The Senate Standing Committee on Science and Technology in its meeting held on Tuesday at Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services discussed the role and responsibilities of Pakistan Council for Science and Technology (PCST) and the number of sanctioned posts and reasons for delay in appointment of its head. The Committee also reviewed attached Departments under the Ministry of Science and Technology without operating heads and reasons for delay in appointments and the issue pertaining to initiation of Dual Degree Program under a joint venture with University of Lancaster and enrolment of 2532 students without prior approval of HEC.
Chaired by Senator Mushtaq Ahmed Khan, the meeting was attended by Senator Nuzhat Sadiq, Senator Syed Muhammad Sabir Shah, Senator Hidayat Ullah, Senator Muhammad Asad Ali Khan Junejo and senior officers from the Ministry of Science and Technology, NUST, NIE, PCRET, PCST, PCRWR, PSQCA, PNAC, PCSIR, CUI along with all concerned.
The meeting commenced with a detailed review of role and responsibilities of PCST. The Committee was informed that PCST plays an advisory role to the Federal Government on all matters relating to development of Science and Technology in Pakistan. It undertakes policy research, organises study groups or task forces formulates policy proposals, monitors and evaluates science technology and innovation policy for achieving targets for overall development of science and technology in the country. In addition to this, it identifies priority areas for research and development keeping in view futuristic developments of science and technology, constitutes committees in various disciplines and maintains and updates statistics and database on science and technology in the country. It also takes measures for effective collaboration among academia, research and development organizations and industry for development of indigenous products or technologies. The Committee observed that positions for 13 Technical Officers remain vacant in the organization. Presently only six officers are working in this organization. PCST, according to rules, must run two sessions annually, it was revealed that the last session held was in 2017. The Committee took strong notice of the issue and said that a proposal must go from the forum of the Committee, that an acting head of the Organization must be appointed so that PCST sessions, crucial to the promotion of Science and Technology in the country may be held on time. It was asserted that it must be determined that officers recruited by the Ministry must have technical knowhow. Salary structure must be revamped.
The Committee while reviewing attached departments, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, operating without heads and reasons for delay in appointments was of the opinion that a meeting must be held with the Minister so that critical decisions may be taken in this regard.
While discussing the issue pertaining to initiation of Dual Degree Program under a joint venture with University of Lancaster and enrolment of 2532 students without prior approval of HEC, the Committee was informed that this was an effort to upgrade the university education system, the HEC proposed to set up nine new mega universities called Universities of Engineering, Science and Technology Pakistan (UESTP). The PC1 of four UESTPs were approved by the ECNEC in February 2008, chaired by the PM. The plans for establishment of UESTP were to be abandoned due to non-willingness of the foreign universities to work in Pakistan for security and other concerns.
In line with the core objective of quality improvement of higher education in Pakistan, CIIT took an initiative to start the Dual Degree Program (DDP) at undergraduate level in collaboration with Lancaster University (LU) UK. This idea was taken from the PC-1 Form for UESTP Project as approved by ECNEC. Several extensive consultations and several meetings were held with Lancaster University and CIIT formally informed HEC about launching DDP program in October 2009. The DDP, at CIIT Lahore Campus was launched in September 2010 whereas HEC constituted a committee in October 2012 to make recommendations for the accreditations and recognition of the DDP. In June 2014, the HEC finally communicated the decision of Committee where they did not agree with the award of two separate degrees by CIIT and LU. This had caused numerous issues for students that enrolled for the program. The Committee was of the view that HEC must be invited in the next meeting so that it could deliberate over its reservations on the program. Students must be invited to record their observations as well.