Higher Education Commission of Pakistan

Higher Education Commission of Pakistan
Accreditation overview
Formed Established in 1947 as UGC
Current form since 2002
Preceding Accreditation
Jurisdiction Constitution of Pakistan
Headquarters Islamabad, Pakistan
Motto Facilitating Institutes of higher learning to serve as an Engine of Growth for the Socio-Economic Development of Pakistan
Annual budget ₨. 57.4 billion[1]
Accreditation executive
  • Prof. Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, Chairman of HEC
Key document
Website www.hec.gov.pk

The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (reporting name:HEC), is an independent, autonomous, and constitutionally established institution of primary funding, overseeing, regulating, and accrediting the higher education efforts in Pakistan.

Preceded by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in 2002 by a constitutional amendment, the universities were formerly accredited by the UGC established in 1947; the institution was revised 1974 and came its modern form in 2002 with additional executive reforms granted by the constitution. Under a new and revised reforms, the HEC is made responsible for formulating higher education policy and quality assurance to meet the international standards as well as providing accrediting academic degrees, development of new institutions, and uplift of existing institutions in Pakistan.

The HEC also facilitated the development of higher educational system in the country with main purpose of upgrading the universities and colleges in the country to be focal point of the high learning of education, research, and development. Over the several years, the HEC plays an important and leading role towards building a knowledge based economy in Pakistan by giving out hundreds of doctoral scholarships for education abroad every year.[2]


1947–1971: Genesis and development

Literacy rates since 1951–2009

At the time of establishment of Pakistan on 14 August 1947, the country had only one institution of higher learning, the Punjab University and among forty colleges expanded to four provinces of Pakistan.[3] Education policy revised by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan who adopted various recommendations of mathematician Ziauddin Ahmad, the government established various universities and colleges in all over the country. This led the establishment of University Grants Commission (UGC) by the constitution in Pakistan in 1947.[4] The same year, Mohammad Ali Jinnah held a National Education Conference (also known as Pakistan Education Conference) of academicians and state holders to revise the policy of higher education in the country, as he stated:

... [The] importance of education and the type of education cannot be over-emphasized ... There is no doubt that the future of our State [of Pakistan] will and must greatly depend upon the type of education we give to our children, and the way in which we bring them up as future citizens of Pakistan....

We should not forget that we have to compete with the world which is moving very fast in this direction....

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, 1947, source cited[4]

Many recommendations were directed and accepted by the government to established the UGC as a federal regulatory institution in 1947.[5] Efforts led by Prime Minister of Pakistan Huseyn Suhrawardy led to the imposition of Soviet-oriented first five-year plans which explained the first official education policy in 1956.[6] The first plan was an attempt to make education development suitable for the socio-economic development in the country.[7]

The literacy line graph in the four provinces.

In 1959, the government recognized the need to expanding powers granted to the UGC and appointed the UGC as federal commission.[5] In 1960s, the financial policies and economic programmes introduced by President Ayub Khan greatly emphasized to importance of higher education in the country.[7] A huge revenue and a huge percentile of budget was actually spent to promote higher education efforts in the country.[7] Thesis written by Usman Ali Isani pointed out that ₨. 912 million was spent annually for the fiscal period of 1960–65 in a joint collaboration led by MoF, MoEd, UGC and Planning Commission.[7] Colleges were transformed into full-scale research universities and special research institutes were established in all over the country.[7] According to the calculations performed by the Ministry of Statistics and published by Isani, around 430,000 students were enrolled in different universities to pursue their higher education over the fiscal period of 1960–65.[7] From 1965 to 1971, the government spent ₨. 173.8 million on the education sector as opposed to actual allocations of ₨. 278.6 million.[7]

1971-2000s:Revision and policies

After the 1971 war with India which saw the separation of East-Pakistan as Bangladesh, the new education policy was announced with the implementation of nationalization programme in 1972, by the PPP.[8] Under this policy, all two-year colleges were transformed to university status under the state-controlled policy; privatized universities were nationalized. During this time, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had the MoF spent 70% of natural resources on higher education efforts; enrollment in the universities increased to 56%.[8] Prime Minister Bhutto's period saw the sought to integrated social change; thus economic progress through nationalization.[7]

In 1979, President Zia-ul-Haq's policies announced the "The National Education Policy, 1979" (NEP-79) which saw the harmonization of higher education in Pakistan with Islamic concepts and the national ideology.[7] President Zia's policies led to the fundamentalist ideas flaring in the higher education system in the country.[7] In 1992, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a "National Education Policy 1992" (NEP-92) to streamline the process of higher education.[7] This was followed by the Eighth Plan lanuched by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1993 which focused on primary education.[7]

2000s-Present: New Era

Pakistan ranked in lowest in Literacy Rate of South Asia.

The different higher education policies, priorities, and the need of competition between the political forces in Pakistan led to disturbances in the higher education as well as effecting the UGC ability.[5] The inadequate financial funding and policy implementation never matched the need of higher education in the country.[5] In 2002, President Pervez Musharraf took over the initiatives in devolving the UGC into Higher Education Commission in 2002.[9]

President Musharraf invited eminent scientist and chemist, dr. Atta-ur-Rehman, to be its first chair and immediately passed the Presidential Ordinance on September 11, 2002 to established the HEC.[9] Over the several years, the HEC implement its ambitious uplift program of enhancing access, improving quality and increased relevance of higher education to the needs and requirement of Pakistan.[10] Dr Javaid Laghari was the second Chairman HEC from 2009 to 2013 who continued the higher education reforms at the same pace despite cut in funding. We now have Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed as the chair.[11]

Programs and projects

HEC main programs are following:

Governance in HEC

The HEC is governed and chaired by the appointed chairman who is assisted by the secretaries of education, science and technology, telecommunications, and information technology.[18] The Chairman and secretaries are assisted by the additional members who are appointed from the four provinces as well as university vice-chancellors.[18] Other members are included from state and private-sector and executive director of the HEC.[18]

The Chairman of HEC is appointed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan for four tenured term based upon the requests and recommendations send by the Ministry of Education (MoEd).[19] According to HEC Ordinance altered in Constitution, the Prime Minister is the controlling authority of the HEC and the shortlisted names are to be forwarded to Him for the final say.[20]

The Prime Minister reserves the right to re-appoint or give extension to the designated chairman.[21] Though the executive director is the administrative head of the HEC, almost every decision in the commission is taken with the consent of the chairman.[22]

Finance and Budget

Science is a lucrative profession in Pakistan and the official science policy in Pakistan plays a major role in the development of budget in the country for fiscal years.[23] Since revitalized in 2002, the HEC's budget increased up to ~340.2% in terms of fiscal period of 2001–06. Around 50%-70% of federal budget is set for the development on science and higher education, particularly distributed to HEC, highest in the financial history of Pakistan.[23]

By 2008, as a result of its policy and financial successes, most universities had become strong proponents of the Higher Education Commission. Quality had increased significantly, and several institutions were on their way to becoming world-class institutions. Many expatriate Pakistanis returned from abroad with access to competitive salaries. Besides the Pakistan government funding, a large financial endowment is distributed by the US government as part of its funding to the universities.[24][25]

Prioritizing the expansion of the higher education in the country, HEC's financial budget is estimated near ₨. 57.8 billion, which is more than that of Pakistan Steel Mills, PIA or any other state-owned enterprises’ allocations.[22] The budget is aimed for development of various areas in higher education.[23]

Impact of Higher Education Reforms in Pakistan

International Praise

Since the HEC's reforms have been carried out in 2002, HEC has received praise from the international higher education observers. Prof. Atta-ur_Rahman, founding Chairman of HEC, has received number of prestigious international awards for the remarkable transformation of the higher education sector under his leadership.[26] German academic, Dr. Wolfgang Voelter of Tübingen University in Germany over viewed the performance of HEC under the leadership of Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman and described the reforms in HEC as "A miracle happened." After teaching and visiting in 15 universities of Pakistan, Voelter wrote that the "scenario of education, science and technology in Pakistan has changed dramatically, as never before in the history of the country.[26] The chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Education recently announced the first 6 years of HEC under Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman as "Pakistan's golden period in higher education".[27] Recently ThomsonReuters in an independent assessment of Pakistan's progress in international publications has acknowledged that in the last decade there has been a four fold increase in international publications and a ten fold growth in highly cited papers, statistics that were better than the BRIC countries [28]

American academic Prof. Fred M. Hayward has also praised the reform process undertaken by Pakistan, admitting that "since 2002, a number of extraordinary changes have taken place."[29] Hayward pointed our that "over the last six years almost 4,000 scholars have participated in PhD programs in Pakistan in which more than 600 students have studied in foreign PhD programs."[29] The HEC instituted major upgrades for scientific laboratories, rehabilitating existing educational facilities, expanding the research support, and overseeing the development of one of the best digital libraries in the region.[29] Seeking to meeting the international standard, a quality assurance and accreditation process was also established, of which, ~95% of students sent abroad for training returned, an unusually high result for a developing country in response to improved salaries and working conditions at universities as well as bonding and strict follow-up by the commission, Fulbright, and others."[30]

The HEC's reforms brought about by Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman were also applauded by the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD) which reported that the "progress made was breath-taking and has put Pakistan ahead of comparable countries in numerous aspects."[31] In limited time, the HEC established and provided free access to scientific literature by high-speed Internet for all universities, the upgrade of research equipment accessible across the country, and the programme of establishing new universities of science and technology, including science parks attracted the foreign investors, prove the efficiency and the long-term benefits for the country enabled.[31] The UNCSTD has closely monitored the development in Pakistan in the past years, coming to the unanimous conclusion that HEC's program initiated under the leadership of Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman is a "best-practice" example for developing countries aiming at building their human resources and establishing an innovative, technology-based economy.".[32] A number of institutions have been named after Prof. Rahman including the “Atta-ur-Rahman Institute of Natural Product Discovery” (RIND) at Malaysia’s largest university, Universiti Teknologi Mara [33] and the Atta-ur-Rahman School of Applied Biosciences at National University of Science & Technology in Islamabad .[34]

Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman has won four international awards for the revolutionary changes in the higher education sector brought in the HEC. The Austrian government conferred its highest civil award (“Grosse Goldene Ehrenzeischen am Bande") in recognition of his eminent contributions.[35] Nature, a leading science journal, has also written a number of editorials and articles about the transformation brought about in Pakistan in the higher education sector under the HEC. In an article entitled "Pakistan Threat to Indian Science" published in the leading daily newspaper Hindustan Times, India, it has been reported that Prof. C. N. R. Rao, Chairman of the Indian Prime Minister's Scientific Advisory Council made a presentation to the Indian Prime Minister at the rapid progress made by Pakistan in the higher education sector under the leadership of Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman, Chairman, Higher Education Commission. It was reported that as result of the reforms brought about in Pakistan " Pakistan may soon join China in giving India serious competition in science". "Science is a lucrative profession in Pakistan. It has tripled the salaries of its scientists in the last few years.".[36] Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman was conferred the highest national Award of the Republic of China in September 2014 for his contributions to develop strong linkages between Pakistan and China in various fields of higher education, science and technology.[37]

Dr Javaid Laghari the next Chairman continued the reforms initiated earlier. During his 4-year tenure, the world ranking of universities declined due to budgetary cuts and other problems faced by HEC, although seven Pakistan universities were ranked among the top 250 universities of Asia according to QS World University Rankings 2013. Research output out of Pakistan increased by over 50% within three years, which was the second highest increase worldwide. According to Scimago world scientific database, if Pakistan continues at the same pace, its ranking will increase from 43 to 27 globally by 2017.


The creation of HEC has had a positive on higher education in Pakistan.

Video conferencing

Amongst the objectives of this project a primary objective of introduction of Video Conferencing facility is to enhance students teachers interaction through distance learning, bridge the gap of good faculty, meet the shortage of faculty members at the universities located at far-flung areas and ultimately to uplift the standard of education in Pakistan. HEC aims to give Pakistan a bright future through a young, qualified and energetic generation.

In the 1st phase starting September 2006 eminent scholars from Pakistan will deliver interactive lectures on various topics and recorded lectures from foreign universities will be broadcast. The lectures delivered/broadcast will be aimed to develop fundamental concepts, to enhance the critical thinking for under-graduate and graduate students and to discuss cutting edge technologies/research work in the fields of modern sciences for students and faculty members. In the 2nd stage interactive lectures from foreign universities will be arranged. Nobel Laureates/Eminent scientists/researchers will be invited to deliver lectures to share their knowledge/research work. This program will continue and the remaining 32 universities in 2nd phase will become part of the program.

Currently there are more than 65 sites which are operational all over Pakistan and availing this facility for conducting lectures, meetings and other events etc.

Political overview

In spite of its achievements, the HEC was harshly critiqued by dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a nuclear physicist and a professor at the Quaid-e-Azam University, who maintained that "HEC have made higher education more expensive."[45] These views have been opposed by numerous national scholars and scientists in the country. A strongly worded article against Hoodbhoy's views was published by dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, who termed HEC as "a strategic organization."[31][46] Another work on HEC's praise was authored by Dr. Mansoor Akbar Kundi, former Vice Chancellor of the Gomal University and presently Executive Director of Higher Education Commission. In his article entitled "Ata ur Rehman school of Thought" he has strongly supported the reforms brought about by the dynamic and focused policies of the Higher Education Commission under the leadership of Atta-ur-Rahman.[47]

In 2010, the altering of Eighteenth Amendment, whose clause was directed to devolved the HEC, was strongly resisted by academicians, politicians, social activists, and media personality; a strong lobby for the protection of HEC was instituted by scientists, Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman and Dr. Javaid Laghari.[48] Scientists and academicians from PAS held a nationwide conference in 2011 under the Presidency of Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman to gain public support for the protection of HEC at the public level.[49][49] During this ongoing debate, the then HEC chairman, Javaid Laghari who was former technocrat Senator from PPP and President of a private university SZABIST as well, declared that the devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) unconstitutional.[50] Dr Laghari also went on a media and public speaking and OpEd writing campaign to save the higher education sector from the cluthes of politicians. Dr Javaid Laghari is widely considered by all academics as one who saved HEC from devolution and disintegration, while Dr Atta is known as the founder of HEC. Today HEC owes its existence to both Dr Atta and Dr Laghari

Massive anti-PPP demonstration broke out in all over the country over this issue in 2011 and student unions gathered in the federal government installations to oppose the merger.[51] In 2012, two petitions signed by Rahman,were filed before the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the devolution of HEC and to preserve the autonomy of HEC. The Supreme Court approved the petitions thereby preventing its devolution under the 18th amendment and guaranteeing its autonomy. the court issue verdicts against the government's decision.[52] Ultimately, the Supreme Court rendered its verdict to preserve the autonomy of HEC, paralyzing any efforts of government to devolve the HEC.[53]

See also


  1. Rizwan-ul-Haq. "Budget 2013-14: Higher education gets attention, finally". June 13, 2013. Express Tribune. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
  2. Dr Javaid R Laghari appointed HEC Chairman, The Nation, 27 August 2009, retrieved 11 January 2012
  3. Mace, John; Hamid K. Niazi (December 2006). "The Contribution of the Private Sector to Higher Education in Pakistan with Particular Reference to Efficiency and Equity" (PDF). Bulletin of Education & ResearchPunjab University Press. Lahore, Punjab Province: Punjab University Press. 28 (2): 17–42. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  4. 1 2 Bengali, Kaisar; et al. (1999). "History of Educational Policy Making and Planning in Pakistan" (pdf). The Journal of SDPI. Islamabad: Sustainable Development Policy Institute , 1999.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Ibid, Isani. "Major Education Policies and Commission," (PDF). (Isani, pp.40-74). Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  6. Isani, Usman Ali. (2001). "Higher Education in Pakistan" (PDF). National University Of Modern Languages. Thesis prepared and researched by Usman A. Isani at the National University Of Modern Languages: 378.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Isani, Usman A. "Education And The Five Year Plans:" (PDF). 2001. (Isani, pp.75-138). Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  8. 1 2 Isani, Usman A. "Education Policy, 1972-80" (PDF). (Isani, pp 40-74). Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  9. 1 2 Ahmed, Mukhtar (Updated.). "Higher Education Introduction". Retrieved 8 September 2013. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. Dr. Sohail Naqvi. "OVERVIEW OF HIGHER EDUCATION COMMISSION (HEC) SUPPORT FOR ACADEMIA IN PAKISTAN" (PDF). Dr. Sohail Naqvi, HEC. Dr. Sohail Naqvi, HEC. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  11. "Higher Education Commission main web page".
  12. Indigenous scholarships, HEC, retrieved 19 March 2012
  13. Indigenous scholarships, retrieved 19 March 2012
  14. Foreign scholarships, retrieved 19 March 2012
  15. Foreign scholarships, retrieved 19 March 2012
  16. Foreign scholarships, retrieved 19 March 2012
  17. Conference travel grants, retrieved 19 March 2012
  18. 1 2 3 HEC Press release. "Governance in HEC". Govt. of Pakistan. HEC Press release. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  19. Web Desk (September 1, 2013). "Shams Kassim-Lakha appointed HEC Chairman". Tribune. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  20. Riazul Haq (August 24, 2013). "Contract end nears: HEC chief's extension now improbable". Express Tribune, August. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  21. Ikram Juniad (26 August 2013). "HEC chairman's term ends, race begins". Dawn. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  22. 1 2 Junaid, Ikram (2 September 2013). "Rumours in HEC as hiring delayed". Dawn news archives, 09. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  23. 1 2 3 Rizwan-ul-Haq. "Budget 2013-14: Higher education gets attention, finally". June 13, 2013. Express Tribune, 14. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
  24. Abbasi, Ansar. "$550 million aide to HEC". The News International, Abbasi. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  25. HEC. "USAID Funded Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship". USAID. HEC and US government,. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  26. 1 2 Voelter, PhD, Wolfgang (6 December 2008). "The golden period". Dawn area studies, 2008. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  27. Voelter, Wolfgang. "The golden period". Dawn ePaper. The golden period, The Dawn, retrieved 20 March 2010
  28. The report is available at http://images.info.science.thomsonreuters.biz/Web/ThomsonReutersScience/%7Bdab71dc1-d7d8-48af-88a6-fa7efa61ae22%7D_Pakistan_Citation_Report_FINAL.pdf
  29. 1 2 3 Haq, Riaz (September 8, 2013). "In Defense of HEC's Key Role in Pakistan's Higher Education". Pakistaniaat, California. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  30. Hayward, Fred M. (Winter 2009).Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan: Political & Economic Instability, International Higher Education Quarterly (54), retrieved 20 March 2010
  31. 1 2 3 Prof Atta-ur-Rahman (September 3, 2011). "HEC – why India felt threatened". The News International, 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  32. Rode, Bernd Michael. Letter from Chairman/European Coordinator of ASEA-UNINET published in DAWN today, DildilpakistanWordpress, retrieved 10 March 2010
  33. http://aurins.uitm.edu.my/
  34. http://www.nust.edu.pk/INSTITUTIONS/Schools/ASAB/Pages/default.aspx
  35. http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/SC/pdf/Flyer-Lecture_Pakistan_WSD14.pdf
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  37. http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-6-273635-Chinese-award-for-Dr-Atta-ur-Rahman
  38. Digital Library, HEC, retrieved 19 March 2012
  39. HEC– National Digital Library Program – Home Page, digitallibrary, retrieved 19 March 2012
  40. Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, World Defence Network, retrieved 19 March 2012
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  42. Two Pakistani universities ranked among top 200 World’s Technology Universities, World Defence Network, retrieved 19 March 2012
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  47. http://www.pkhope.com/ata-ur-rehman-school-of-thought/
  48. Web Desk (7 April 2011). "Zardari to personally look into HEC devolution". Express Tribune, Desk. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  49. 1 2 Rehman, Atta-ur (5 April 2011). "Time to save the Higher Education Commission". Tex, Ata. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  50. Front news desk (April 6, 2011). "HEC devolution is unconstitutional: Javaid Laghari". TEX, April 6, 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  51. Muhammad, Peer. "HEC scholarship programmes to continue: Rabbani". April 6, 2011. Tex, Peer. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  52. By Our Correspondent (December 11, 2012). "Questions over autonomy: HEC controversy lands in apex court". TEx, By Our Correspondent Published: December 11, 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  53. Munawar Naqvi. "SC preserves HEC's autonomy: Laghari". Financial Daily. Retrieved 9 September 2013.

Further reading

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