THIS is apropos of the letter “HEC’s working” (Feb 3). The writer incorrectly tried to portray that the HEC, due to its ‘self-claimed autonomy’ is above all checks and balances. Nothing could be far from the truth.

The facts are as follows: the HEC is accountable to three parliamentary oversights, including two standing committees on education, and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

In fact, the HEC appears before the education committee almost every month and before the PAC once a year. All committees have not only evaluated the functioning to be satisfactory but have actually praised its performance as exemplary.

In addition, there are external audits and special audits every year, and except for minor observations, there has never been anything substantial against the HEC.

The board members are not the chairman’s appointees but two are federal secretaries, and four are representatives of provincial governments and are appointed by them.

One is the elected head of VCs and the remaining eight are appointed by the prime minister. So, the board is independent of the chairman. And, above the board, the prime minister is the controlling authority and can refer to any decision of the board back to it for review as well.

The writer also incorrectly wrote that there was no quality control and assessment mechanism at the HEC. Perhaps he has not been reading regularly in the papers about the accreditation councils established by the HEC, the rankings of universities, the rankings of their quality enhancement efforts, the institutional performance evaluations, and the publication rankings of the universities. Quality assurance is one of the strongest divisions at the HEC.

He incorrectly wrote about the many PhDs who do not return. Statistics speak for themselves. Over 1,000 have returned and joined universities and various organisations in Pakistan.

To date, there have only been 12 defaults, and a procedure is in place to recover the amount. He also says that numbers do not help in the development of the country. Perhaps he also missed out on a recent two-day technology transfer symposium at NUST that the HEC jointly held with the US Department of State, USAID, and national academies which highlighted the economic benefits to Pakistan as a result of research at the universities.

This is only one of the many such efforts that the HEC is involved with. Yet another one is the Inspire programme with British universities through the British Council. He can check that one out too in addition to the many business and technology incubators, and the offices of research, innovation and commercialisation that have now been operational at our leading universities for the last two years.

The HEC is proud of its achievements, and all independent reviews for world higher educational and scientific agencies are a testimony to its progress.

DR JAVAID R. LAGHARI Chairman, HEC Islamabad

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