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 the economic development and prosperity of the nation. In today’s world of globalization and knowledge-based economy, institutions of higher education not only have the responsibility of generating new knowledge but equipping the new generation with advanced knowledge, competence and skills required for leadership position in various social sectors.
The process of expansion of higher education in Pakistan started in the early 2000s as a consequence of the initiatives taken by the World Bank and UNESCO. UNESCO and the World Bank’s efforts paved the way for the constitution of the Task Force on Higher Education in 1997 which released its’ report “Higher Education in Developing Countries: Perils and Promise,“ in 2000. This report not only triggered the 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).
The HEC made strenuous efforts and was able to achieve expansion in the number of institutions and the rate of enrolment in higher education institutions in the country. Consequently, 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 rate of enrolment has been witnessed during same period. This enrolment increased from 114,010 in 1999 to 1,602,477 in 2012-13. There has been a 157 % increase in number of universities and about 1300 % increase in their enrolment from 1999-2000 to 2012-13.