Conference Underlines Significance of Higher Education and Research in building Economy


Islamabad: There was a complete unanimity of thought among academics, parliamentarians, policy makers, entrepreneurs and civil society representatives that higher education and research have a fundamental role in building economy of any country and that Pakistan is no exception. The one-day national conference entitled “Setting Standards for 21st Century Pakistan” held on Thursday assembled these key stakeholders who discussed how university research should be strongly linked to the industry as well as society, which will ultimately lead to strengthening country’s overall economy.

Over 30 universities from all over Pakistan showcased their research projects during an exhibition held alongside the conference, which was organized by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan.

Sardar Muhammad Latif Khosa, Governor Punjab, was the chief guest in the plenary session of the conference entitled “Universities building Pakistan”. Other speakers included Dr. Javaid R. Laghari, Chairperson HEC, Qazi Muhammad Asad Khan, Minister for Higher Education, Government of KPK, Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman, FRS, Coordinator General, COMSTECH, Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, Member, Planning Commission, Mr. Saleem Abbas Jilani, Chairman SSGC, Ms Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Adviser to Prime Minister on Social Sector, Ms Lynne Heslop, British Council, Dr. Sohail Naqvi, Executive Director HEC, Ms. Maria Sultan, Director General, South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI), Dr. Abdul Nabi, Vice Chancellor, University of Balochistan, Dr. Nilofer Shaikh, Vice Chancellor, Shah Abdul Latif University and Dr. Mujahid Kamran, Vice Chancellor, University of the Punjab.

The conference participants agreed that a knowledge-based society and its economic growth are completely dependent on the generation of intellectual capital which is itself dependent on higher education. It is expected that discussion among different stakeholders will provide an impetus leading to a national pledge to be taken to promote university–community and university-industry linkage and technology transfer for building a strong Pakistan.

Speaking on the occasion, the Governor Punjab appreciated the idea of showcasing the achievements of higher education institutions and their contribution in building socio-economic infrastructure of the country. He was hopeful that the event will lead to a national consensus on how to salvage the economic situation and image of Pakistan through a strong network of higher education set up which in turn is able to develop a culture for its surrounding communities and is able to serve the local as well as national community at large.

The Governor stated that he strongly feels that the agriculture based universities of Pakistan can provide a strong base to boost a culture of use of innovative research for growth of agriculture in Pakistan. Similarly, in other segments of the national economy such as energy and textiles and services universities are the only potential source of building a strong economy and nation as a whole. He emphasized the role of universities building Pakistan cannot be treated casually.

Dr. Laghari said that academics have an important role to play in the development of the country. He said that universities have three major challenges in the 21st century, which include building economy, building communities and building leadership.

He emphasized that there is an urgent need of technology transfer by the universities. Lamenting that there was not enough money to support higher education in the country, he said that in the developed world at least four percent of the GDP is allocated for education of which around 30 per cent goes to higher education. “If we have to move forward and stand tall in the comity of nations, there must be a higher percentage of allocation to education, especially higher education.”

Speaking in the inaugural session of the conference, Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman said that only those countries of the world are progressing who have exploited their human resource and invested in education. He said that experiences of developed world show that economic growth is directly proportional to the university research, adding that development of South Korea is an excellent example for countries like Pakistan. Dr. Atta stressed that an illiterate population is the biggest problem for any country.

Dr Samar Mubarakmand said that Pakistan needs a contribution from engineers and scientists to develop and refine the processes for conversion of coal gas to diesel and separation of copper, gold, silver and cobalt from ores through efficient means. He lauded the role of universities in producing competent scientists and researchers. The esteemed scientist was highly optimistic that the country would be on the way to progress through using its minerals resources. He said that the expansion of higher education is seen as a necessary condition for integration of national economies into an increasingly sophisticated and interconnected world economy.

Qazi Muhammad Asad Khan said that the output from universities needs to be incorporated into public policy. He also underlined the need of change in attitude of industry towards universities, adding that there is a dire need for the universities to understand their role seriously and develop such programmes and initiatives that directly support the government for increasing products and patents from Pakistan.

Appreciating the research showcased by the universities, Ms Shahnaz Wazir Ali said, “I wish our parliamentarians and policy makers were here to see the wonderful work done by our young researchers. She said that this was long overdue as a direct link between academia and industry should be developed for the strategic planning and growth in the right direction.

Dr. Sohail Naqvi said that the basic objective of this conference and exhibition was to provide a forum for interaction of key stakeholders. “We wanted to provide a platform to universities to showcase their research and let the industry, business leaders and other stakeholders know about the potential and capacity of our universities for overall economic growth of the country,” he added.

Ms Maria Sultan said that we are going through a phase of both transition and turmoil so we have to look towards that niche or institution that can help us come out of this situation by setting standards for 21st century education as well as ensuring that they are met. She said that knowledge always come through integration, which can be ensured if politicians, academicians, scientists and industrialist realize its significance.

The exhibition showcased projects initiated in various universities of the country that have already demonstrated significant commercial potential addressing the needs of the industry. Some of the university projects were demonstrated include Electronic Voting Machine, LED Street Lights by COMSATS Institute of Information Technology; Remote Guarding (Suicide Bomber Detector) by Dawood College of Engineering and Technology; A Rugged Wireless Micro-Sensor Technology Development for Aircraft Health Management by Institute of Space Technology; Lungs Tumour Detection from CT-Scan Lungs Images and Sign Language Tutor by International Islamic University; Academic Institution Alert Management System by Kohat University of Science and Technology; Design and Fabrication of Indigenous Thar Coal Gasifier and Indigenous Design and Fabrication of MSW Incinerator by Mehran University of Engineering and Technology; A knowledge-based Expert System to Diagnose Spinning Faults for Producing High Quality Yarn by National Textile University; Development of Light Weight 3 Wheeler 4 Stroke Slim Car/ Rickshaw, Prosthetic Uppen Limb and Solar Hybrid Water Heating System by National University of Science and Technology; Building Capacity in Pakistan to Seismically retrofit Essential Structures by NED University of Engineering and Technology; Animal Feed Bags, Rose Perfume, Textile Dying and Vaccines and Herbal Products by University of Agriculture; Adsorption of alcohols/ water and carboxylic acids/ water mixtures by synthetic-zeolites by University of Balochistan; Design and Development of Low Cost Synthesis Gas Generation, Development of a Virtual Machine Monitor for MIPS64 Processors and Invoice Processing Automation Software by University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore.

For more information, contact:
Aayesha Ikram
Director (Media)
Higher Education Commission
Sector H-9, Islamabad
Tel: 90402404, 90402412
Email: aikram@hec.gov.pk
Website: www.hec.gov.pk