ISLAMABAD - The conversion of Prime Minister House into a university though received public applause, but stakeholders in education sector viewed it as a move aimed at political point scoring, The Nation learned on Saturday.

PM Imran Khan formally inaugurated a university in the PM House as per his promise after assuming the charge of top executive office of the country.

Details said that at initial stages, Institute of Advance Studies will be established at Islamabad National University (INU). The Institute will form relevant in-house research teams, which in turn will engage and collaborate with researchers and research institutions within the country and overseas.

In particular, it will collaborate with and guide various centres of advanced studies established by Higher Education Commission in recent years.

Subsequently, in order to sustain and enhance the quality of research programmes, INU will initiate PhD programmes in critical ?elds and focus on using the research impact on socio-economic development of Pakistan.

President Federation of All Pakistan Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) Dr Mehboob Hussain in a conversation with The Nation said that the government needed to take solid policy level measures for strengthening of higher education sector.

He said that establishing educational institutions was an appreciable step but ground realities were completely different. “We need genuine reforms in education sector rather than political point scoring,” he said.  He said that there were 114 public sector universities in the country and they needed serious attention of the government for strengthening of higher education. “Scores of PhDs are jobless and are protesting on roads,” he said.

Dr Mehboob said that public-sector universities were facing faculty protests and the research facilities in majority of universities were also not available. “It was more necessary to focus on strengthening of the already existing institutions than politicising the education,” he said.

The president FAPUASA also said that HEC itself needed reforms as the universities and faculty struggled with the department. “There is still a question on the performance of HEC for uplifting the universities,” he said.

As per the HEC website, the total number of federally-charted universities is 21. Sixteen are public while 5 are private sector universities. Other than full universities, a number of campuses of other universities are also established.

Just 5 kilometres from the INU, country’s top ranking Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) is also situated, which is currently facing the deficit of nearly Rs500 million.

The university experienced worst administrative crises in previous year while also struggled with the illegal occupation of land and less facilities for students.

Talking to The Nation, president FAPUASA Islamabad chapter, Dr Sohail Yusuf, who also teaches in QAU, said that the new government should focus on the situation of existing universities on priority.

He said that the Institute of Advance Studies Centre could have been declared part of QAU instead of establishing new university. He said that establishing new university in PM House is a welcoming step; however, the higher education institutions in the federal capital needed serious attention of the government.

The conference organised on the occasion of conversion of PM House into university brought together experts from Pakistan as well as many renowned scholars from China, US and European countries.

Chairman HEC Dr Tariq Banuri in his remarks stated that the academic community firmly stands behind the government agenda to move towards simplicity, efficiency and service to community. He said that the design of new university is driven by effective use of public money, demonstration of values, and finding solution to challenges facing the country.

The chairman explained that there was a long list of emerging challenges and opportunities clustered into four themes.

He thanked the Prime Minister for considering HEC’s proposal to make Institute of Advanced Studies work as a think tank and carry out research and education programmes.

“HEC will ensure that the University begins to deliver from day one and continue on path to excellence,” he said, adding that the scientific community had a great role to ensure continuation of the university’s service to Pakistan.

INU will initially consist of an Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS), which will be charged with providing a science-based annual report to the government on emerging challenges confronting Pakistan and the world, and the menu of options for addressing these challenges.