The quality of higher education and research must benefit society, said Adviser to Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity, Dr Ishrat Hussain.  He was addressing the closing ceremony of two-day International Conference on Quality Assurance System, Standards and Policies: Issues and Challenges organized by HEC in collaboration with USEFP.

Dr Ishrat Husain appreciated HEC’s initiative to open an international discourse on the much-needed subject of quality in higher education. He stressed that the ideas should now be translated into action, and researchers should be encouraged to find solutions to national problems.

He said that the best scientists, especially Nobel Prize winners, received the recognition because of contribution they made to society. “They used their knowledge and expertise to address the larger issues of public interest.” He said that quality assurance processes, by HEC and others, should result in the enhancement of both quality and relevance. On the one hand, research outputs should display more academic rigor, and on the other hand, they should benefit society.

Dr Hussain also stressed the need to translate the ideas from the conference into action and implementation. These ideas should help the country in addressing the major gaps in quality assurance systems, including such issues as plagiarism, misrepresentation of research findings, and poor quality of journals. “This is high time for us to reflect upon and overcome these problems.”

Dr  Hussain congratulated HEC on establishing the National Academy of Higher Education. “We have been talking about this for a long time.” He hoped that NAHE would fill in the intellectual disconnect between teaching and research. He said that students need qualified teachers, but they also want teachers to interact with them, respond to their questions, and have interactive dialogues with them.

In his remarks, Chairman HEC Tariq Banuri said that HEC intended to compile the lessons and recommendations of the conference for the benefit of the main programs of the institutions, namely improving the quality of regulatory policies, ensuring that HEC financing resulted in greater success of the universities, and the enhancement of the quality and relevance of education and research, and that HEC’s capacity building efforts were targeted at emerging needs. There was a need to link the research and teaching frameworks to the financing framework.

The Chairman appreciated the generous support from USEFP and CHEA for the conference. “We look forward to working with you in quality enhancement process, learning the lessons of experience from other countries, and sharing the lessons of our own experience with them.” He said the one of the purposes of the conference was to bring together a “quality community”, and that the conference had convened key individuals from within the country, and provided the basis for longer-term relationships with institutions and individuals in other countries.

The President of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, USA Dr Judith S Eaton observed that all the partner countries may have different obstacles in terms of quality assurance, so such conferences provide a platform to share experiences mutually.

Sharing a brief summary of the conference proceedings, Executive Director HEC Dr Fateh Marri said the conference was aimed at mainstreaming quality in higher education. He said over 300 local and international participants attended the conference, and contributed to the 5 themes, namely quality assurance systems, research excellence frameworks, teaching excellence frameworks, the role of training and capacity building, and the role of accreditation system. International participants came from over six countries, namely Afghanistan, India, Italy, Sri Lanka, UK, US, and Spain.

Executive Director USEFP Ms Rita Akhtar termed the conference a wonderful opportunity to engage with quality assurance experts and renew the commitment to quality in the higher education sector. “The conference helped us come up with ideas for building our future together and responding to challenges.” She hoped that the multilateral cooperation and conversation on quality would continue in order to increase effectiveness of the quality assurance measures.

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