Islamabad - The Higher Education Commission (HEC) and British Council (BC) on Wednesday launched the Active Citizens Programme for students of all degree awarding institutions.

The programme launched for undergraduate students includes a compulsory course where students will be attending certain number of hours in classroom and in community to find solutions to local social issues.

Ahsan Iqbal, minister for planning, development and reforms, was the chief guest on the occasion. Chairman HEC Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, Deputy High Commissioner of UK Alison Blake, Executive Director HEC Dr Mansoor Akbar Kundi and vice chancellors of different universities were also present on the occasion.

Speaking on the occasion, the minister hoped that the collaboration would provide young students a platform to engage in social action in their local communities to address social issues and highlight their role as community leaders at local, regional and national levels as well as launch the national platform for advocacy for young people on crucial social issues. The minister praised the combined efforts of HEC and the British Council for launching an excellent initiative. He briefed the audience about different programmes under Vision 2025 recently launched by the government. “We continue to focus on human resource development, quality education, technology readiness, research and innovation to provide best possible facilities to the youth of Pakistan,” the minister said.

Dr Mukhtar Ahmed said, “It gives us great pleasure to launch this programme in partnership with British Council in all institutions of higher learning for undergraduate students. The institutional support, linkages and the academic platform will facilitate community engagement based on robust theoretical knowledge, inter-cultural dialogue between participating students, engage local policymakers and influencers for a stronger understanding of local issues and encouraging students to implement community based solutions.”

Alison Blake said that through this programme, students will be mentored by local experts and influencers in order to not only respond to local challenges and generate social value through their contribution but also identify economic values for themselves by building entrepreneurial streak within these solutions.  She said, “The British Council plans to continue its role in strengthening Pakistani society by extending a range of opportunities for personal and educational development to our young audience and further reinforcing the mutually beneficial relationship between our two countries.”

Under the leadership of HEC, the universities have assumed their new roles as producers of knowledge and research, and builders of community and economy. For this purpose, a multidimensional approach has been adopted which includes, among others, defining goals and establishing processes, training of faculty and senior management, improvement of internal performance and evaluation mechanisms, curriculum development, accreditation of programmes, and implementation of quality standards. Universities were ranked for the first time as per global standards to inculcate a spirit of competiveness and improve quality.

Shazia Khawar, director society BC, introduced the programme and shared that the launch of the Active Citizens programme for citizenship education and community engagement in collaboration with the HEC marks another great milestone for this partnership. “We hope to reach out to the maximum number of students through this initiative and create an environment where communities connect with the universities and benefit directly from the social action initiatives of these young volunteers,” she said.