Punjab Minister for Higher Education Raja Yassir Humayun Sarfaraz proposed that there should be no age limit for students wishing to enroll at universities , during a consultative meeting on defining the roadmap for community colleges in Punjab. The meeting took place at PHEC secretariat at Arfa Software Technology Park (ASTP) Lahore and was chaired by the provincial higher education minister.

The meeting was attended by PHEC Director General (QA & A) Zia Batool, HED Special Secretary Higher Education Department Sajid Zafar Dall, Vice Chancellors from four universities including Quaid-i Azam University Islamabad, University of Sahiwal, Home Economics University and Lahore, Khawaja Fareed University of Engineering and Technology, Rahim Yar Khan. Principals from Govt. College Township Lahore, Govt. College Marghzar Lahore, officers of Higher Education Department, Govt. of Punjab, Skills Development Council (SDC) Islamabad and representatives of Wright Education Consultants.

Addressing the participants, Raja Yassir Humayun Sarfraz said the incumbent government was very much focusing on strengthening the knowledge economy by facilitating access to various education-related avenues. “Skill-based education is the fundamental factor of this knowledge-intensive economy; community colleges in Punjab are going to become the hub of skill-based education as the government lays special attention on it” he said, adding that there was a huge gap in the industry and academia which needed to be bridged by engaging the local chambers of commerce and industry in the development of curriculum and subject streams for the students.

Minister said community colleges project of the government of Punjab was a step towards imparting demand-based education which will equip students with a two-year Associate Bachelor Degree in market-driven subjects, allowing them to enter into the job market soon after their graduation.

Sharing the future vision of the government, Raja Yassir Humayun Sarfraz added the government had envisaged establishing new universities in six districts of Punjab, for which sufficient funds had been allocated in the budget. He further said colleges in Punjab would be affiliated with and overseen by their concerned district/ division universities.

The minister further added that the universities, colleges, and local industry would be taken on board for the finalization of the curriculum for these community colleges. “The ‘disconnect’ of academia with industry would be turned into ‘connect’ by aligning the curriculum with the local needs of the society. This meeting would help define the future roadmap of the community colleges” he stated.

The participants also shared their views on the possible contours of the roadmap for the community colleges. At this occasion PHEC Director General Zia Batool said in order to produce more productive students, well-suited for local industry, local context should also be accounted for while defining the roadmap.

VC QAU Prof Dr Muhammad Ali said there was a trust deficit between academia and local industry which could be filled by engaging the local chamber of commerce and industry in the curriculum development, internships and training of the graduating students.

VC Home Economics University Dr Kanwal Ameen said more focus should be given on life and communication skills of the students, adding that these skills must be embedded in the curriculum of community colleges.

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