ISLAMABAD (APP) - President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday said that the government accorded top priority to promotion of higher education as it is central to the progress and prosperity of the country. He said the government would continue to pursue liberal policy towards private sector in education and extend all possible support to all the non-profit private universities, which meet the HEC criteria for government support. This, he said, while presiding as the patron, a board meeting of FAST National University of Computer & Emerging Sciences at the Aiwan-e-Sadr. "In present era of technological revolution and scientific advancement, no nation can progress without making education its topmost priority," the President said and advised the government to focus on strengthening the domestic technological capability through research and development to make Pakistan a self-sufficient nation. The President said that the secret to the success of the developed nations lies in their attainment of high educational standards and productive human resource development. President Zardari said it was heartening to know that 91 PhD students at the FAST University are being funded by the HEC and stressed for making every effort to expand higher education facilities to accommodate more students so as to raise a pool of highly qualified professional for trade and industry of Pakistan. The President commended the services of FAST (Foundation for Advancement of Science & Technology) for providing quality education to students particularly providing financial assistance worth Rs 50 million to about 1000 poor deserving students, who cannot afford to continue higher education. Dr Amir Muhammad, Rector of FAST National University, gave a detailed briefing about the functions, performance, research and faculty of the university and also about the 11 advanced disciplines being taught at the university. The Rector also highlighted some issues and problems faced by the university including the transfer of six acres of purchased land by the Sindh Govt to the university for its Karachi Campus and allotment of 30 acres of land in Sector H-11, Islamabad to FAST. The meeting was informed that FAST University, established in 2000, has presently four campuses located in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar and is offering quality education in 11 different disciplines ranging from electrical engineering, business administration, mathematics and accounting and finance. The University offers Bachelor, Master and PhD level courses, the meeting was informed. The Rector apprised that FAST university, due to its quality education, has been declared as a category, W, University (highest category) by the HEC. The meeting was informed that presently 500 students are sponsored by the government (under National ICT scholarship programme) for study at this University. Twenty-five Fulbright scholarships, which are highly prestigious scholarships awarded every year to outstanding students by the United States, have been awarded to FAST university graduates. The President assured that the issues faced by the FAST University would be forwarded to the federal and Sindh governments for early redressal. FAST Board members who attended the meting included Wasim Sajjad, President FAST and Chancellor of the University, Dr Abdul Wahab, former VC of Karachi University and former director IBA, Justice (r) Mian Mohammad Ajmal, former Judge Supreme Court, Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh, Dr Rafiq Ahmad, former VC University of Punjab, Lahore, Justice (r) S Ali Aslam Jafri, former judge SHC, Samar Mubarakmand, former Chairman NESCOM, Rana Ghulam Shabbir, Secretary General FAST Board, Dr Amir Muhammad, Rector FAST National University, Dr Ayub Alvi, Dean FAST University and Dr M. Latif Virk, Registrar, FAST University. M Salman Faruqui, Secretary General to the President, Kamal Majidullah, Special Assistance to the Prime Minister on water resources, Malik Asif Hayat, Secretary to the President, Najibullah Malik, Secretary IT & Telecom and spokesperson to the President Farhat Ullah Babar were also present during the meeting.