Oct 31 - Nov 6, 20

Quality assurance mechanism in higher education is a multi-prong and multistage process which is meant to ensure and improve quality education and contribute towards knowledge based growth in the country.

The higher education commission (HEC) has evolved this system to ensure that an institution meets quality assurance procedures.

According to Prof. Azam Ali Khwaja, managing director and advisor, quality assurance and learning innovation, HEC, all the universities, both in the public as well as in the private sector, have been given a mandate for developing quality assurance mechanism.

The concept of quality assurance is applicable not only in education but in all spheres of life of an individual or society having a desire to live respectfully in the comity of the nations.

The system needs to be designed in a manner that its focus should be as a facilitator to achieve results rather than creating difficulties for those desiring to be part of the system. Atif K. Butt pointed out that the HEC invited applications for this year's indigenous Ph.D. scholarships program in the month of April.

A large number of candidates applied for the scholarships from all over the country. The HEC staff knew it well that most of the universities start their MS/M.Phil and Ph.D. admissions in August or before every year, but the application process was not completed on time. The HEC's HRD Division contacted some 4000 applicants via email last week of August informing them that their applications were incomplete while September 10 was the last date for submission.

After three weeks of the closing date, the HEC website said that the merit list would be displayed in the third week of October. A sizeable number of applicants lost their chance to get the scholarships due to delay in the process.

Such delays look awkward and a negation of the spirit of quality assurance especially when every organization has been provided with the automation and digital facilities. If the facility is not being used for the good of the people or improving the quality of the system, there seems no point of spending huge money on IT system.

The students belonging to lower middle-income groups apply for this kind of scholarships in the hope of a better future that these scholarships could be a source for them to move ahead for a prosperous future. A considerable number of the applicants could not get benefits of the scholarships due to non-availability of the admission seats in universities or because of delays. This whole episode is contrary to the quality assurance.

Prof. Azam Ali Khwaja, speaking on "Quality Assurance in Higher Education" at a seminar last week at Arag Auditorium of Dow Medical College, Karachi said that quality assurance department of HEC is responsible for systematic implementation of quality enhancement procedures to attain improved levels of international compatibility and competitiveness at institutional level.

He appreciated the efforts of Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) and its faculty members in brining up the university at par with the international level.

The seminar was organized by DUHS in collaboration with the HEC with a view to create awareness about the importance of quality assurance in higher education among the hierarchy of DUHS and develop an understanding and take feedback about self-assessment procedures as defined by the HEC.

Prof. Masood Hameed Khan, Vice Chancellor-DUHS highlighting the governance in higher education at DUHS said that Dow has always been in the forefront for accepting and adapting best practices in the field of education.

Recognizing the role that it has to play in higher education sector, Prof. Masood said that DUHS has established a quality enhancement cell with a responsibility to ensure that the university's quality assurance procedures are compatible with the international standards and designed to improve the quality of higher education.

The steps taken by DUHS to have quality enhancement at undergraduate and postgraduate levels include establishment of separate institute for capacity building in health related fields like nursing, medical technology, physical medicine, oral health sciences, health management.

More than 40 new establishments are providing more than 40 degree and diploma courses of undergraduate and postgraduate levels. All teaching programs are closely monitored by quality assurance department of DUHS.

Dr. A. Wahid Usmani, Director Quality Enhancement Cell (QEC) of DUHS discussed the importance and need of quality assurance in higher education in universities, and highlighted the self assessment procedures as defined by HEC. He also spoke on qualitative measures adopted by QEC to enhance and maintain quality of education.

The maintenance of quality standards in education calls for several measures including continuous teacher evaluation in all departments and institutes, online feedback system for the students and faculty. This also emphasizes on academic audit of different programs through teaching portfolio, student's guidance and counseling through mentor system.

Due to successful conduct of quality enhancement system, the Dow quality department has established a network with 135 quality assurance members and it provides training to 86 universities throughout the country.

Prof. Nazeer Khan, Director Department of Research, DUHS said that "our department is providing facilities which include undergraduate research program, journal of DUHS, registration of research projects, faculty profile, abstract books, institutional review board, funding of research project, undergraduate research, postgraduates program, PhD program, foreign scholarship program etc. In last two years, 200 studies have been conducted and presented by the DMC undergraduate students.