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Monday January 30, 2023

USAID’s higher education system strengthening activity

By Our Correspondent
December 02, 2022

Islamabad: As part of USAID’s higher education system strengthening activities, an international summit on Higher Education and Workforce Development in the 21st Century was held in Islamabad. The summit’s primary objective pertains to an issue close to the hearts of most individuals, especially Pakistanis i.e. Education.

The three-day summit will conclude on December 3 at Marriott Hotel, Islamabad. Carrying forward the vibrancy in terms of the sessions, the second day of the International Summit on Higher Education and Workforce Development in the 21st Century consisted of two sessions with enlightening panel discussions and thought-provoking questions.

The focus herein is on higher education’s alignment with and delivery to the requirements of the fast-paced 21st century –which ought to be achieved through ensuring the provision of quality education, resolving challenges faced by HEIs in becoming sustainable and market-driven, strengthening the university-level ecosystem, and potential of HEIs to become stakeholders in climate change adaptation.

The day was divided into two parts –the morning sessions and the afternoon sessions; the former’s theme was “Strengthening University-Level Eco-System” while the latter focused on “Improving Quality of Higher Education and Role of Accreditation”. The sessions were a combination of working group discussions as well as plenary sessions. The working groups featuring Chairs Lt. Gen. (Retd) Khalid Asghar, Former Rector NUTECH, Dr. Shahid Munir, Chairperson, Punjab Higher Education Commission (TBC), Dawood Khan, Secretary Higher Education Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and US Senator Keith Grover further conferred over how to bring Pakistan's higher education institutions further in line with global norms for institutional management in addition to concentrating on improving the teaching abilities of university professors to increase students' chances of finding work after they graduate.

Speakers in the working group discussions were Roger Griffiths, Thomas C. Piechota, Frankie Santos Laanan, Fazal Ahmad Khalid, Muhammad Usman Ilyas, Osman Hasan, Deborah Keyek-Franssen, Gerardo Blanco, Mary Bane Lackie, Naveed Anwar, and Natalie Humphrey

The second day’s second session featured Chair Ms. Shahnaz Wazir Ali, President, of SZABIST University. A grim assertion she made with respect to Pakistani universities’ international accreditation was that “Only two Pakistani universities (QAU and NUST) have managed to be accredited by international HEI ranking systems”. A solution to the aforementioned is quality improvement through the development of partnerships between HEC, Provincial Commissions, and HEIs as opposed to the former’s micromanagement.

The second session was graced by the presence and discussions of Dr. Gerardo Blanco, Dr. Samreen Hussain, and Dr. Sajjad Ahmed. Their key remarks included the imperativeness of developing education’s relevance with current and prevalent market trends as well as the necessity of ensuring quality assurance in Pakistani HEIs.

Representatives from 16 public sector universities are attending the 3-day summit. Day 1 featured remarks from the Ambassador of the United States Mr. Donald Blume, Minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal and other dignitaries. The summit will continue till 2nd December 2022.

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