Recognizing the Neglected Opportunities !

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Prof. Habib-ur-Rehman
This is with reference to the approved scholarships and students’ assistance schemes which were directed at the human resource development in important fields of education to address the national needs and challenges. Faculty members and students are well aware ofvarious scholarships schemes launched during 2015 through 2017 for providing the opportunities of higher studies in the country and abroad to the fresh graduates and faculty members of the universities. Similarly, several students’ assistance schemes were launched before and after 2017 for the deserving students to enable them complete their studies without    any financial constraints. It is unfortunate that most of the scholarships under different schemes have not been utilized or partially utilized and students’ assistance schemes not implemented due to reason unknown; the faculty members and students of the public sector universities who were waiting desperately to availing the scholarships and assistance schemes are deprived of the opportunities of higher studies. The scholarships programs for higher studies in the best universities of the developed countries and students assistance schemes include the scholarships for higher studies (existing and forthcoming), students loan schemes for government/ semi government employees for tertiary education for their children, donor portal for expatriate Pakistanis to involving them for supporting scholarships for the undergraduate studies of the needy students and a very important initiative of the government to focusing on the social sciences and religious studies. The above mentioned programs were considered important for human resource development in important areas hence prosperity of the country and its people. The programs are also directed at meeting the demand of qualified faculty in the institutions of higher learning, enhancing the quality of education and helping the needy students for completing their studies to making the dreams of their parents come true. In particular, the loan schemes for needy students and making right focus on social sciences and religious studies was need of the time and is indeeda relevant and important initiative. This is also to tender the concerns of the faculty members and students of the public sector universities of the countries and submitfollowing suggestion for smooth and smart implementation of the scholarships and students’ assistance schemes to achieving the set objectives and targets. The scheme of 5000 overseas scholarships for Ph.D. studies was approved in 2018 but remain unattended during the last 3 years. The scholarships’ schemes including, Ph.D. overseas scholarships Phase-3 under which 2000 Ph.D scholarships were approved in 2018 with the cost of Rs. 21 billion were to be implemented in 7 years till 2025. However, the program has not been implemented at the level it should have been implemented by now. The government should take immediate necessary measures to implement the scholarships scheme on fast track basis, so that ambitious targets set for the human resources development are achieved. The approved scheme of 5000 overseas scholarships for higher studies have not been implemented to the satisfaction of the stakeholders. As budget for the scholarships was allocated and the scholarships are still available, the HEC is required to form a comprehensive and fool proof system for utilizing the available scholarships, so that brightest young minds may be provided the opportunity for higher education in the top rated universities of the world. As the country is short of qualified manpower in the disciplines of science, engineering and technology, utilization of the approved scholarships and launching schemes of more scholarships are needed for strengthening the faculty in important disciplines. Not only that scholarships are not utilized but the information regarding available scholarships also not extended to the universities. Being such, the universities and youth are deprived of the opportunities for higher education. Now, it is obligatory on the government to ensure the    This is with reference to the approved scholarships and students’ assistance schemes which were directed at the human resource development in important fields of education to address the national needs and challenges. Faculty members and students are well aware ofvarious scholarships schemes launched during 2015 through 2017 for providing the opportunities of higher studies in the country and abroad to the fresh graduates and faculty members of the universities. Similarly, several students’ assistance schemes were launched before and after 2017 for the deserving students to enable them complete their studies without any financial constraints. It is unfortunate that most of the scholarships under different schemes have not been utilized or partially utilized and students’ assistance schemes not implemented due to reason unknown; the faculty members and students of the public sector universities who were waiting desperately to availing the scholarships and assistance schemes are deprived of the opportunities of higher studies. The scholarships programs for higher studies in the best universities of the developed countries and students assistance schemes include the scholarships for higher studies (existing and forthcoming), students loan schemes for government/ semi government employees for tertiary education for their children, donor portal for expatriate Pakistanis to involving them for supporting scholarships for the undergraduate studies of the needy students and a very important initiative of the government to focusing on the social sciences and religious studies. The above mentioned programs were considered important for human resource development in important areas hence prosperity of the country and its people. The programs are also directed at meeting the demand of qualified faculty in the institutions of higher learning, enhancing the quality of education and helping the needy students for completing their studies to making the dreams of their parents come true. In particular, the loan schemes for needy students and making right focus on social sciences and religious studies was need of the time and is indeeda relevant and important initiative. This is also to tender the concerns of the faculty members and students of the public sector universities of the countries and submitfollowing suggestion for smooth and smart implementation of the scholarships and students’ assistance schemes to achieving the set objectives and targets. The scheme of 5000 overseas scholarships for Ph.D. studies was approved in 2018 but remain unattended during the last 3 years. The scholarships’ schemes including, Ph.D. overseas scholarships Phase-3 under which 2000 Ph.D scholarships were approved in 2018 with the cost of Rs. 21 billion were to be implemented in 7 years till 2025. However, the program has not been implemented at the level it should have been implemented by now. The government should take immediate necessary measures to implement the scholarships scheme on fast track basis, so that ambitious targets set for the human resources development are achieved. The approved scheme of 5000 overseas scholarships for higher studies have not been implemented to the satisfaction of the stakeholders. As budget for the scholarships was allocated and the scholarships are still available, the HEC is required to form a comprehensive and fool proof system for utilizing the available scholarships, so that brightest young minds may be provided the opportunity for higher education in the top rated universities of the world. As the country is short of qualified manpower in the disciplines of science, engineering and technology, utilization of the approved scholarships and launching schemes of more scholarships are needed for strengthening the faculty in important disciplines. Not only that scholarships are not utilized but the information regarding available scholarships also not extended to the universities. Being such, the universities and youth are deprived of the opportunities for higher education. Now, it is obligatory on the government to ensure the implementation of the 2000 scholarships under the Ph.D overseas scholarships scheme phase-3 of Rs. 21 billion approved in 2018, so that our brightest young minds may join the top rated universities of the world for their higher studies.Regretfully, no significant progress made for implementation of the US- Pakistan knowledge corridor Ph.D scholarships program approved in 2017 for Rs. 25 billion. Another scholarship scheme of 2000 scholarships with the cost of Rs. 7.14 billion for the faculty development program was approved in 2017 for Ph.D studies has not been utilized to the extent it should have been utilized by now. The 5000 scholarships under the Ehsas Scholarship Scheme are to be awarded in the next five years needs to be utilized as planned, so that the students desiring for scholarships may benefit the opportunities. Similarly, the scholarships meant for the students of the FATA and Baluchistan for the graduate/ under graduate students under the indigenous Ph.D scholarships program Phas-2 also needs to be benefited for development of the human resource of the area. The postdoc fellowship scheme approved in 2017 for Rs. 2.77 billion for 5 years period needs revision, so that local Ph.Ds may avail the opportunities of working in the foreign countries to getting the exposure of the universities of the developed world and learning the skills necessary to set and implement international research standards in our universities. As the targets have not been achieved, steps need to be taken to ensure that every scholarship is utilized to the benefit of the faculty members and students. As announced, the government has invested Rs. 5.2 billion in the name of National Endowment Scholarship Talent Company (NEST) incorporated in 2015. The profit @ Rs. 800 million per annum on the endowment fund also needs to be shifted to the approved students assistance schemes. As per the policy of the government,the scholarships are to be provided for different levels of education to ensure vertical mobility to the most vulnerable segment of the society. As proposed by the Ministry of Planning and Development in 2018, the NEST may also be transferred to the HEC under its Human Resource Development Division, so that it may perform to the satisfaction of all stakeholders and to achieve its objectives in a given framework of time. The initiative of GoP for the students’ loan schemes for government/ semi-government employees for tertiary education of their children is in fact commendable. However, necessary measures to institutionalize the scheme are required to be taken to making it further transparent and efficient, so that students may avail the facility of the loans to complete their studies.It is worth mentioning that the HEC need base scholarships proved very successful and needy students have been availing that facility. This scheme is the most popular in students and rightly benefitted by the deserving students for completing their studies without any hardship. It has been observed that there are about 20-25% students who could not afford their tuition fee and living expensesrequire assistance to continue their studies. The loans’ schemes will encourage students to enroll themselves for higher studies and complete their education without facing financial constraints. The HEC need base scholarships criteria may also be prescribed for the loans’ schemes so that transparency and efficiency are ensured. Similarly the initiative of the Donor Portal for Expatriate Pakistani is unprecedented and also commendable. It is hoped that the program will be successful in helping the needy students for their studies. The process needs to be institutionalized and made transparent so that overseas Pakistanis may know where their donations gone and see for themselves the outcome of their donations. The GoP and HEC though focused on strengthening the social sciences but universities are still lacking the qualified faculty in the disciplines of social sciences, so focus needs to be continued on social sciences for some time till a balance between physical and social sciences may be created. The HEC remained focus on social sciences and invested in strengthening them but further focus still needs to be placed on strengthening the social sciences. The focus of the GoP on religious education is timely. This is for the first time that the religious studies are also being focused. The initiative is indeed relevant and very important and will go a long way in strengthening the religious studies. Though we need to strengthening the religious studies but it should not be considered as spiritual studies as that world mean to make people believe that spiritualization is enough and important. This consideration will not serve the purpose and may prove harmful to the country and its people. The government should do meaningful consultation in making the syllabus acceptable to all and also take necessary measures to improving the image of Islam and Muslims in the world. Last but not the least, we need to give scientific outlook to planning and implementation of proposals for achieving set objectives, so that what we plan are meant and implemented and it cannot be like unless we ensure that our plans are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound) and country and its people are the main beneficiaries.

(-The author is former Vice Chancellor, MUST, (Mirpur University of Science & Technology) Mirpur (AJK))