KARACHI - The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has paid special attention towards increasing access to higher education in remote and far flung areas of the country.

Within the last few years, out of total 55 new university campuses, 31 have been established in rural areas throughout Pakistan, an official of HEC said in a statement here on Sunday.

In Sindh, 179 development projects amounting to Rs 27.142 billion have been approved so far. As per agreed share of Sindh in National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, Rs 9.7 billion out of total amount of Rs 43.9 billion were released within last five years, the statement pointed out.

On the request of HEC, the federal quota policy has been applied over indigenous and foreign scholarship programmes which would enable and encourage the youth from Sindh province to avail scholarship opportunities exclusively available for them under faculty development programmes.

As many as 868 Ph.D. scholarships have been allocated for the faculty members belonging to various higher education institutions of the province. This step would also enable them to equip themselves with latest knowledge and expertise at leading universities of academically advanced countries.

A total of 571 students from Sindh have benefitted from the HEC-USAID Merit and Needs Based Scholarship Programme out of a total of about 1,800 scholarships awarded to date.  About 1,447 scholars and faculty members from Sindh presented their research work in leading international conferences abroad. Rs 164 million have been approved in this regard so far, the statement added.

It said that the HEC has funded total number of 183 conferences and seminars so far. Commenting on HEC initiatives for Sindh province, Dr. Javaid R.  Laghari, Chairperson HEC, said that all the federal units have effective representation in 17 members’ governing board of HEC and National Scholarship Management Committee- the main decision making body. 

For effective coordination with provincial governments, HEC has its regional centres at all the provincial capitals, where a large number of HEC activities for the province take  place as well as bring  HEC to the doorsteps in the provinces, he added.

Laghari said that through the Steering Committee, which comprises of all provincial secretaries of education, HEC is closely working with the provincial governments to evolve a joint strategy for promotion of higher education in Pakistan.

He informed that establishment of Pakistan’s first ever Date Palm Research Institute (DPRI)/ Glass House, Herbarium and Botanical Garden at Shah Abdul Latif University Khairpur, the USAID funded Center for Advanced Studies in Water Resources  at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology Jamshoro and National Institute of Liver and Gastro Intestinal Diseases at DOW Karachi are some of the examples that how HEC is reaching out to the needs of the people of Sindh and trying to assist in this regard.

As an outcome of decade long useful initiatives, enrollment at the universities of Sindh have increased from 68,000 to 132,000.

Laghari stressed upon the scholars and youth of all provinces to avail all HEC opportunities and play their pivotal role for the development of their region and the country. He reiterated HEC’s commitment towards equitable access to higher education especially to marginalised segments of the society.