Int’l Summit on Higher Education and Workforce Development in 21st Century continues

The Nation  |  Dec 02, 2022

 Int’l Summit on Higher Education and Workforce Development in 21st Century continues
ISLAMABAD-Vibrant panel discussions and thought-provoking questions marked the second day of the three-day “International Summit on Higher Education and Workforce Development in the 21st Century” on 1st December, 2022. 

The morning session comprised three working group discussions followed by a plenary session with the predominant theme of “Strengthening University-Level Eco-System”. The afternoon session featured an expert panel on “Improving Quality of Higher Education and Role of Accreditation”. The summit is part of USAID’s Higher Education System Strengthening activities. The objective of the summit is to align Pakistan’s higher education delivery to the needs of the 21st century by improving the quality of higher education, seeking ways to improve sustainability of HEIs and making them stakeholders in the country’s drive towards climate adaptation.

Three simultaneous working groups featured experts from Pakistan and abroad. Group one, chaired by Lt. Gen. (Retd) Khalid Asghar, Former Rector NUTECH, discussed ways to strengthen HEIs governance in Pakistan by aligning it with international best practices. Speakers in Sub Session I were Dawood Khan, Secretary Higher Education Khyber Pakhtunkwa, Roger Griffiths, Thomas C. Piechota, Frankie Santos Laanan, and Fazal Ahmad Khalid. Other working groups focused on capacity-building of HEI faculties which will help bridge the career readiness gap and employability of graduates. Dr. Shahid Munir, Chairperson, Punjab Higher Education Commission (TBC) and U.S. Senator Keith Grover chaired the second and third working group respectively. The speakers for Sub Session II and III were Muhammad Usman Ilyas, Osman Hasan, Deborah Keyek-Franssen, Gerardo Blanco, Mary Bane Lackie, Naveed Anwar, and Natalie Humphrey. The working group discussions were followed by a combined plenary co-chaired by Lt. Gen. (Retd) Khalid Asghar, Dr. Munir, and Senator Grover. Individual group reports were presented. The second session of day two was chaired by Ms. Shahnaz Wazir Ali, President, SZABIST University. Discussing the state of international accreditation of Pakistani universities, she emphasized: “Only two Pakistani universities (QAU and NUST) have managed to be accredited by international HEI ranking systems.” She suggested that HEC and provincial commissions should stop micromanaging and should work in partnership with HEIs for quality improvement rather than merely supervising them.

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Dr. Gerardo Blanco from Boston College said: “It is necessary to balance not only access and quality of higher education, but also relevance of education to the market trends” to improve employment. He added that for success, quality assurance systems must be complimented by “a commitment by individuals and supported by a culture of cooperation.” Dr. Sajjad Ahmed from University of Nevada, compared the American HEIs accreditation system with that of Pakistan. He commented: “PEC, for example, handles entry tests, quality assurance, and licensing in Pakistan. These tasks would be handled by three different organizations in US.”He stressed the need for quality assurance in Pakistani HEIs to be made a private, non-profit, and decentralized process. 

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