The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has started the process of revamping four-year undergraduate curriculum in the general universities, in order to enhance quality of higher education. The overall objective of HEC revamping undergraduate curriculum is to prepare the students and develop critical and analytical thinking, evidence-based observation, a deeper sense of civic and social rights and responsibilities in them, after the completion of their degree programmes. HEC was now focusing on undergraduate studies because they were the backbone of higher education. As in the rest of the world, the undergraduate degree was a terminal degree for most students, who after graduation were equipped with adequate knowledge and skills for employment or other gainful work. Also, graduates interested in further education, like Masters or MPhil or Doctoral studies, had sufficient knowledge and adequate grounding in research.
The revamping effort by the HEC was started in January 2019. The bedrock of the effort was cooperative partnerships with universities in revamping the curriculum structure, and then implementing it institutionally.
To that end, HEC initially identified 30 general universities across Pakistan and grouped them into five regions, including Balochistan, Islamabad-Rawalpindi/AJK/Gilgit Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh. To begin with, HEC engaged with the vice-chancellors and rectors region-wise, who shared their views on problems of the current four-year integrated curriculum, and unanimously agreed on the urgent need for revamping.
On HEC’s request, the university heads have also nominated a curriculum reform team comprising of both faculty and administration from each university. These teams will contribute to the development of curriculum structure and will provide the lead in their respective institutions to implement the revamped curriculum.
In the next step, HEC planned a series of five regional consultative workshops. The first workshop of the series was organized at the International Islamic University, Islamabad from April 5-6, 2019. The participants included nominated teams from five identified universities in the Islamabad-Rawalpindi/AJK/Gilgit Baltistan region as well as an observer from each of the remaining 24 general universities in that region.
The workshop was designed to foster a better understanding of the needs and purposes of revamping the curriculum, obtain critical inputs in development and implementation of revamped curriculum and to develop participants’ know-how and skills in order to enable them to lead the revamping effort in their respective universities. HEC will organise a follow-up workshop with the participating teams from five identified universities and will provide technical and additional support to them in the implementation process.
In his remarks at the workshop, HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri emphasised on the centrality of undergraduate studies for overall enhancement of the quality of higher education. He said the purpose of revamping curriculum was to make undergraduate degree a terminal one, in order to produce graduates who were truly educated.
Similar workshops will be held in other four regions in the coming months. In this manner, the structure of revamped curriculum will be developed and implemented initially in 30 identified universities in the five regions. As this process unfolds, other general universities in the country will be brought on board as well.
HEC was mindful of the reality that postsecondary or undergraduate education was also imparted in colleges and professional or technical institutions of higher education. So, in close consultations with all the stakeholders, HEC will also work on curricula frameworks for these types of institutions. As far as possible, their curricula will be aligned with the revamped curriculum, so that the broader purposes of revamping are also achieved in those institutions.