PM House university may not offer degree programmes

Published December 23, 2018
Islamabad National University set to work as a think-tank to provide policy advice to govt. —INP
Islamabad National University set to work as a think-tank to provide policy advice to govt. —INP

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad National University (INU), which is being set up at the Prime Minister House, will apparently not offer degree programmes rather will work like a think-tank to provide policy advice to the government.

Some of the participants of the two-day university launch conference, which concluded on Saturday, told Dawn that there was no plan to offer degree programmes at the university.

They said at a later stage, the university may offer PhD courses but that was subject to approval of the university’s charter by parliament.

Islamabad National University set to work as a think-tank to provide policy advice to govt

Based on the number of its seats, the PTI can get the bill of the university passed from the National Assembly but will face challenge in the Senate where it is short of the required numbers.

“Without getting the charter, the university cannot offer degree programmes,” said a source in the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

One of the participants said the government was not in a mood to go for launching a degree programme at the university rather the proposed think-tank would work under the name of Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS).

The sources said the think-tank would focus on four areas: governance, development, technology and climate change, and would also act as a knowledge management hub. They said the institute would prepare policy advice for the cabinet and research advice for the HEC.

“The idea behind the university/institute is very good. In western countries, think-tanks and research institutes help governments in making better policies,” said the participant who requested not to be named.

He said initially the university/institute would start working in an annexy of the Prime Minister House as an institute for advanced studies.

In a press release, the HEC said the conference encompassed four thematic areas - governance, development, climate and technology.

The conference, “Emerging challenges and opportunities for Pakistan” was attended by a large number of field experts from across Pakistan as well as expatriate Pakistanis and foreign academicians.

According to the HEC, the university is envisioned as an apex institution designed to support research-based policy formulation.

It will initially consist of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS), which will be tasked with providing a science-based annual report to the government on emerging challenges confronting Pakistan and the world and options for addressing them.

The participants of the conference were informed that the president of Pakistan would attend the concluding ceremony. Later, they were told that the finance minister or any other federal minister would be the chief guest.

However, in the end, Dr Sania Nishtar, Chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme, who attended the event as an expert, addressed the event as the chief guest.

Dr Nishtar said the conference was of great importance as it provided a discourse about knowledge, learning and policy. She said knowledge and evidence had a critical role in driving decision making process of a country.

She said the conference started the launch of the new university tasked with analytical thinking and foresight to identify and help address challenges.

“A forward-looking academia will provide evidence-based research solutions for policy formulation.”

Dr Nishtar said decision making in the public sector used to be guided by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It has turned out to be a worldwide consensus that it is imperative to analyse threats and opportunities and develop own capacities.

HEC Executive Director retired Lt Gen Mohammad Asghar said the commission would take tangible measures to fulfil the tasks assigned to it.

Earlier, presenting recommendations of the conference, Dr Mohammad Aslam Chaudhry, Professor Department of Economics, University of Utah, said in all the sessions the experts reviewed the quantity and quality of knowledge already developed and applied to policy innovation and implementation and identified the persistent gaps in knowledge development, exchange and application.

The participants emphasised the need to create capacities to capitalise on various opportunities, and accelerate efforts for knowledge creation through applied research and its sharing.

The deliberations under the governance theme focused on transparency, administrative efficiency, security and devolution. Improved governance was viewed as a precondition for the successful implementation of socioeconomic development agenda.

The discussion under the development focused on addressing issues related to expansion and provision of social services such as affordable housing, quality education and improved healthcare facilities. These have to be ensured through improved urban planning and economic management.

In the thematic area, the participants noted that there were tremendous applications of technology in different sectors and hence can provide solutions to major problems Pakistan was facing in areas of health, energy, agriculture, environment, etc.

The climate theme covered discussions on impact of climate on water and food security, glaciers, energy and managing climate change induced disasters. The participants identified several challenges emanating from climate change and called for more research and knowledge both on the prediction side and on the adaptation front.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2018

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