He specially directed the HEC Chairman to undertake the setting up of proposed nine top class universities in the country on a war-footing basis.

SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Bureau Chief, Islamabad
Nov 27 - Dec 03, 2006

President Pervez Musharraf chaired a high-level meeting at his camp office in Rawalpindi last week to review the progress in the field of higher education, especially the setting up of nine new universities of engineering, science and technology in the country in collaboration with top class world universities.

The President is taking keen interest to expand and improve the quality of science and technology education to rapidly convert the country into a knowledge-based economy. Addressing the meeting participants - who included chief ministers of Punjab and NWFP, Chairman Higher Education Commission (HEC) Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman and senior official of HEC - President Musharraf stressed the need for making concerted efforts in the field of science education to meet the technological advances in the world in order to put the economy on fast track development as well ensuring country's rightful status in the comity of nations. He specially directed the Chairman HEC to undertake setting up of the proposed nine top class universities in the country on a war-footing basis. Despite resource constraints, he said, funding of a top-heavy amount of Rs.250 billion has been ensured for this highly needed project of national importance. The President directed the HEC to move rapidly towards bringing these universities on the ground in the shortest possible time.

Reaffirming the strong commitment of the government to the promotion of higher education, General Pervez Musharraf said all resources would be utilized to achieve the goal of quality education to take the country forward on the path of progress and economic development. In this context, the referred to the quantum increase in budget allocation from Rs.600 million to Rs.22 billion over the past six years.

The president said the new nine world-class institutions of higher learning being set up with the cooperation of developed countries will help create a quality manpower in sync with the industry. The President has already performed the ground breaking ceremony of one of these universities in Lahore being set up in collaboration with Austria, while the Prime Minister has laid the foundation stone of a university in Karachi with French collaboration. Briefing newsmen after the meeting, Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman said the other universities would be set up in Hyderabad, Peshawar, Multan, Sialkot, Faisalabad and one in Balochistan province.

However, the Prime Minister, while laying the foundation of the university with French collaboration in Karachi a few months back, had announced that six such universities would be set up in the country within the next five years at an estimated cost of Rs. 90 billion. According to the President, the number of proposed universities is nine and the total cost is likely to be around Rs. 250 billion. (There is a big difference between Rs. 90 billion and 250 billion). The Chairman HEC mentioned six new locations for the proposed universities. Besides Karachi and Lahore (where foundation stone has already been laid), it will bring the total number to eight and not nine.