Intense competition in the field of education, variety of disciplines, every day changing methodologies, specialization, innovations and emerging trends in higher education have brought the whole world on one common agenda i.e. the internationalization of Higher Education. The recently concluded international conference on “Higher Education-Global Policy Dialogue” at Lahore, attended largely by renowned educationists, professional scholars, advisors, experts and think tanks from around the world is a clear signal from Pakistan to be a part of this collective wisdom. The conference is a step in the right direction to materialize a long awaited and much needed initiative from a political government. This initiative reflects the commitment and resolve of the Chief Minister Punjab to bring about positive change in our education system through transforming higher education into globally accepted trends and practices. This quest to achieve excellence in our higher education structure will impact each and every field of life in days to come.

Globalization has integrated the whole world into one single cohesive unit making it highly interdependent on each other with respect to the economy, culture, products, views, education, human rights, laws, policies, social issues and everything else. In today`s integrated economy, education has the most significant and essential role to play. Common challenges being faced by the education sector in the world has necessitated a concrete and meaningful debate to address the issues affecting higher education, threats being posed to it and opportunities which can be exploited in international higher education as well as to formulate a common policy and agreed curriculum to help achieve excellence in governance, finance, research & analysis, political & environmental impacts of globalization and other such disciplines. The need to build and define virtues of networks in combating competitive challenges while responding to the needs and desires of national and international communities, is a real test of time and one of the most critical requirements of the a competitive world. Extensive input from the public and private sectors is crucial to introduce internationally agreed trends in higher education. Role of universities is equally important in the bid to determine the contribution of higher education to economic development, changing trends in the field of science and technology, training and skill development of the upcoming generation and aligning the contours of sustainable economic policies with the rest of the world. The global perspective of higher education is undergoing sharp changes. Collaboration and sharing of best practices, the exchange of knowledge, ideas, experiences and preparation of laws aiming at autonomy, ownership, entrepreneurship as well as maintaining international standards and quality assurance, were some of the key and important areas that underwent extensive debate to form an integrated higher education policy and reap collective benefits thereof. The focus of the conference was to engage all stake holders into an intellectual discourse and deliberate extensively on the importance and significance of a knowledge based economy supported by international collaboration. The event was primarily engineered to assist all necessary queries and determine the requirements of an international and integrated higher education system. Significance of research networks, international research collaboration, sustainable research – finding solutions for partnership, knowledge transfer and innovation, intellectual property rights, legal frame work and other related issues were also touched upon to realize the goals of a more convenient, stable and comfortable world.

Another important segment of this event was the realization of the vision of a Lahore Knowledge Park. The objective is to develop and create linkages between academia and the corporate world in areas that feed into the global knowledge industry. Likely to consist of an area of 852 acres, the LKP will serve as a driving force to make Punjab in particular and Pakistan in general a major player in the global knowledge economy. The proposed park is planned to cater to the complete lifestyle of academia and business excellence by collaborating with the best global and corporate entities. It is planned to develop separate clusters or micro parks with each having a particular focus and link to a university. The LKP is going to be a vital step for transforming knowledge into productivity for the socio economic welfare of the country.

There has never before been such an affirmative effort made to encourage healthy debate on this all important issue and adopt globally recognized trends in higher education. It will not only open new vistas of international education for youth but also provide opportunities to compete and succeed internationally. A platform will be provided to prospective students to explore different varieties of study options at the global level. The expert ideas floated, choices underlined and alternatives proposed in the conference will contribute to strengthening student capacities and abilities to make headways in life and explore areas aligned with our development and strategic priorities. Promoting synergies between stake holders and benefiting from valued and technically sound experts helps pick-up value and reap benefits from it. The entry of the Punjab into a globally integrated higher education network will set the stage for Pakistan to make its mark in the international arena of higher education and be an integral part of that competitive world.

The writer is working as Deputy Secretary, Punjab Government.