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HEC Amendment Bill | LUMS passing marks

Rectors, VCs demand govt to notify Task Force on HEC
Islamabad, Feb 06: Rectors and vice chancellors representing 137 public and private sector universities on Tuesday demanded the government to notify Task Force established back in 2011 so that consultation process on Higher Education Commission Act can be initiated without any delay.

The demand came forward in the 11th Vice Chancellors' Committee meeting held at Higher Education Commission (HEC). One point agenda of the meeting was the recently proposed Private Members HEC Amendment Bill.

The vice chancellors felt that any change in the HEC Act should be according to the recommendations of the Task Force established by Prime Minister's High Powered Committee. They demanded that the Task Force may be notified so that consultation process can start without further delay. The vice chancellors also highlighted the financial problems being confronted by higher education sector.

The Task Force called 'Task Force on Higher Education and Research 2012' was a consultative forum formed in the year 2011 to review HEC Act 2002 in the post 18th Amendment constitutional scenario based on analysis of HEC performance and achievements since its establishment (2002-12), observance of global trends, requirements of national development and, wide-ranging consultations with the provinces and the stakeholders.

Chairman National Assembly Standing Committee on Education and Training Sheikh Rohale Asghar along with other committee members including Surraiya Jatoi (PPPP), Tasneem Siddiqui (PML-N), Qudsia Arshad (PML-N), Dr. Donya Aziz (PML-Q), Rukhsana Jameshed Buttar (PML-Q), Shaikh Salahuddin (MQM) and Sufyan Yousaf (MQM) attended the meeting and listened and exchanged views with the VCs relating to their reservations and concerns over the Bill.

The VCs noted that the universities have shown tremendous progress in the last decade and HEC reforms are being followed by the other countries as role model. They said that the proposed bill would have detrimental effect on the higher education sector and would revert back all the achievements gained during last decade.

The vice chancellors were of the view that the higher education sector has been a growth engine for socio-economic development of Pakistan and higher education institutions have started to play pivotal role for the well-being of Pakistani people and industrial growth through strong university-industry linkages. They said that it would be extremely unfortunate if at this point legislative step are taken without any consultation with the stakeholders.

The Chairman Sheikh Rohale Asghar and other committee members of the Standing Committee appreciated the role of HEC for socio-economic development and promotion of quality education in the country. They were of the view that any legislation that takes away the dynamism and autonomy of HEC will be damaging to the higher education sector in the country. They were of the unanimous view that HEC is one institution which has functioned extremely well and has delivered wonderful results during the last decade.

On the behalf of the committee, he categorically stated that the legislation should be based upon careful review of past progress and consultation with the relevant stakeholders so that this model organization may be further strengthened to continue its positive role.

Sheikh Rohale Asghar remarked that the committee would not undertake any step undermining the autonomy and future of higher education in Pakistan. "We will not table any bill which is damaging to the performance and will curtail the autonomy of HEC. We need to strengthen the institutions", he emphasised.

At the end of the conference, through a unanimous resolution, the vice chancellors appreciated the efforts of chairman and members of the Standing Committee on Education and Training for their deep, comprehensive understanding and their concerns about the future of higher education in the country.

They thanked the Committee for offering them the opportunity of being heard. The meeting expressed the hope that interaction of the people's representatives with the representatives of higher education would continue in future as well. The Vice Chancellors were appreciative of the assurances given by the Standing Committee that that the autonomy of HEC would not be compromised.

Speaking on this occasion, Chairperson HEC Dr Javaid Laghari extended thanks to Chairman and members of National Assembly Standing Committee on Education and Training for sparing their time to have input of the vice chancellors who are the most important stakeholder in the higher education sector.

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New HEC ED assumes charge
Islamabad: Professor Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed assumed the charge of Higher Education Commission (HEC) executive director on Monday.

Before joining the HEC as executive director, Professor Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed was deputy director general of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Isesco) at Rabat, Morocco, since February 2011.

A PhD from University of California, Riverside, USA, Mukhtar has over 25 years of educational development and management experience including teaching, policy development, linking educational research to industry, introducing entrepreneurial approaches to education and a diverse range of related programmes. He has the experience of working with distinguished national and international organizations and brings with him unique expertise of educational leadership. He has also severed as Member (Operations and Planning) at Higher Education Commission from 2005- 2011.

Addressing a gathering of HEC employees, he said that HCEC would continue its active role for the socio-economic development of country.

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LUMS, ministry admit lowering pass marks to adjust 'political appointees'
Islamabad: After abruptly calling back 42 commercial consulars from across the globe, the outgoing Pakistan People's Party's government is set to fill the highly important vacant posts with loyalists, especially ordering one of the country's top universities to lower the standard of their selection exams, senior officials of the university and ministry of commerce have confirmed.

Professor of Economics at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) Abid Aman Burki who supervised the test confirmed that the threshold was lowered on the orders of former prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. He also said the university would not conduct such tests in future, as it is fed up with controversies involving the process. When contacted, a senior official of the commerce ministry said the passing marks were lowered, as there were complaints that the written test was too tough. "We had no option but to lower the passing marks as the commerce ministry came up with written directions from the prime minister in this regard," Prof Burki said, explaining the reasons to relax the selection procedure. Burki, however, maintained that test was still competitive and the university did the job with integrity. He said LUMS conducted a similar test in 2005 based on 60 per cent threshold. "It is not a LUMS degree examination. We conducted this test on the request of the ministry and we had to entertain their request," Burki maintained.

The strange move has left dozens of Pakistani foreign missions in some key economies of the world without commercial consulars formonths, jeopardising the country's trade ties with key global players. Even the future trade prospects do not appear very bright with a big question mark on the competence of the replacing officers. According to sources, the Lahore University of Management Sciences had been directed by the government to lower the 60 per cent threshold to 40 per cent to allow the incompetent candidates to pass the written test. If this was not enough, the university also refrained from revealing the marks of successful candidates on the directions of the commerce ministry.

Only the interview committee headed by the commerce minister and PPP stalwart Makhdoom Amin Faheem knew the exact marks obtained by each candidate. The LUMS professor also admitted that the university was asked by the ministry not to reveal the marks obtained by the successful candidates. "We usually let the candidates see their marks but this time we were asked by the ministry not to do so." However Burki strongly refuted claims that the university shared the question paper with the ministry ahead of test. He said 278 candidates appeared in the written exam and 206 passed the test by obtaining 40 per cent marks. The successful candidates appear for interview before a committee headed by Makhdoom Amin Fahim. "It is difficult to get the required number of officers if we continue with 60 per cent passing marks," said Kabir Qazi, a joint secretary at the commerce ministry who is also working as the ministry's official spokesperson. He said the selection of commercial consulars was at the final stage and the process is expected to be completed within days. When asked about the political influence in the appointment process, Qazi said politics is not a bad thing. "The chairman of the selection committee is the minister of commerce who is a politician. Politics is not a bad thing," he repeated. He claimed the selection process was fair as officials from multiple ministries were involved in interview of the candidates.

However, another senior ministry official said that abrupt recall of the commercial consulars from foreign missions without their replacement does not bode well for the country's trade objectives. "The proper procedure was to first appoint the new officers before recalling the senior officers. There must be proper handing over to ensure the trade ties with other countries do not suffer," he said. The sources said the current stalemate in the appointment of commercial consulars has resulted from intense wrangling within the party's influential circles about the exact number of posts to be allotted to each party stalwart. The news

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Preston University brings 'BIZFEST 2013' trophies
Islamabad: The Preston University clinched first position in both 'Business Launch Competition' and 'Elevator Pitch Competition' held under the banner of 'BIZFEST 2013', organised by the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology (GIKI) from January 25 to 27.

The Preston University's teams, which were led to the competition by Prof Khalid Javaid Anwer, consisted of students Nabila Iqbal (team leader), Madiha Zar and Atobatele Abiola Moshood.

Eminent among the universities, which participated in the 'Business Launch Competition' category of BIZFEST 2013 were the Preston University, Islamabad, GC University Lahore, Beaconhouse School System (Liberty Campus), Lahore, Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi, ICAS Lahore, UOL Business School, Lahore, and Preston University Kohat.

Preston University, Islamabad, beat all the other competing universities to win the first position in this category of the competition. The GC University Lahore captured the second position, while Beaconhouse grabbed the third position.

The universities that took part in the 'Elevator Pitch Competition' category of BIZFEST 2013 were Preston University, Islamabad, Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute (GIKI), Topi, GC University Lahore, UET Lahore, and Preston University, Kohat. In this category also, the team of Preston University, Islamabad, was declared the best and was awarded first position. The GIKI, the host institution, came second in the Elevator Pitch Competition.

In view of its outstanding performance in both categories of the competition of BIZFEST 2013, Preston University, apart from being awarded two trophies for standing first in each category, was also awarded the overall best performance trophy of BIZFEST 2013 competition. In addition to this, a cash prize of Rs 30,000 was awarded to the Preston University team for giving the best business idea 'Capital World A Cultural Theme Park', in the Business Launch Competition.

Preston University Chancellor Dr Abdul Basit profoundly congratulated Prof Khalid Javaid Anwer on the outstanding achievement of Preston students in BIZFEST 2013. He also immensely appreciated the brilliant performance of students Nabila Iqbal, Madiha Zar and Atobatele Abiola Moshood, who participated in the competition and won laurels for the university. Daily times

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