HEC’s Higher Education Development in Pakistan (HEDP) project held its 6th Steering Committee meeting at the Higher Education Commission (HEC) Secretariat, Islamabad.

Steering Committee is the highest forum of the project comprising senior officials from federal ministries, provincial higher education departments, vice-chancellors, and private sector representatives. HEDP is a five-year national project (2019/20 – 2023/24) implemented by HEC to expand upon its key higher education priorities. The committee members reviewed the progress made so far on the project.

Dr Shaista Sohail, Executive Director, HEC chaired the meeting. In her opening remarks she said “Like every project, this project also has yearly financial and physical targets. At the end of every year in June, all the project deliverables are checked and validated. These evaluation reports are then shared with the World Bank to make financial disbursements to the Government of Pakistan for the project. I am glad that despite the financial, hiring and leadership challenges, the project as of today still stands at good financial and physical progress.’’

Project Coordinator Prof. Dr Mehmood ul Hassan Butt gave an overview of the HEDP project, its history, progress, future plans, and recently recruited staff. He briefed the committee on the key project initiatives, including the physical and financial progress of all the 11 project indicators called as Performance-Based Conditions (PBCs). In addition, it was apprised that the project is being restructured to support flood-related damages to HEIs in which a cost of Rs. 1.6 billion will be allocated for 14 worst affected universities/ institutes of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

Technical heads of the project components updated members on the progress of each of the six components of the project including 44 research grants awarded this year. In addition, 15 Innovator Seed Funding (ISF) grants are also given to startups which are now being incubated in ORICs around Pakistan. HEDP is also in the process of finalizing MOUs for the establishment of Quality Enhancement Cells in Affiliated Colleges (QECACs) of 22 universities. In addition, the new Undergraduate Education Policy (UEP) is now finalized incorporating the feedback from all the Vice Chancellors across Pakistan.

The faculty of KP is already trained on new UEP implementation while the plan for other provinces/regions will be rolled out very soon. The IT component head of the project briefed members on the expansion of the Pakistan Education Research Network (PERN) in another 71 Higher Education Intuitions (HEIs), the development of the national MOOCs platform PaksitanEdX and the launch of Enterprise Resource Systems for 25 HEIs. Bids have been reviewed and final decision will be made in January 2023. Procurement processes for several national IT initiatives are also underway.

The committee members appreciated the efforts of the HEDP team and provided valuable suggestions. The lack of public funding for the Higher Education sector of Pakistan was discussed at length and allied mitigation strategies for revenue generation models and financial autonomy were proposed accordingly. The members also explained the grim situation of higher education institutions, especially Affiliated Colleges (ACs), in their respective regions. They also suggested customizing project activities based on regional needs and improving coordination between HEC and provincial departments for the national rollout of activities.

In her closing remarks, ED HEC added that the flow of funding to HEC, remains a challenge and she is personally working with various relevant ministries to resolve these challenges. She thanked all the members for taking out time to attend the meeting in person and online.

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Arsalan Haider is a reporter at Academia Mag and has worked with leading national dailies and news channels. He tweets @arsalanhaider14

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