ISLAMABAD: The World Bank will support Pakistan in promoting research excellence and strengthening governance in the higher education sector with a loan of $400 million, which is expected to be approved before the end of current fiscal year.
The World Bank financing will come from the International Development Association (IDA), and the total cost of the project has been estimated to be $2,437.60m.
The Higher Education Development project — to be implemented by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) — will help promote relevant and cutting-edge research in universities with a focus on specific strategic sectors for socio-economic progress in the country. This will be done through providing competitive research, innovation and commercialisation grants to researchers and entrepreneurs.
Two competitive funds have been planned to be established: mega research grants supporting cutting-edge research for solution of specific national challenges; and funds supporting faculty and students with potential industrial prototype solutions and research projects to make them market relevant and to support with industry partnership.
Some of the challenges facing the research environment in Pakistan are inadequate and irrelevant research activities with few linkages between universities and industry impacting the commercialisation of research.
There is misalignment between government’s said agenda of promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship and implementation of this agenda. While the government wants to nurture entrepreneurship and social impact, it rewards impact factor journal publication, creating disincentive for faculty to engage with industry.
The HEC has supported the establishment of Business Incubation Centres (BIC) in public universities. However, there is a need to strengthen these, so that they offer a full suite of support ranging from the access to seed funding to legal and financial advice and guidance, a project-related report says.
Tertiary education enrolments have increased during the past decades from less than 2.7 per cent of the college-age population in 2002 to 10.1pc in 2017. Much of the growth in enrolment has come from distance learning programs and private higher education institutes.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2019