ISLAMABAD: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) plans to set up five new universities and 36 campuses besides upgrading nine existing into fully-fledged universities campuses across the country.
The move aims at enhanced coverage of higher education at the district level.
The ambitious plan, which integrates the government’s vision of maximum area coverage in terms of higher education at district and province levels, will materialise in the next three years, HEC documents outline.
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The move comes on the heels of consistent demand by parliamentarians especially by the Senate Standing Committee on Education, which has been urging the government to establish universities and campuses in every district to promote higher education.
Currently, there are 171 public and private sector universities and 88 sub-campuses in the country. Of these universities and campuses, Punjab has 57, Sindh 51, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 29, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) 18, Balochistan eight, Azad Jammu and Kashmir seven and Gilgit-Baltistan has two (one university anda campus).
With existing higher education institutes across Pakistan, the ICT has 100 per cent area coverage in terms of higher education, followed by 80 per cent in AJK, 75 per cent in Punjab and 72 in K-P and other areas.
In the current budget, the government has announced Rs5 billion for establishing sub-campuses across the country and Rs1 billion for up-gradation of universities in the backward areas.
According to the documents, a total of 11 sub-campuses and four new universities will be established in the current fiscal year, 12 sub-campuses in 2016-17 and about 13 campuses in the fiscal year 2017-18
The plan intends to cover 100 per cent area in the ICT, K-P, Punjab, Sindh and AJK.
An official at the HEC headquarters said that the higher education regulatory body will write letters to the federating units for provision of free-of-cost land to implement the plan while the HEC will provide funding for infrastructure and faculty development.
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The HEC plans to access to higher education in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) from zero to 100 per cent by establishing seven new universities and campuses over the next year.
The construction of the Fata University has been in a limbo since 2009, while the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (Safron) has been ‘coordinating’ with the Fata Secretariat and the HEC. The Fata Secretariat has purchased 266-kanal land in Dara Adamkhel and Kohat at a cost of Rs133 million.
The location of the university has been a bone of contention between the parliamentarians of the K-P and Fata.
The HEC plans to establish the main campus in Dara Adam Khel, while seven sub-campuses in other seven agencies of Fata.
Similarly, the HEC will establish eight new sub-campuses in different parts of Balochistan over the next three years.
When the HEC Chairperson, Dr Mukhtar Ahmed was asked why the HEC plan envisages only 44 per cent area coverage for Balochistan in terms of access to higher education, he said that the province was scarcely populated and many areas have a few houses, where even schools did not exist.
“We have focused on areas where there is a good number of population,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2015.