
Following the meeting, Chairman HEC Javaid Laghari agreed to constitute a special task force which would work to evaluate and promote higher education in the province.
“The purpose is to make Balochistan able so that it can keep pace with national standards and cooperate in addressing human resource related problems in the province,” said Laghari.
According to an official at the HEC, the task force will assess the need to build new universities in far-flung areas like Gwadar and other violence-hit areas. Besides, it is also tasked to look for creating new disciplines in the already running institutions.
The force is expected to hold meetings with vice chancellors of various universities. They will also meet other stakeholders including students, civil society and academics to gauge the need and develop and upgrade the current infrastructure where needed.
The recommendations, which will be made in a month after the visit, will be presented to the chief minister. The HEC will then assist in the planning which comes under its authority, while the rest of the recommendations will be sent to the prime minister.
According to a press release issued by the HEC, while assessing the universities in Balochistan, the body among other things, will specifically focus on areas including governance and management of universities. Autonomy from all kinds of extraneous influences in academic, administrative and financial functions, faculty development, trainings and research functions, institutional performance, adequacy of resources (public and self-generated; including university effectiveness to mobilise resources), efficiency and effectiveness of resource use, adoption and adherence to quality standards and practices, development and quality of faculty, retention vis-à-vis vacancy. The recommendations will also focus on the problems created by the law and order.
The main HEC initiatives for promotion of equitable access to higher education in Balochistan include: approval of 49 development projects amounting to more than Rs10 billion, application of federal quota policy over indigenous and foreign scholarship programs. The HEC is to allocate 390 PhD scholarships for the university faculty, award 2,000 scholarships to students of Balochistan and Fata, 1,500 more scholarships and 600 foreign PhD scholarships, implementing Fee Waiver Scheme for the Public Sector University Students of Balochistan at Master’s and MS level. Besides this recently an HEC Regional Centre was also established in Quetta.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2013.