New HEC chief seeks more funding, autonomy

LAHORE: The newly-appointed chairman of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC), Prof Dr Tariq Banuri has said that there is a need to allocate 1% of the GDP to the higher education sector. He also stressed on autonomy for universities and policy shifts to bring Pakistani universities among the top 500 in the world.

The HEC chief said this during a visit to several of universities in the provincial capital on Monday. Dr Banuri visited the Punjab University, the Government College University (GCU) Lahore, Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) and the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Lahore.

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During his visit to the Punjab University, Dr Banuri addressed a meeting at the Al Razi Hall where Vice Chancellor Prof Niaz Ahmad, heads of departments and PhD students were present. Dr Banuri said that there was a need to allocate 1% of the GDP to higher education sector.  He said HEC would launch policies to bring 15 Pakistani universities among the top 500 in the world and top 100 Asian universities.

He said that the autonomy of universities would not be compromised. The HEC chairman said the commission would work to increase efficiency and use financial resources in a better way.

“We need to establish transparent financial system for the transparent use of funds as it is necessary to attract more funds”.

Dr Banuari also announced that the HEC would form National Research Agenda for betterment of country, society and academia. He said that student-teacher ratio must be maintained for quality education and merit must not be compromised while making an appointment.

He said HEC would make efforts to increase the number of foreign faculty members and students in universities. Later, a lengthy question-answer session was held to address issues and improve higher education standards.

At the GCU, Dr Banuri said the commission would approach the incoming government to create 15 slots for universities which would be granted autonomy and additional resources to be competitive with the top higher education institutions of the world. However, the HEC chairman explained that the issue of quality and autonomy were interrelated.

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He said, “Universities will have to compete for these slots by assuring the commission that they have a transparent system of management in place to safeguard quality.

The voice to protect quality should come for within the universities, not from outside, and once this starts happening, there would be no need for anybody, neither the HEC nor neither the ministry to keep a check.”

At the LCWU, Dr Banuri said that the varsity would be among the 15 universities to be given autonomy and additional resources. He said that in the name expansion, quality should not be compromised at varsities. He spoke to members of the faculty and inquired about their problems.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2018.

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