It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that an educated and healthy population is essential for any nation’s progress and there’s no denying the fact that higher education is closely linked with economic development and prosperity of the nation. In today’s world of knowledge-based economy, institutions of higher education not only have the responsibility of generating new knowledge but equipping new generation with advanced knowledge, competence and skills required for various positions in social sectors. That is why demand for higher education in various parts of the world has increased during last many decades, Pakistan being no exception to that.
The process of expansion of higher education in Pakistan started in 90s and as a consequence efforts paved the way for constitution of the Task Force on Higher Education in 1997 by World Bank which released its’ report “Higher Education in Developing Countries: Perils and Promise,“ in 2000. This report not only helped establishment of similar task forces in Pakistan and declared its’ vision of higher education in Pakistan in the following words. “Transformation of our institutions of higher education into world class seats of learning, equipped to foster high quality education, scholarship and research, to produce enlightened citizens with strong moral and ethical values that build a tolerant and pluralistic society rooted in the culture of Pakistan” (Government of Pakistan 2002).
Pakistan has witnessed an exponential growth in the enrolment of the higher education sector during the last one-decade or so. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2012-13 (Government of Pakistan 2013), the number of higher education institutions in the country increased from 54 in 1999 to 139 in 2012. An accompanying increase in the rate of enrolment has been witnessed during the same period. This enrolment increased from 114,010 in 1999 to 1,602,477 in 2012-13. There has been a 157 % increase in the number of universities and about 1300 % increase in their enrolment from 1999-2000 to 2012-13.
However, in the top 800 World University rankings, only seven Pakistani universities were included. There are many aspects where Pakistani universities need to improve their performance. All universities, with assistance from the HEC, need to adopt an effective mechanism and instruments for monitoring and assessing the quality of teaching and learning and developing a culture of research.