Aug 22 - 28, 2011

With a view to providing genuine software availability to the higher education sector, the higher education commission (HEC) in collaboration with the Microsoft Pakistan has launched national student software accessibility (NSSA) Portal.

The service will streamline software distribution to all faculty members and students of public sector universities in the country. All public sector universities recognized by HEC have been provided a customizable portal for licensed software distribution. The portal consisting of around 150 software applications will enable over one million students and about 40,000 faculty members to download genuine Microsoft software.

According to chairperson HEC, Dr. Javaid R. Laghari, this is a great opportunity for institutions of higher learning to gain access to a broad spectrum of technology and enable the country to move towards a knowledge-based economy, ultimately benefiting the country through socioeconomic development.

"I appreciate Microsoft's commitment for development of the education sector in Pakistan. It is always fruitful for public sector and private enterprise to combine expertise, knowledge, and resources to ensure successful and sustainable education transformation. Microsoft has facilitated HEC to attain its goals by transforming education, fostering local innovation, and creating jobs and opportunities through the strategic education alliance," the chairperson said.

The country general manager Microsoft Pakistan Kamal Ahmed said that Microsoft believes that information and communications technology combined with education provides the path to individuals, communities and nations to achieve their potential.

"NSSA provides support for a comprehensive joint public/private implementation plan that will sustain Pakistan's objective of achieving education excellence. It is aligned with the key strategic aims of transforming education, fostering local innovation and use of genuine software," he said.

The portal will further strengthen HEC's objectives of equipping university students and faculty members with the latest technological access across Pakistan.

It may be noted that Microsoft and HEC had entered into the agreement to provide centralized IT services to the universities and degree awarding institutions across Pakistan while maintaining the highest standards in the use of ICT across higher education sector in the country.

The alliance consists of faculty connection, Microsoft student partner program, imagine cup, course lab integration, student to business interaction (S2B), .NET clubs and MSDN academic alliance.

HEC, formerly the University Grant Commission, is the primary regulator of higher education in Pakistan. It also facilitated the development of higher educational system in Pakistan. Its main purpose was to upgrade universities in Pakistan to be centers of education, research and development.

HEC has played a leading role towards building a knowledge based economy in Pakistan by giving out hundreds of doctoral scholarships for education abroad every year.

Dr. Javaid Laghari is the last incumbent appointed HEC chairman. HEC main programs are comprised of faculty development, curriculum revision, higher education infrastructure development, indigenous scholarships, foreign scholarships, patent filing support, conference travel grants, increasing industry and university research collaboration and developing new technology parks

Higher education commission instituted major upgrades for laboratories and information and communications technology, rehabilitation of facilities, expansion of research support, and development of one of the best digital libraries in the region.

A quality assurance and accreditation process was also established. Its successes have been remarkable as the recurrent and development budgets increased 340 percent in real terms from 2001 to 2005/06.

By 2008, as a result of its policy and financial successes, most universities had become strong proponents of the higher education commission.

About 95 percent of people sent abroad for training returned.

Pakistan has won four international awards for the revolutionary changes in the higher education sector brought about by HEC. The creation of HEC has had a positive impact on higher education in Pakistan.

a) Every student in every public sector university today has access to 45,000 textbooks research monographs from 220 international publishers as well as to 25,000 international research journals - regarded as one of the best digital libraries anywhere in the world.

b) University enrollment tripled from 135,000 in the year 2003 to 400,000 in 2008.

c) Expansion of international research publications from Pakistan from only 600 research papers /yr in 2003 to 4300 research papers in 2008.

d) During the 56 year (1947-2003) not a single Pakistani university could be ranked among the top 600 universities in the world. Today, five of Pakistani universities are in this category with the national university of science and technology standing at a very respectable number 350.

e) Four year undergraduate program introduced so that our degrees are internationally recognized.

f) About 5000 Ph.D. level scholarships awarded for study in technologically advanced countries (largest program in developing world) and some 3,000 indigenous Ph.D. scholarships have been awarded. The world's largest Fulbright Scholarship program (US$150 million) launched with joint funding (HEC/USAID).

g) Fifty one new universities and degree awarding institutes and 18 campuses of existing universities established during (2003-2008).