Publication Date

January 2010

Abstract

The nationalization of industry and education in the early 1970s resulted in the deterioration of private sector with minimal investment in this field. This continued into late 90s with Pakistan recording comparatively low public spending on education as a percentage of GDP . Thus the government of Pakistan, in an effort to enhance intellectual capital and enrollments, established the Higher Education Commission (HEC) assigned to evaluate, improve and promote the higher education and research culture in both public and private sectors in Pakistan. Since its establishment in 2002, the HEC has “undertaken a systematic process of implementation of the five-year agenda for reform outlined in the HEC Medium Term Development Framework (MTDF) . Thus, with the inception of HEC, the number of private sector universities has surged from 25 (2001) to 53 (2010) and the private sector enrolments in higher education institutions increased from 43,873 a 15.8% of the total enrolment of 276,274 (2001) to 115,369 a 14% of the total enrolment which is 803,507(2009) .

The contribution of private sector has been criticized for not being aligned with the national priority paradigm or core strategic aims proposed by HEC in its Medium Term Development Framework 2005-2010 (MTDF). The MTDF stressed upon the importance of improving access to education; promoting excellence in learning and research; faculty development; and industrial linkages relevant to the economy .

Although HEC has granted charter to the private sector as “general institutes”, the focus of autonomous private sector institutions has remained on demand-led subjects producing graduates specifically in the fields of management sciences, medical, engineering and information technology. Also the expansion in the institutional capacity of private educational sector may not guarantee employability. Critics of private sector have always perceived its efforts delinked from government’s intention of enhancing the quality of research and growth in pure/basic disciplines of science, social sciences and humanities.

The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to analyze the strategic targets envisaged in the HEC Policy and Educational Reforms in Pakistan; to appreciate the participation of private sector institutions towards improving the access to higher education; to objectively evaluate its role and initiatives in the development of human capital suitable for national and international socio-economic milieu; and also to examine the contribution of private sector in promoting research culture. The paper concludes that HEC needs to revisit its strategies set out in the MTDF and introduce new guidelines for private sector in higher education.