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HEC evolution not devolution

HEC to be evolved not devolved, Rabbani tells Senate
Islamabad, April 09: The Chairman of the Implementation Commission for the 18th Amendment, Mian Raza Rabbani, on Friday said the accreditation process of universities and links with international institutions would not suffer due to devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

Speaking in the Senate, he said till the devolution of the HEC, it would be responsibility of the federal government to meet deficit and fiscal requirements of universities."With devolution of the HEC, the respective provincial governments will do funding of universities through the NFC Award," he said.

He also clarified that it was the Pakistan government and not the HEC that had been providing funds for foreign scholarships. Rabbani regretted that a wrong impression was being made by the circles having vested interests that students currently abroad on scholarships would suffer following the devolution of the HEC.

"I assure the students who are on scholarship abroad that they will continue to get scholarship money till completion of their education," he maintained.He said the chairman of HEC and vice chancellors of 12 universities were called to the meeting of the commission and they were told that the role of the HEC would be different following passage after the 18th Amendment.

He said the HEC chairman and vice chancellors were also told that their input would be sought regarding the new role of the higher education commission."Now there is no justification in launching a pre-emptive move," he said. The news

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HEC: A gateway to superior Pakistan
If we glance through the history of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, it is quite obvious that the changes that have occurred over the years have created an agonising loss to the socio-economic, political and academic set-up of the country. Changes add spice to life, but unfortunately, in Pakistan's case, the spice has been a disaster. The recent decision about the Higher Education Commission's (HEC) devolution has raised the eyebrows of many who are worried about the country's future.

HEC has been facilitating the development of higher education in Pakistan for the last one decade. Its main purpose was to upgrade the universities to be centres of education, research and development. Needless to say, the monitoring of the universities with special emphasis on quality assurance has raised Pakistan's standing among the international universities. The standardised curriculum, and research and development gave a hope to aim higher for revolutionary changes in the education sector. Faculty development, curriculum revision, infrastructure development, scholarships, industry and university research collaboration have created a competitive environment among the universities. This approach has given a professional dimension to unveil new frontiers in Pakistan's education industry.

Almost 10 years of the Commission's hard work, excellence and farsightedness has given great pride and hope to Pakistan at a time when the country is in the middl of chaos and lawlessness, etc. For example, a noticeable increase (600 percent) in scientific publications in international journals have introduced new Pakistani scholars to the world. The university enrolment was 135,000 in 2003, which has been raised to 400,000 because of the Commission's effort. And now most have been included among the top 600 universities that is a real achievement. The introduction of the four-year bachelor degree programme internationally recognised Pakistan's degrees. -By Prof Dr Chaudhry Abdul Rehman (The nation)

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PML-Q opposes HEC devolution
Islamabad: The Pakistan Muslim League-Q has opposed the planned devolution of Higher Education Commission and said the party will resist any move aimed "subjugating the national institution".

Addressing a press conference on Friday, the party's secretary general, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, said a politically motivated campaign had been launched against the HEC which showed that the government was bent on victimising institutions that stood for upholding the rule of law.

He alleged that the HEC was being punished for verifying the parliamentarians' educational qualifications in an impartial manner, as per the directives of Supreme Court.

"Prior to this move (against the HEC), the government tried to conquer the judiciary to avoid accountability and it is also involved in attempts to gag the independent media," Mr Sayed said.

He said the HEC was not on the Constitution's concurrent list and hence could not be devolved to the provinces.

Answering a question, Mr Sayed said that like the HEC in Pakistan the University Grants Commission of India was being run by the federal government.

He described the filing in Supreme Court of the president's reference for revisiting the murder case against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto a correct step because the sentence handed down to the late PPP leader was never acknowledged as a right verdict.

However, Mr Sayed added: "I also feel that the murders of Benazir Bhutto, Murtaza Bhutto and Khalid Shahenshah should be investigated properly and their cases should be reopened to set the record straight." Dawn

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Atta terms HEC devolution disaster
Karachi: A former chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has warned that the devolution of the commission will be a monumental disaster, fearing that the government's decision will pose a danger to the existence of the country as it strikes at the very fabric of a single and united Pakistan.

Addressing an emotionally charged press conference at a local hotel here on Friday, Prof Dr Atta ur Rahman appealed to the president and the prime minister to urgently intervene before further damage was done.

He stated that before going public on the issue he had consulted top scientists and academicians, who were of the unanimous opinion that the commission's devolution would lead to a collapse of the higher education sector, which had made remarkable progress during the last eight years.

Rahman termed the step to devolve the HEC unconstitutional, saying that the 18th Amendment through the 4th schedule (Article 70.4, Federal Legislative List, Parts 1 and 2) fully protected the higher education sector, which was a federal regulatory authority and autonomous body reporting directly to the prime minister. It was not a department or division of the Ministry of Education and had no legal connection with the Ministry of Education, he remarked.

The former HEC chairman reminded the audience that in most federations around the world, higher education was a federal subject (India has UGC with a federal secretary of higher education; the UK has a minister for universities and research; Malaysia, Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan and China, all treat higher education as a federal subject; and in Korea they had given the status of deputy prime minister to their minister of higher education).

He pointed out that the devolution decision was also in defiance of the Supreme Court ruling regarding the verification of the degrees of parliamentarians by the HEC. After devolution, the HEC would no longer be able to fulfil the orders of the Supreme Court, he said, adding that it was understood that a new organisation (Commission for Standards of Higher Education) was being created under the Cabinet Division for the verification of degrees.

"This will mean that degree verification will now not be carried out by an independent autonomous body such as the HEC, but by an organisation working directly under the Cabinet Division.

This represents a direct confrontation with the Supreme Court of Pakistan and amounts to contempt of court."

Rahman recalled that all the 72 vice chancellors of Pakistan's public sector universities had unanimously resolved in November 2010 that the HEC must continue to function.

He mentioned that the World Bank had agreed to provide $300 million to the HEC provided its legal status was not changed. Another $250 million was to be provided by USAID, but both these commitments amounting to about Rs50 billion had now have been put on hold and were likely to be withdrawn with the dissolution of the HEC, he said.

The HEC model had been very successful over the last nine years and maintained its credibility, specifically in the context of the degree verification issue, but now it was being punished in the name of devolution under the 18th Amendment, Rahman said.

He remarked that the HEC had accomplished more in eight years since its establishment in 2002 than was achieved in the first 55 years of Pakistan's existence. Agriculture, bio-technology and engineering had been the fields in which there had been the greatest impact, he noted.

Quoting statistics, he told the media that more than 800 PhD scholarships in agriculture had been awarded by the HEC and more PhDs had graduated from Pakistani universities in the past nine years than in the first 55 years of the country's existence.

According to the former HEC chairman, in engineering a ten-fold growth has been witnessed; research output (as measured by published papers) has grown six-fold since 2002 (from 815 in 2002 to 5068 in 2010); two Pakistani universities are now ranked among the top 300 science and technology institutions of the world; enrolment in higher education institutions has grown from 300,000 to 900,000 in the past eight years; and 20 new public universities have been established in the past nine years.

He further noted that the HEC had set up the Pakistan Education and Research Network, one of the most sophisticated computer networks in the world linking all universities; video-conferencing equipment was operational in 74 institutions and expanding rapidly; and a digital library provided access to 75 percent of the world's technical literature (23,000 journals and 45,000 e-books), which "are essential for research and "cannot be devolved".

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HEC doing its best, says GIKI rector
Swabi: The Rector of the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology, Jehangir Bashar, on Friday expressed concern at plans to practically do away with the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

Talking to reporters, Jehangir Bashar said there had been a tremendous improvement in many aspects of higher education. He said the institute, although being in the private sector, had greatly benefited from many programmes initiated by the HEC, such as research grants, acquisition of research equipment, sharing the costs of faculty and their participation in international conferences.

The rector feared the universities would suffer if the HEC was devolved to the provinces. "We don't want all the good work done by it to go down the drain," he said. The other academic staff also opposed the proposed dismemberment of the HEC. They said its contributions and role in producing scholars in various fields was highly appreciated.

The academician said even India and various other countries lauded its role and contributions to Pakistan's intellectual pool and intelligentsia. He said numerous scholars had been sent aboard to complete their doctorate studies in different fields. The rector said it was the HEC that encouraged the foreign faculty to teach in a number of Pakistani universities. He demanded the HEC should be strengthened by the government, instead of being devolved.

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PU students protest HEC dissolution
Lahore: Dozens of students of the Punjab University (PU) staged a protest demonstration on Friday against the possible dissolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

The students of different departments, mainly from the Institute of Communication Studies (ICS), gathered outside the PU New Campus near the Campus Bridge and expressed their anger over the likely decision.

Carrying placards condemning the possible decision of the HEC dissolution, the protesters demanded the government not abolish the HEC, saying the step would jeopardize the whole higher education sector in the country.

They alleged that the HEC was being victimized for not cooperating with the government in the degree verification process. The abolition would also create problems related to degrees verification, attestation and recognition at the international level, they maintained.

The students remained there for sometime while traffic also remained slightly disrupted on main the Canal Road and other adjacent roads owing to the demo.

Similarly, some MPhil and PhD scholars of the Punjab University also held a demonstration within the varsity campus and strongly opposed the likely dissolution of the HEC. They said the entire scholarship programme of the HEC would be at stake as hundreds of students were pursuing higher education in and outside the country on the Commission s scholarships.

It is pertinent to mention that various student organizations, including Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) and Insaaf Students Federation (ISF), have been organizing protests against the possible disbanding of the HEC. The ISF has also started a mobilization campaign in the regard, urging the youth, especially the students, to stand up against the possible move.

Different NGOs and organizations working in the education sector have condemned the government for its intension of abolishing the HEC, demanding the rulers to let the HEC continue its function as it had rendered great services to promote research culture besides uplifting the standards of higher education. The news

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