NINE WORLD CLASS UNIVERSITIES COSTING RS 160-180B IN OFFING

"We have provided strong base for equipping our human resource with the best tools of progress."

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Islamabad
May 22 - May 28, 2006

At top-level meeting chaired by President General Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad on Thursday last decided to raise grant allocation for higher education by 50 percent from the next financial year. The meeting attended by the Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Governors and Chief Ministers of the four provinces, AJK President, Chairman Higher Education, Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman and senior officials also decided to speed up the establishing of nine world class universities of engineering , science and technology in partnership with top world universities during the next 10 years as a part of government programme for human resource development.

Opening the meeting, the president observed that government would not only encourage universities to align their standards with the best institutions of higher learning in the world but also make available necessary means to achieve that end. "We have already increased the budget for higher education to RS. 22 billion (including development expenditures) this year from a mere Rs. 500 million in the year 1999-2000.

We have provided strong base for equipping our human resource with the best tools of progress", he said. The meeting also decided that from now the appointment of vice chancellors of universities would be made on the basis of recommendations of a scholars' research committee.

Briefing the newsmen after the meeting, Chairman HEC Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman told that the meeting decided to speed up the establishment of nine engineering universities with the help of Austria, Germany, Japan, Italy, France, China, South Korea and Sweden at a cost of Rs. 160 to 180 billion over a period of ten years.

He said that the president and the prime minister were committed to maintaining meaningful allocations for the cause of higher education and it is expected that there would be 50 percent increase in allocations in the next financial year. He said that classes at these nine universities would commence by 2008 and mark new era for Pakistan's advancement in the fields of science and technology. The universities would be fully funded by the government while the foreign countries would provide renowned faculty and necessary expertise too. The meeting decided to correspond funding of these universities with quality of education.

In a similar meeting in January last, the government has decided to set up 6 universities envisaging an expenditure of Rs 90 billion during the next 10 years. Now the number has been increased to 9 with an estimated expenditure of Rs. 160 to 180 billion. The proposed universities will be set up in partnership of world-class centers of excellence located in the advanced countries to groom young Pakistani talent in modern disciplines and spur industrial development.

Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, said the government was focused on preparing the youth of the country in accordance with development needs on modern lines. The government, he said, would commit financial resources for establishment of these centers of excellence. He said that government realized the importance of science and technology from the very beginning and increased budget for their development manifold.

In this context, he cited the huge difference that technological advancement multiplies exports of a country and said the imparting of education in consort with requirements of fast paced industrial development would lay a strong basis for long-term progress.

These universities will be set up as part of a federal university system, close to industrial areas of major cities of Pakistan, and first classes at these universities will commence by 2008. In the first 10 years, about 300 to 400 of the brightest student would be sent for training in the foreign universities and during this training phase they will undergo a masters and doctors level training. These universities will be headed by leading foreign university academics in the first 10 years.

Out of the many initiatives taken by President Musharraf, two in the area of Education - one for higher education and the other for education at the primary level-deserve special mention. There was a clear philosophy behind the approach that led to the launch of these two initiatives. The government decided that if education was to be given a high priority, the task of turning around the sector could not be assigned to the established institutions and bureaucracies. These were tried, on several occasions in the past, as harbingers of change but had failed each time to produce any palpable difference in the state of affairs.

They failed because of the built -in inefficiencies, corruption and the fact that they worked under the influence of the interests that were indifferent, if not altogether hostile, to introducing change. It was a revolutionary change that was needed to get the sector of education to deliver the human resources needed desperately by the economy, society and the political system. But established system could not be trusted to bring about the needed change.

The government turned to new organizational forms that were answerable essentially to the president whose objectives they were entrusted to achieve. The two agencies that were established were semi-autonomous bodies with their own budgets, programmes, staff and leadership, and were given the mandate to raise a part of their resources by directly working with the donor community. The two programme leaders had the direct encouragement and support of the president. That they succeeded in bringing about some impressive change was because the president was prepared to step in whenever the programme leaders felt that their forward movement was being blocked by vested interest.

The two bodies that received these mandates were the Higher Education Commission working under the leadership of Dr. Atta-ur Rehman and the National Commission on Human development that was founded and is operating under the direction of Dr. Naseem Ashraf. If they succeed in their two very separate missions, they will do so for the remarkable dynamism and charisma of the two leaders made responsible for these two efforts and the fact that they were using entirely different organizational forms and structures in order to achieve their objectives and those of a reformist president.

According to Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman, stunning advances made in the last few decades in the fields of information technology, biotechnology, material sciences, health sciences, renewable energy and other disciplines are rapidly changing the face of the globe, leading several countries on the path of social and economic development, leaving others behind.

The pace of knowledge generation and its impact on new product and process development and emergence of new interdisciplinary areas, e.g. nanotechnology and postgenomic sciences are providing opportunities for nations not traditionally recognized with science leadership to leap frog many of the advanced G-8 countries.

Some of these new emerging areas have provided opportunities to nations like Pakistan which were not traditionally classified as scientifically and technologically advanced countries, information technology has transformed the world into a global village and is providing major opportunities for growth e.g. through e-commerce. Access to mobile phones and internet is opening up new opportunities for communications through wireless technologies in remote villages where no fixed telephone lines exist.

Business outsourcing from technologically advanced countries is paving the way to tap into the creative potential of our youth. The economies of certain countries such as Ireland, China and India have been transformed significantly with the help of ICT technologies. The ICT technologies differ from other technologies because they do not simply act as a source of revenue for business and government but accelerate the full process of development and innovation in many ways through Improvement of communication and exchange of knowledge information.

While investment towards development of high level S&T manpower is necessary to meet the critical shortage of teachers and researchers, equally important is investment in skill development at technical education and management levels and provision of quality education to the majority of our population. We need to develop and introduce a system of incentives that attracts our brightest youth towards scientific carriers and a system which supports and rewards innovation. This would require investment in building an infrastructure for research and facilities and training institutes for continued training to deepen the knowledge and development of the skills of researchers.

We need to strengthen or establish centers of Excellence in those areas, which are relevant to our social and economic requirements. We need to create knowledge networks through collaboration of government research laboratories and industry at the regional, national and international levels.

The HEC is encouraging the development of an interface between research and industry. Investment in higher education will produce highly educated and skilled people. There would be great frustration if they don't have jobs waiting for them when they graduate. One way of eliminating a possible mismatch between the output of the institutions of higher learning and the skill inputs required by industry, commerce and finance is to work actively with these sectors of the economy in designing educational programmes.

INDICATORS

2000-01

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

Public Expenditure on Education

75887.064

78873.401

89769.446

120488.249

134896.968

Public Expenditure on Education as a % of GDP

1.96%

1.98%

2.14%

2.70%

2.77%*

% of Education Spending as a total of Recurrent and Development Budget

Re-
current

Dev.

Re-
current

Dev.

Re-
current

Dev.

Re-
current

Dev.

Re-
current

Dev.

14.64%

10.22%

15.03%

8.92%

13.89%

8.02%

16.87%

19.62%

19.24%

16.70%