In continuation of its efforts to enable the country’s higher education sector to become more effective in academic excellence, management and problem-oriented research, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) Pakistan held the launch conference of the National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE) on Wednesday.

President Dr Arif Alvi, graced the occasion as chief guest, while Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood was the guest of honour. The event was attended by HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri, Punjab Minister for Higher Education Raja Yasir Humayun Sarfaraz, World Bank Country Director South Asian Region Patchamuthu Illangovan, and a large number of Vice Chancellors and notable figures from academia.

Addressing the launch ceremony, Dr Alvi emphasised upon the need for evolving into an education system that caters to the requirements of current and future challenges. He remarked that the dream of a golden tomorrow will not come true without development in the education sector. He observed that the future challenges were tremendous, so NAHE will have to be very smart in playing its part and providing dynamic means to meet academic challenges. “HEC will have to look at the needs of tomorrow and plan accordingly,” he added.

The president said human factor plays a key role in development of a country, as nations were built by people. He maintained that quality of teaching and learning must be given due importance, as teaching embodies all the skills required to dissemination of knowledge and effective communication

Federal Minister Shafqat Mahmood pointed out that lack of proper training for academic leadership was one of the major shortcomings of the country’s education system. NAHE will prove to be of great weight and substance in coping up with this shortcoming, as it will build capacity in the field of university management, he hoped. He emphasised that the education system must be in consonance with job market needs and affirmed that Pakistan’s future hinges upon quality human resource

Reiterating the Government’s commitment to education, he said the Government will extend all-out support to HEC in its efforts promote access, quality and relevance.

HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri said HEC was committed to mainstreaming quality and relevance into the higher education system, adding that NAHE was one of the instruments to ensure greater efficiency and transparency in the education system. He added that the initial approach towards quality was quantitative, asserting that establishment of NAHE was a testimony to HEC’s focus on quality. He elaborated that NAHE will set norms for building of communities of excellence to determine quality standards. It will, he continued, build capacity of faculty, university leadership, and university staff, analyse areas and identify gaps required to be addressed, and set up a monitoring and evaluation system for higher education institutions.

The Chairman said HEC facilitates the higher education sector to analyse data and identify solutions to future academic challenges. He said the range of actions to be undertaken by NAHE were not new, as HEC had long supported capacity building for university faculty and leadership. The new development, he explained, was a renewed commitment to quality, mobilisation of a community of excellence, embarking upon a continuous process of reflection, analysis and reform, and integrating capacity building centrally into university operations

He thanked the president and the minister for their support to the higher education sector, while quoting Maulana Rumi as saying, “The best of leaders are those who are always at the doors of scholars.” At the end, he extended gratitude to HEC’s development partners in establishment of NAHE, including the World Bank, British Council, and Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).

Addressing the preliminary session of the launch ceremony, Illangovan underlined that the World Bank was looking forward to achievement of goals through NAHE. He observed that the Government of Pakistan accords great importance to human capital. The youth bulge will turn into demographic dividend, he hoped.

LUMS Vice Chancellor Dr Arshad Ahmad noted that establishment of NAHE reaffirms the commitment to enhanced quality learning in Pakistan. Advance Higher Education UK Chief Executive Alison Johns shed light on Advance Higher Education’s work in Pakistan. She said the presence of President of Pakistan and notable academicians in the ceremony manifests significance of the launch of NAHE. She assured of support from Advance Higher Education in smooth operations of the Academy. The session was also addressed by Sarfaraz and Barbara Oakley, Professor of Engineering at Oakland University, Michigan.

The main objective of NAHE was to meet HEC’s mission of improving the quality of teaching, learning and research in HEIs of Pakistan in addition to capacity building and promotion of academic and leadership competencies. It will offer generic as well as need-based capacity building services to enhance quality of teaching, research, and management in higher education institutions.

Moreover, the academy will also cater to the prevailing need for quality across different spheres and realms of academics and HEIs through different interventions and series of programmes. To this end, the quality standards for the respective interventions including capacity building, training modules and delivery mechanism will be neatly woven and piloted to ensure better impact.

Being an apex learning body, NAHE will institute and lead a broader national discourse around the purpose, perspective and policy in higher education and will help develop high quality human capital to achieve excellence in academic milieu. In order to develop desirable high quality human capital, it will work as a centre of excellence for capacity building, skill development, and promotion of academic and leadership competencies through setting standards, cultivating academic quality, and advancing relevant research in collaboration with HEIs, industry and social sector.

The academy will design programmes, i.e., certifications, workshops, seminars, conferences, and webinars for academic professionals, institutional leaders, university management and other academic leaders.

NAHE will inculcate leadership competencies and skills required in implementation of higher education policies. It will work on capacity building in the areas of R&D and entrepreneurship and will design framework for embedding employability through quality teaching, creating partnerships among community, universities and industry at national as well as international level. Furthermore, it will develop international collaboration with foreign higher education entities. It will also offer training packages for institutes other than higher education as per their demand.

The launch ceremony was followed by press conference of Dr Banuri wherein he briefed the media about the objectives and functions of NAHE.

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