A panel discussion on “challenges and opportunities for higher education” was held here on Tuesday at the Government College University (GCU) Lahore which was chaired by Governor Punjab Muhammad Baligh Ur Rehman.

In his inaugural address, Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Asghar Zaidi said that structural lags impede progress in higher education; even large universities don’t have autonomy over their financial and administrative affairs.

“We don’t have the authority to hire professors from top universities; we have to follow specific service statutes and pay scales,” Prof Zaidi said, clarifying that the standard salary packages are not lucrative enough to attract the best minds. He stressed the need for the training of faculty and yearly curriculum reforms.

Punjab governor Baligh Ur Rehman highlighted the reforms in higher education from 2013-2018 and the need for continuity of policies for the development of institutions. “We should do a charter of the economy; so that policies don’t change with change the government,” the governor said.

The governor stressed that research needs to be aligned with the needs of local industry. He said problems exist but things are improving; we have to be pragmatic and realistic about bringing reforms.

Talking to students, the governor said honesty and hard work are two gems which could earn you the highest ranks in this world and the world hereafter. He also asked students to make research part of their lives.

The governor said there was a record increase in the number of universities and higher education funding during the PML-N government from 2013-18.

Information Technology University (ITU) VC Dr Sarfraz Khurshid, Executive Director Shaoor Foundation for Education and Awareness (SFEA) Raja Shoaib Akbar and students’ representatives Raeesa Raiza and Nabiha also addressed the panel discussion.

Former Secretary Higher Education Department (HED) Punjab Sajid Zafar Dall highlighted the importance of colleges in higher education and the need to strengthen their collaboration with universities.

Talking about research, University of Home Economics (UHE) Lahore VC Prof Dr Kanwal Ameen said mostly faculty assessments focus on a number of research papers but there is a need to enhance focus on the quality of the research. “We need to hire international faculty and need to have international students on campus so that our students could get exposure in having diversity on the campus,” she said.

Shaoor Foundation’s Raja Shoaib Akbar pointed to disparities across provinces in the universities. Executive Director Bargad Ms Sabiha Shaheen said that female students have been outnumbering boys but there is still a lack of infrastructure for them in universities such as hostels.

Later, another panel discussion on “Journalism and Pakistan: Present and Future was held at GCU Lahore which was addressed by eminent journalists Orya Maqbool Jan, Salman Abid, Zohaib Saleem Butt, Azam Chaudhary, Ajmal Jami and Amin Hafeez.

The panel discussions were part of the Second All Pakistan Summit for Students’ Societies organised by GCU in collaboration with Shaoor Foundation and Superior University.

Related: GCU VC calls for universities autonomy for political & social discourse

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