Empowering Higher Education System in Pakistan
Evaluating higher education system (HES) of different countries is immensely helpful in deciphering potential advantages and weakness of each system.It provides an opportunity to formulate issues pertaining to quality of education, relevance of research with community and society conscience. According to QS latest higher education system ranking, Pakistan HES standard bottom. This position is quite off target and somewhat depressing for a wide academic circle. Four categories including system strength, access, flagship institutions, and economic context were used for this scoring.
Briefly, score allocation for first parameter, system strength, was done by dividing number of internationally ranked institutions of a country with average positions of these institutions in the QS ranking list. For access, number of places available at universities ranked within the global top 500, divided by an indicator of population size was used. Idea of access scoring was to give an indication of the chances of gaining a place at a world-class university for residents of the country in question. Under flagship institutions category, panel of subject wise established torchbearer institutions of the country were enumerated and normalized. Last parameter economic context, addressed national investment in higher education sector and its outreach in global settings.
Despite of huge investment and reforms in higher education sector of Pakistan (establishment of HEC, capacity building of researchers and development of new universities), we are still struggling ininternational recognition.
From an academician prospect, I encounter one core reason and suggest appropriate remedial strategies.
Development and Implementation of HES Policy
Astounding role of HEC (Higher Education Commission) in governing and regulating higher education institutions of Pakistan is a reality. Launching of start-up grants for young PhDs, travel grants for participation in international conferences and national research support program are few outstanding examples set forth by HEC. Despite of retaining a pool of ~200 universities and institutions, efforts to identify and formulate priority research areas are left at universities disposal. It is difficult to comprehend that even for accomplishing goals set in PAKISTAN Vision 2025, no single priority guidelines are ever being disseminated by HEC. Similarly, framework regarding allocation of budget in discipline or subject wise research categories is also fuzzy. The situation is further intensified by unforeseen governmental cuts and lack of any significant contribution from private or public sector. Earlier, switching of HEC from QS to THE model has also taken by surprise in many institutions.
All aforementioned problems are indicative of inconsistent approach in developing trained human resource in national building without compromising quality standards in different scientific and social sectors.Hence, a serious, rigorous and persistent plan in attaining a reputable higher education system ranking and substantive struggle is deemed necessary. Efforts to ascertain preliminary requirements related to QS ranking indicators should not be solely left at the disposal of universities. Infact, special monitoring and allocation of funds to achieve these objectives should also be announced by HEC for a global uplift of Pakistan Education system. Incentives to accomplish subject wise supremacy, 100 top under 50-category rankings in QS system are the best way to begin. Similarly, a trend of collaborating extensively with Asian universities and particularly with top institutions in China also showed outstanding benefits according to nature index recent report 2015. Hence, a apart from catharsis, strategic planning after extensive brain storming in identifying potential niches are immensely required at this stage. Being 6th most populous countries, carrying substantial youth load, we do need to attain an international recognition for developing a more innovative, flexible and progressive future of Pakistan.