ISLAMABAD: Although funds expected by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) would provide instant relief covering critical items like the completion of ongoing scholarship programmes, the future of 400 PhD students, who were supposed to depart to start studies abroad this month, seems bleak. The HEC is facing serious budget cuts, which led 72 public universities across the country to close down in protest, and its officials have clarified that whatever money they will get will be invested in securing the future of those completing their PhDs abroad.
The total number of PhD degree holders in Pakistan is the lowest in South Asia.
“We need to increase this number, but with the current status of the economy even a low target seems unachievable,” HEC Chairperson Dr Javaid Laghari told The Express Tribune.
The growth and enrollment of 17- to 23-year-old students in institutions across Pakistan is only five per cent which is as bad as some African countries, 2.5 per cent less than India, and six times lower than Malaysia and Turkey. “This whole phenomenon is affecting the GDP. We have to make five-year and even 20-year plans today. The plans are made but sufficient funding is not available, and the crunch will hinder the country’s progress,” said Laghari.
Highlighting the fact that the process of application and selection starts a year in advance of scholarships, Laghari said that the funding for the 2011-2012 period is facing a similar problem.
He pointed out that the students were prepared to leave, but now they will have to face the colossal issue of wasting their time and potential.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2010.
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