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Speakers call for cooperation among universities of Saarc countries

Speakers call for cooperation among universities of Saarc countries

ISLAMABAD: The chairman of India’s university grant commission, Professor Ved Parkash, said on Monday that South Asian countries are faced with several common challenges, which can be better addressed through joint efforts.

He was talking to Dawn on the sidelines of the 10th Meeting of the Heads of University Grant Commissions (UGC)/Higher Education Commissions of the Saarc region. Professor Parkash said that through joint efforts, higher learning institutions of this region could mitigate the sufferings of the people.

“In addition to dealing with issues of access to health and education, all member countries are energy hungry. Climate change is also a common challenge, so we must work together,” he said.

Professor Parkash said the Saarc countries can pool resources and conduct joint research to tackle these challenges.

Steering the discussion towards university rankings, he said Saarc countries should also devise a mechanism for ranking universities of member countries. “We are discussing this issue in the meeting,” he said.

Professor Parkash is among the seven heads of UGCs of member countries, who are attending the two day meeting in Islamabad. The event was inaugurated by Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed took charge as the new head of the meeting for one year.

Speaking on the occasion, Sartaj Aziz said Saarc countries can cooperate in the field of education. He also highlighted the importance of working together to tackle the phenomenon of ‘brain drain’. “The developed world is taking the most intelligent people of our region, training them in different areas and then retaining them with lucrative salaries. These are problems peculiar to our societies, cultures and economic situations which require indigenous solutions,” he said.

Mr Aziz also told the meeting that after the passage of 18th constitutional amendment the subject of education, including higher education has been transferred to the provincial governments but they are currently incapable of taking complete financial responsibility for all the universities in their jurisdictions.

“Exchange of experiences on this subject can help Pakistan and other member countries develop appropriate policies,” he said.

Dr Mukhtar Ahmed expressed pleasure at the opportunity to host the event in Pakistan. He termed investment in education as essential to a country’s development. He also stressed the importance of cooperation in research and development among Saarc countries and reminded the audience that Saarc countries are faced with common challenges. “We must use this forum to find ways to achieve the Millennium Development goals in education, which are yet to be achieved,” he said.

Later, during the meeting, the heads of university grants commissions identified various options for cooperation in recognition of degrees, establishment of contacts in research and teaching, common regional educational standards, quality assurance and accreditation mechanisms and curriculum for open and distance learning courses.

In addition to Professor Ved Parkash, Chairman of India’s University Grant Commission, Professor Hamidullah Amin from Afghanistan, Dr. Muhammad Mohabbat Khan from Bangladesh, Tshewang Tandin from Bhutan, Fatimath Amira from Maldives, Dr. Parashar Prasad Koirala from Nepal and Professor Mohan De Silva from Sri Lanka attended the meeting.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2015

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