‘USAID committed to development of higher education in Pakistan’

Jamila Achakzai
Sunday, Jun 04, 2023

Islamabad : Higher Education Commission chairman Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed appreciated the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for what he said its longstanding commitment to the development of higher education in Pakistan.

“In collaboration with the USAID, we will continue to strengthen higher education in the areas of research, policy making, capacity building, and student support services,” the HEC chief told a workshop here. The event was meant to strengthen research, innovation, and commercialisation at public sector universities in the country through the USAID’s Higher Education System Strengthening Activity. Through the five-year initiative, the USAID is collaborating with 16 Pakistani public sector universities and other stakeholders, according to officials. They said the workshop was held to strengthen the universities’ capacity to deliver market-driven education and research to enhance graduate employability.

Twenty-six officials of the Offices of Research, Innovation, and Commercialization (ORICs) at higher education institutions shared their expertise to strengthen the research and commercialization offices of partner HEIs with strategic approaches, management tools, faculty development, and coordination techniques.

The USAID, through the project, will enhance HEIs capacity to administer diverse research projects, stimulate entrepreneurship, manage innovation, develop private sector partnerships, and promote technology transfer, said USAID Pakistan Mission Director Reed Aeschliman. “We are proud that our commitment to the higher education sector has helped lay the foundations for continued improvement in university systems,” he said. He said the USAID and the government of Pakistan partner to provide quality basic education and higher education to Pakistani students.

"This partnership includes training teachers and school administrators, developing educational policies responsive to local needs, and increasing community involvement in schools by actively involving families and the private sector," he said. Mr Aeschliman also said the USAID supported market-based workforce development training, and research geared towards meeting the workforce needs of the 21st century.

He said in Pakistan, nearly 22.5 million children were out of school, so increasing access to education opportunities for out-of-school children was a priority. "The USAID’s education programmes have provided emergency education to children displaced by military conflict and enrolled new students in schools and non-formal education programmes," he said. The USAID Mission director said teachers made the biggest impact on what students learned, so his organisation partnered with the HEC to develop two professional teaching degree programmes leading to the offering of the associate's and bachelor’s degrees in education in 110 universities and teacher training colleges across the country.

"We have provided scholarships to talented low-income and marginalized students and helped Pakistani universities improve their ability to manage financial aid programmes." Mr Aeschliman said to enhance the quality of higher education programmes and research, the USAID had connected experts in energy and water at the US universities with those of Pakistani universities. He said his organisation also supported the establishment of advanced research centres and laboratories where Pakistani universities partner with US universities to

conduct joint research

for practical and policy solutions to energy and water problems in Pakistan.