According to HEC spokesperson there has been a recent onslaught against HEC by certain vested interest groups who do not wish education to flourish in Pakistan.
The spokesperson said that false allegations were intentionally brought up to tarnish the image of HEC which built up the reputation amongst the masses and the educated youth as being among the few government organization in Pakistan which worked on merit and in a transparent manner, was known and respected globally, and whose team, including the Chairman, enjoyed untarnished image as being upright, principled and of merit.
The spokesperson said that most of the allegations were false, incorrect, done with malicious intention and were based on a deliberate smear campaign rather than on reality. A very recent one against the Chairman was his membership in the Islamabad Club. That membership was proposed and approved by the Board, governing body of HEC, way back in 2009 and was not something approved recently or done in a discretionary way, and was done through various audits as well.
Another onslaught brought out in the Parliament recently was the “refusal” of the chairman to respond to a call attention notice, and the matter was therefore referred to the privileges committee.
The Chairman being a former senator understood and respected the parliament and the urgency in responding to call attention notices, however in that case the notice was not even referred to the HEC before it was discussed on the floor, and therefore the question of “refusal” did not even occur. The notice was received later that evening and was responded to immediately, the spokesperson said.
He further said that there were false allegations on corruption and irregularity in scholarships. The HEC took pride in its merit based procedure in which the economically deprived youth and those from the middle class and from the underdeveloped areas of Pakistan were able to avail scholarships, including for PhD, at some of the leading universities of the world.
He said that With over 7500 scholars pursuing their higher studies, awarded through a National Scholarship Management Committee (constituted by Honourable Prime Minister of Pakistan and comprised of representatives of all provinces) and interviewed by foreign experts/professor, and with over 2200 who had already completed their PhDs and have joined local universities, institutions and organizations to contribute for the development of country.
While none in the upper middle class would send their children to public schools, the same would prefer to send them to public universities for their education speaks volumes on the quality, though not the best in the world that is maintained at the universities, he added.
HEC improved the procedure on VC hiring which were done through search committees, though there was still room for improvement, and was developing the performance based evaluation of serving VCs. Statutory bodies were regularly meeting, and all appointments of faculty, and admissions, were being done on merit.
All verification, attestation and verification of degrees were done according to a developed procedure which leaves no room for any irregularities. All those merit based and above board procedures were perhaps what the vested interest groups were not able to swallow, he said.
The spokesperson also said that all HEC reforms were becoming the envy of other countries in the region. While Turkey already had a similar commission, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were in the process of replicating the HEC model, and India was going a step further and establishing a supra-HEC with far reaching consequences to position itself as a regional leader.
He said that the world economic forum global competitiveness report indicators on higher education and training, technology readiness and innovation shown a consistent improvement over the last three years for Pakistan, much more than many other countries, which was clear proof that the higher education reforms were paying off.
Pakistan achieved critical mass and reached a point of take-off. For this phenomenal growth to continue, it was important for the government and other stakeholders to support and further strengthen HEC as a national institution and protect its autonomy, instead of downgrading it.
If this upward momentum continues for another 10 years, Pakistan is certain to become a global player through a flourishing knowledge economy and a highly literate population, he added.