Challenging targets to access higher education

Access to higher education to be doubled by 2015
Islamabad, Oct 17: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairman Dr Javed Laghari on Friday said the HEC would meet the challenging targets set in the 0national education policy-2009 by improving the existing infrastructure, strengthening scholarship programmes, teacher training and enhancing opportunities for students.

"Besides establishing new universities, infrastructure of existing varsities would be strengthened and new departments would be established," he said, adding that "at present only five per cent students were entering varsities for higher education, mainly, due to unavailability of seats, the rest of the students move to colleges that are affiliated with various universities".

Dr Laghari said access to higher education would be increased to 10 per cent by 2015.

He was addressing a media conference at the concluding session of the two-day Vice Chancellors' Committee meeting hosted by the HEC.

The meeting is an annual event that provides opportunity to the university heads to share their experiences and streamline processes so that entire higher education sector works in synergy. The two-day meeting was attended by vice-chancellors, deans, principals and heads of 128 public and private varsities/degree awarding institutions.

He said the HEC would ensure that private institutions and affiliated colleges were also given special attention so as to streamline the entire higher education sector. According to annual report 2007-08, enrollment at universities/degree awarding institutions (excluding affiliated colleges) was 276,274, 331,745, 423,436, 471,964, 521,473, 640,061 and 741,092 students during the years 2001-2, 2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2007-8 respectively. These figures show that increase in enrollment of students in universities was consistent over the years.

About strengthening of PhD scholarship programme, he said: "We want to increase the existing rate up to 40 per cent during next five years."

Dr Laghari said currently 40 to 45 per cent of the money is being spent on faculty training and human resource development. "The HEC would establish two women universities one in Multan and the other in Sukkur," he said.

The vice-chancellors pledged to enhance teaching quality and research despite the financial crunch. Dawn

Education budget to be raised to 7pc of GDP: Zardari
Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari, while emphasising the commitment of the PPP government towards the education sector, said on Friday that the education budget would be raised up to 7 per cent of the GDP in the next five years and the higher education budget would be increased by 20 per cent during this period.

He said the university budget would gradually increase up to three times in the next five years. "The government has approved higher salary structure for vice chancellors and faculty of universities in accordance with the market rates," the president said during a meeting with vice chancellors/rectors of the universities across the country at the presidency here.

Vice chancellors, rectors and presidents of over 100 universities, both in the public and private sectors, attended the meeting, which became an interactive session of leading academicians and educationists with the president.

President Zardari said universities were the battleground for fighting the battle of minds and ideas."Our graduates must be men and women of vision, knowledge, courage and integrity," he said.

The president said that the vice chancellors as leaders of educational institutions had a great role to play in producing responsible and productive citizens."As vice chancellors and heads of universities, you are like the thread that holds the beads together," he remarked.

The president urged the heads of institutions to rise to the expectations of the nation in producing quality manpower.The president said the government was working on a package on Madaris reforms as a long-term measure to reform the extremist mindset. He was responding to the issues raised by the vice chancellor of the University of Balochistan.

The president said that education played an important role in national harmony and integration. He stressed the need for harmony and said that Balochistan needed special handling, adding that he had already asked parliament to consider giving amnesty to the politicians of Balochistan in exile.

He also said that the government was committed to integrating minorities into the national mainstream, so that they could also play their role as citizens of the country.On the suggestion of a vice chancellor, the president said that he would recommend to the government to consider setting up universities in the rural areas as well.

He also suggested that the public-private partnership model could be used effectively to promote higher education in the country.With a view to focus on the quality and calibre of the heads of universities, an institutional mechanism called the Vice Chancellor Search Committee is already in place to recommend a panel of names for the selection of vice chancellors.

Chairman Higher Education Commission Dr Javaid R Laghari thanked the president for meeting the heads of universities and institutions of higher learning and for his keen interest in the development of the education sector.

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British HC to improve its visa process
Islamabad: The British High Commission (BHC) here on Friday said that after November 15, visa procedure would be improved and the visa issuing process would take only two weeks for completion.

Talking to this agency, Rob Murphy, head of communication British High commission Islamabad said that UK visa service is taking the issue of delay in UK visa process very seriously.

He said, currently about 5,000 visa application are pending with the British High Commission, and the backlog of all UK visa applications would be cleared within a month or two.

Almost a year ago, UK visa office was shifted from Islamabad to Abu Dhabi, which resulted in delay in issuance of UK visas to Pakistani students. It created lot of trouble for the students who were planning to start studies during October in UK, and the delay has also made it impossible for them to make alternate choices.

Omer Mirza, Chief Executive Education Resource Network in this regard said after shifting of visa office to Abu Dhabi, passports are collected here but the relevant documents are sent to Abu Dhabi for visa approval.

All the major staff of the UK visa office has been shifted to Abu Dhabi which completed the visa process within stimulated time, but the applicants received the visa very late due to delay of visa stamp office here, he commented. The news

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20 Pakistani educationists return after US training
Islamabad: A 20-member delegation of Pakistani educationists on Friday returned home form the US after the completion of a four-week training course at Plymouth State University (PSU), New Hampshire.

The newly-trained batch takes the tally of Pakistani "Master Trainers" to 120. The Pakistan Educational Leadership Institute (PELI) arranged the training for the Pakistani educators at PSU, which was jointly funded by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi (ITA). The delegates were trained in modern tutoring skills during the training session. The ITA-PSU partnership began in 2004, with the training of 20 Pakistani teachers at PELI.

That programme was funded by a grant by the US State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The success of the inaugural programme ensured that it became a yearly event and the ECA continues to fund it. When contacted, ITA chairperson Beala Jamil said the total number of trained faculty members might seem a small number, but "the multiplier effect of these trainings is enormous. All PELI Alumni are recognised as Master Trainers and receive certificates of Professional Development upon completion of the Institute. The role of the PELI Alumni is not limited to teacher training. Indeed, as part of the PSU program, they have to introduce a new initiative in their own school or region".

When asked if the selection procedure of the educators was transparent, Beala said the process was based entirely on merit. "The teachers who go abroad are proven leaders in their fields. A gender balance is ensured. In-fact, most PSU alumni are female teachers," she said. "This activity is detailed in the Master Action Plans (MAPS) that they bring back with them. The MAPS are based on a certain theme. This year's theme, for example, focuses on Science Education, conflict resolution and environmental stewardship. The MAPS, therefore, seek to implement activities promoting these themes," she said.

"Activities to be undertaken include capacity building of teacher training institutions, training teachers and head teachers, supporting school improvement programmes in the public sector and raising awareness of environmental issues for schools and communities. Since PELI alumni are mostly from public sector schools with a small number of teachers from non-elite private schools and NGOs, the programme brings its benefits to those who need it the most. The regions from which the alumni have been selected include Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, NWFP, AJK, FATA and Islamabad Capital Territory," she concluded.

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Exhibition 'Earth's Future in Our Hands' concludes
Islamabad: The 15-day International Expo on environment titled "The Earth's Future in Our Hands" concluded here on Friday.

Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF), Ministry of Science and Technology in collaboration with Federal Directorate of Education, Embassy of France in Islamabad and Scientific, Technical, Industrial and Cultural Centre, France had organised the expo at Islamabad Model College for Girls, F-7/4, Islamabad, from October 2-16.

A large number of students visited the expo and evinced keen interest in the displays related to environmental issues and their solutions.

About 6,013 students and 285 teachers from 75 public and government sector educational institutions of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad visited the Expo, said Expo Secretary Ms Farhat Rajpar.

Besides the students, general public also visited the Expo and admired the PSF and Embassy of France efforts to create awareness of environmental problems, she added.

Ms Rajpar said now the Expo would be moved to Abbottabad, where it would open for students from October 21. She said later the Expo, which has already traveled to a number of countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, would also be held in Sukkur and Multan.

The Expo is a part of PSF science promotion activities and celebration of National Year of Environment 2009, she said, adding, it is aimed at raising students' awareness of the urgency to act if we are to save our earth for our future generations.

The exhibition is structured around three major themes including Living with Our Environment, Tomorrow's Consumption and Production and Responsible Sharing of Resources, said Ms Rajpar.

She said "The Earth's Future in Our Hands" not only targeted children and youth between 12 to 20 years age group but also their parents and teachers. PSF had designated alternate days for the boys and girls so that they could make maximum use of this opportunity in a peaceful and secure atmosphere, she maintained. Daily times

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