Improving higher education : CM constitutes VC’s committee to mull reforms


LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has formulated a committee of vice chancellors of UET Lahore, University of Punjab, GC University Lahore, University of Gujrat and Fatima Jinnah Women University Rawalpindi to arrange a conference on ‘Future Road Map of Higher Education’ to put up recommendations for strengthening higher education sector. 
Earlier, he had constituted a high-level committee in 2012, under the chairmanship of Senator Zulfiqar Khosa, for improvement of higher education in Punjab. 
The committee formulated its recommendations, which were subsequently presented to the chief minister by the Higher Education Department secretary. 
The conference was held from March 26 to 28 at the GCU Lahore and participated by vice chancellors of public and private sector universities, national/international level academicians and education experts. All the participants appreciated the vision and interest of chief minister in order to improve the state of higher education in the province and bringing it at par with international standards.
In order to address governance issues in more effective and efficient way, Punjab Higher Education Commission was also suggested as an autonomous body. The commission would directly work under the supervision of chief minister and ensure the autonomy of HEIs, improvement of governance structure of degree colleges. 
The proposed commission would coordinate and facilitate academic, administrative and financial matters of all HEIs (general and professional universities and DAIs) in Punjab as per similar structure of federal HEC. The proposed commission would operate in coordination with Federal Higher Education Commission. 
The participants suggested a unified act for all future universities of the province. During the three days of the conference, the participants deliberated on present state of higher education and rationale for reforms, future vision for higher education, higher education reform objectives 2014-18, major targets and milestones, action plan 2014-18 and budgetary requirements. It was apprised that during the last two decades there has been a perceptible increase in the number of HEIs in Punjab i.e. 22 HEIs in public sector and 20 HEIs in private sector with 630 degree colleges.
The conference participants underlined the need for reforms in higher education sector of Punjab due to multiple factors including growing requirements for faculty development, low gross enrolment ratio as compared to international standards, poor quality of higher education particularly in colleges and relevance of higher education for socio-economic development of the country. The conference unanimously resolved to undertake collaborative efforts for revision of curriculum and evaluation system to develop creativity, analytical ability, critical thinking, supporting quality enhancement regime, focusing research towards addressing socio-economic problems in the areas of energy, ICT, public health, population, engineering, environment and water resources, enhancing research collaboration with national/international HEIs and industry and developing knowledge economy through higher education. The other important recommendations of the conference include establishment of Research Endowment Fund with two billion rupees, scholarship/loan endowment fund with five billion rupees and endowment fund with initial two billion rupees faculty training, strengthening/upgradation of existing facilities of universities and DAIs, establishment of DAIs particularly in less developed areas, ensuring quality induction of students in HEIs through standardised entry test, establishment of knowledge parks/technology parks/energy parks in collaboration with HEIs and industry and internationalisation of the universities.

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