ISLAMABAD  - 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 last few years, out of total 55 new university campuses, 31 have been established in rural areas throughout Pakistan.

Chairman HEC Dr Javaid R Laghari stated this while interacting with the vice chancellors of public sector Khyber Pakhtunkhwa universities at Swat. He said that in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 116 development projects amounting to more than Rs 21 billion have been approved so far. Over the request of HEC, federal quota policy has been applied over indigenous and foreign scholarship programmes which would enable and encourage the youth from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to avail scholarship opportunities exclusively available for them.

In addition to award of more than 1960 indigenous and 1200 foreign scholarships, and under-faculty development programmes, 682 PhD 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.

Pakistan’s first ever Earthquake Engineering Centre and Archaeological Conservation & Research Laboratory have been established at University of Engineering & Technology Peshawar and Hazara University Mansehra respectively. The Research Centre for Polymer Colloid & Surface Science at Gomal University Dera Ismail Khan, Oil-Seed Rape & Mustard for Improved Oil Content at Agriculture University Peshawar and Centre of Excellence in Geology have also been established with HEC assistance. The other steps undertaken by HEC for the province include establishment of 15 Quality Enhancement Cells (QECs), 5 offices of innovation, research and commercialisation (ORICs), provision of video conferencing facility at 17 universities, and training of 2830 university/college faculty.

Dr Javaid Laghari remarked 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 takes place as well as brings HEC to the doorsteps in the provinces. He informed that more than 10,000 need-based scholarships are being awarded to the talented but financially constrained students belonging to far-flung and remote areas of the country.

 These are some of the examples how HEC is reaching out to the needs of the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and trying to assist in this regard. As an outcome of decade long useful initiatives, enrollment at the universities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have increased from 30,000 to 76,000, number of universities has been increased from 12 to 26 including first women university of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and HEC launched special projects for the development of basic infrastructure at higher education institutions of the province including labs, class rooms, seminars rooms, labs, transport facilities, digital libraries, video conferencing facility etc.