According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan FY2022, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) not only plays a central role in Pakistan for the promotion of quality education and development of higher education institutions but also promotes universities to become world-class centers of education and produce quality research in the field of science and technology.
The experts recorded that HEC has prepared and launched its Vision 2025, showing a broader landscape of the Higher Education Sector and future strategic frameworks. HEC Vision Plan 2025 focuses on enhancing quality education, and faculty development, and maximizing the research and development opportunities in the higher education sector. Key areas of higher education have been restructured to improve the reach and effectiveness through prioritizing equitable access, enhanced learning and increased assurance of attainment regardless of background. Only the gains in education results in increased and sustained socio-economic development.
In the survey it is also identified that to improve equitable access to quality higher education, the total number of universities in Pakistan both in the public sector & private sector has grown to 233 (Public Sector: 141 & Private Sector: 92). Similarly, the number of sub-campuses of these universities has also been enlarged to 115 (public sector: 82, private Sector: 33). Ultimately, the total enrolment has also been increased to almost 2.0 million.
It is also recorded that HEC by its Ordinance, organized Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) in 2005. The agency is a policymaking and monitoring body for the enhancement and assurance of quality in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). It is involved in the systematic implementation of quality enhancement procedures/criteria to attain enhanced levels of international compatibility and competitiveness at the institutional and program level. The objective of IQA processes is to improve and institutionalize the quality culture in institutions of higher learning. For this purpose, the IQA processes relate to the activities with respect to establishing new QEC and strengthening the implementation of QA parameters. Statistics showed that presently, 227 QEC are functional in the HEIs in Pakistan. The establishment of QEC is a requirement for every new university organized in public also private sector HEIs. During FY2022, new QECs have been organized in 21 HEIs in Pakistan.
Furthermore, Institution Performance Evaluation (IPE) is an umbrella activity that evaluates the performance of an HEI by a peer review process from all aspects, i.e. quality of teaching & learning, research, the effectiveness of leadership and governance. The main objective is to evaluate the overall performance of an HEI. For this purpose, the QAA plans are administers the activities of IPE against eleven defined standards. The standards are namely, Mission Statement and Goals, Planning and Evaluation, Organization and Governance, Integrity, Faculty, Students, Institutional Resources, Academic Programmes and Curricula, Public Disclosure and Transparency, Assessment & Quality Assurance, and Student Support Service. It is said that so far, 140 HEIs are reviewed in Pakistan, which includes 22 HEIs in FY2022. Also, capacity-building and consultative sessions were held with the 227 HEIs across Pakistan.
On the other hand, HEC established 5 Accreditation Councils in the areas of Agriculture, Business, Computing, Teacher and Technology Education in addition to the already existing 9 professional Councils, i.e., Pakistan Council for Architects and Town Planners (PCATP), Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC), Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PM&DC), Pakistan Nursing Council (PNC), Pakistan Veterinary Medical Council (PVMC), National Council for Tibb (NCT), Pharmacy Council of Pakistan (PCP) and National Council for Homeopathy (NCH).
These Councils worked with universities for accreditation of undergraduate programs in the relevant fields and continuously engaged in improving the quality of programs offered by them. HEC closely work with these Councils in improving their accreditation standards and processes, capacity building of program evaluators through training workshops, etc. So far 1800 professional programs, across Pakistan, are accredited by the councils established by QAA-HEC. QAA reviews the MS/MPhil and Ph.D. Programs of HEIs by expert committees to make them internationally compatible. So far, programs from 121 universities have been reviewed covering greater than 2500 MS/MPhil and Ph.D. programs. Capacity building of reviewers is a regular feature of the program. So far almost 130 reviewers have benefited from QAA Programme Review training workshops.
Furthermore, HEC Pakistan is experiencing a paradigm shift in terms of QAA aiming at excellence in teaching, learning and research. In order to incorporate international best practices in the context of quality assurance, a liaison has been developed with QAA-UK, an international Network on QA. Membership of the Asia Pacific Quality Network (APQN), CHEA, International Network of Quality Assurance in Higher Education (INQAAHE) and Quality Assurance Agencies of the Islamic World has been earned. The HEC is also investing a handsome amount in different Scholarship Schemes as well as teaching faculty to meet their aspirations of obtaining the highest qualifications through the development and recurring projects/programs of scholarships.