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Thursday July 25, 2024

USAID partners with local HEIs to strengthen student support services

By Jamila Achakzai
July 09, 2024
In this representational image, students attend a computer class at the Islamabad Model College of Commerce for Girls in Islamabad. — AFP/File
In this representational image, students attend a computer class at the Islamabad Model College of Commerce for Girls in Islamabad. — AFP/File

Islamabad:In a bid to bolster student success in Pakistan's universities, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has partnered with local higher education institutions (HEI) to strengthen student support services.

This collaborative initiative seeks to empower students with vital skills necessary to thrive in the modern global landscape, said the USAID after the third annual summit organised under its Higher Education System Strengthening Activity (HESSA). The event was attended by over 100 officials and faculty members from 16 partner Pakistani universities.

The USAID said the four-day summit underscored the strong partnership between the US and Pakistan, highlighting their shared commitment to improving access to high-quality higher education for all Pakistanis. The opening session of the summit was chaired by Member (R&D) of the Higher Education Commission Prof Bushra Mirza alongside USAID Deputy Mission Director Maura O’Brien.

Dr. Mirza emphasised the importance of cultivating a sense of belonging within universities. “Higher education institutions must create inclusive and supportive environments where every student can thrive and shape their futures,” she said. O’Brien underscored the significance of soft skills.

“Prioritising the development of soft skills enables universities to better prepare students for the demands of the modern workforce and enhance their career opportunities.” Implemented by the University of Utah, the HESSA activity supports the Higher Education Commission and 16 partner universities across Pakistan in enhancing institutional capacity for market-driven education and research, according to USAID.

It added that the summit addressed six key thematic areas crucial for supporting higher education institutions in Pakistan: financial aid, student leadership, student micro-enterprises, career readiness, alumni engagement, and mental health.

"This initiative reflects the United States’ commitment to strengthening higher education in Pakistan and empowering its citizens through quality education." The USAID said the first two annual summits focused on student services and the development of financial aid.