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Governance Context of Higher Education Sector of Pakistan.

Byline: Syed Sohaib Zubair, Nasira Jabeen, Yaamina Salman, Muhammad Zahid and Sidra Irfan


This script covers the public sector governance context of Pakistan with particlar reference to the higher education sector and establishment of Higher Education Commission (HEC) and its context. It discusses various development in the higher education system followed by the formation of Provincial Higher Education Commissions (PHECs) and governance structures after the 18th amendment in the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Governance context is the holistic arena which shapres institutional mechanisms where an entity operates. The paper postulates on wider historical and present perspectives in which the governance structure and culture of Pakistani public sector operates. These perspectives not only influence the operations of the government but also effect the policy making and development initiatves. The context helps in explaning the issues associated with policy implementation and its issues in the Pakistani public sector.

As Andrews (2008) points out that policies and plans may not "replicate" rightly in various contexts, as the enviornment, challenges vary from culture to culture and if such an attempt is made, reforms "end up resembling proverbs that fit poorly in the wrong context and contradict one another" (Andrews, 2008, p.380). Therefore, in order to comprehend a reform and its implementation challenges, it is important to understand the context in which the stakeholders are operating.

The history of governance mechanisms in Pakistan can be traced into the colonial and post colonial era in the sub-continent. According to the literature, since independence, not much change has been observed in Pakistan with reference to the administraion and roles of government. Rather, the state always looked upon to the international trends that were advocated by the international developmental institutions, may it be the development administration, development management or development governance period (Jadoon et al., 2012; Turner et al., 2015). Taking the lead from that above classification, the write up discusses the evolution from traditional public administration in Pakistan to the present new public governance period when the major changes in higher education system of the country were initiated and implemented.

These changes exist till date with further developments associated with it partciulary with the advent of 18th Constitutional Amendement through which both education and health were declared as provincial subjects and Provincial Higher Education Commissions were established. After discussing the context with reference to this study, the paper points to some salient factors that may be responsible for reform failures in the country and suggest policy guidelines in this direction.

Colonial and Post Colonial Era

Pakistan became an independent state in 1947, when the British rule in Indian Sub-Continent ended. Pakistan being a new state with weak structures of governance and very limited resources adopted most of the systems of British India and continued to work on those systems. Colonialism has had a strong influence on post-independent Pakistan. The main features of the British system in sub-continent were control and law and order oriented in connection with revenue collection. The bureaucratic system and administrative structures were designed accordingly in such a way that they fulfilled the objectives of rulers of that time. Irony is that, those systems and structures were so strong and exhibited high path dependency (along with self-interests of some groups) that they could not be modified over time and continued to operate in the same manner.

Several reforms initiatives were intended and introduced during different regimes but majority of them could not deliver due to no-contextualized solutions (Zubair et al., 2015). Hence, most of the policy development continued the old way and due to congruency with western systems, the administrative structures and administrators found it relatively easy to adapt reforms and policies that came as solutions from foreign consultants or donor agencies.

Since, bureaucratic and administrative structure of Pakistan continued from the British era, the training of the bureaucrats was continued in the same lines till date, the purpose of their training (language and professional) was uniformity and compliance towards rulers and controlling the masses. This resulted in lack of accountability, abuse of power and rejection of reform inititaves. The literature rviewed in the paper focusses on the role of Colonialism in state and governance structures of Pakistan in general along with various changes introduced in the country over time. The situation clearly points to the contextual in congruency and associated issues with it in terms of mismatch in desired and actual results.

Similarly, the idea of modernization of bureaucracy can be seen from this lens. New Public Management has been reflected in Pakistan's bureaucracy, by bureaucracy the authors refer the entire administrative system of which Education departments and provicial governmental offices are part of and as per Haque (1998) modernization of the bureaucracy, bureaucratic structures and bureaucratic values in the third world countries or developing Southeast Asian countries have mostly been in the direction of new public management and market oriented principles. The ultimate changes and direction being set is majorly based on legitimacy from the modern world and developmental financial institutions i.e. IMF, World Bank etc.

The term in the post 2000 world used now is Good Governance, as a new and critical approach to government where rule of law should prevail and governments role is limited to steering of certain services with a uniform direction. But in reality, still in the developing South Asian Countries, regimes place loyalists in positions of power and interest and the actual norms of a good government are ignored (Huque, 2001). Similarly, referring to Pakistan in particular, Jabeen (2006), argues that the concept of good governacne is a good philosophy but needs to be "indigenized" as done by Dr Mahbubul Haq in the form of humane governance.

The following sections of the article provides a general overview of the administrative/governance context of Pakistan's public sector with reference to the three broad classifications or categories used by Turner et al. (2015) and Jadoon et al. (2012) and broader reform or governance trends in the country since 1947.

Public Sector Reform Trends in Pakistan

Using the classification given by Turner et al. (2015) and Jadoon et al. (2012), public sector reforms in Pakistan can be classified into three (Turner et al., 2015) to four (Jadoon et al., 2012) forms with reference to time period from 1947 to 2010 and beyond. First phase of governance with refrerence to reforms and development according to Jadoon et al. (2012) was from 1947 to 1970 where initially the colonail legacy was maintained and the entire development agenda and development or reform programs were state driven (Maheshwari, 1974; Zahra and Jadoon, 2016) and using the classification given by Turner et al. (2015), Jadoon et al. (2012) labelled this era as that of "development administration". This era of mode of development or reform was that of typical public administration (bureacuracy), elitist based and was inspired by the western mechanims of develop ment in developing countries including Pakistan.

This administrative period also included development that was supported by donor agencies and was a clear picture of what was called civil-military oligarchy (Jalal, 1991).

The second time period in the governance history of Pakistan was from 1972-1977 and it was called the era of development enterprise (Jadoon et al. 2012). This was a unique period in Pakistan where the focus of governance and business shifted totally to the state, the role of public sector almost reached an end through the nationalization drive. Even this experiment failed and the economy could not progress (Zahra and Jadoon, 2016). On ther other hand, the massive restructuring of the civil service or civil service of Pakistan was concudted under the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (Maheshwari, 1974).

The third period can be labelled from 1977 to 1999 and it was called the era of development management or NPM. During this period, particularly the 80's, the NPM reform drive was on top the agenda gurus and developmental financial institutions (like the IMF) through various structural adjustment programs (Zahra and Jadoon, 2016). The adoption of business like practices was the growing focus (Osborne, 2006) and Pakistan was of no exception to it.

Moving onto the last period under the classification being considered in this study, the govenance period from 1999 to 2010 (Jadoon et al., 2012) or till date (Turner et al., 2015) is called good governance. This era is still dominated by the NPM philosophy but with more autonomy at both institutional and personal levels (Jadoon et al., 2012). Good governance basically promises to increase citizen participation and network governance. It therefore, addresses the criticism on NPM (Bourgon, 2007) and become outcome oriented as comapred to the short term output oriented focus (Bouckaert et al., 1997).

Since the 2000s, the idea of good governance or the good governance agenda is very much in the limelight and is encourgaed by several stakeholders. In this era, the emphasis is on regulation and this is the period when serious delibrations took place and the current body that regulates higher education in the country i.e. HEC was established in 2002 (Zubair et al., 2015).

The governance ideology of the state is reflected in all wings of the state, particularly when the developing or underdeveloped countries are under discussion (Turner et al. (2015). This text does not comment on the minute or detailed analysis of efficiency and effectiveness of governance systems in each of the periods mentioned earlier.

Moving on, in the light of this debate, the next section maps out the various reforms and developments in the Pakistani education sector, particularly the Higher Education Sector.

Education Reforms in Pakistan

This section provides a brief overview of the state of education and educational reforms in Pakistan followed by the specific reforms from 1947 and onwards. Education in general and Higher education in particular is of dire importance for a country's economic growth and development. Integration of national goals with goals of educational institutions can help in achieving long term sustainable development (Zubair, 2013).

At the time of independence the newly established country got only two universities and 42 colleges approximately (Niazi and Mace, 2006).Pakistan has had a detailed past of "failed" reforms as concluded by Barber (2010) and absence of political commitment (Isani, andVirk, 2001).Shortage of funds can be termed as the foremost reasons for these failures particularly in the education sector (Jahangir, 2008), to some extent, even those initiatives or actions that did not necessarily required more funds where not also implemented as they should have been (Jahangir, 2008), such as amendments in university acts and increasing of duration of bachelor programs. Khalid and Khan (2006) call these efforts in the education sector and promising speeches of policy makers as "lip service".

According to the UNESCO report (2018), budget for education in Pakistan has been within the range of 2.14 to a maximum of 2.76 (as percentage of GDP) from 2008 to 2017. Surprisingly, share of higher education institutes in educational system of Pakistan is only that 0.05% (GOP, 2015-2016) and total number of universities in Pakistan is 187 out of which approximately 40% (76) are private sector and 59% (111) are public sector universities. Out of these 187 universities or degree awarding institutes 60 are in Punjab province, 55 in Sindh province. While 35 are in KPK, 8 are in Balochistan province.

There are only 7 universities in AJandK, 2 in GB and 20 in the Federal Capital i.e. Islamabad (HEC, 2018). Furthermore, according to HEC data for the year 2014-2015, with reference to the full time PhD faculty in such institutes in Pakistan, despite an increase over the past few years, out of a total of 37,397 faculty members only 10,214 (27.3%) are PhDs (HEC, 2018).

The following section summarizes the various education reforms and policies developed in Pakistan since 1947. The era from UGC as a constitutionally backed body to the establishment of HEC has been discussed in relatively more detail as it reflects more and is connected more with the present reform context that is being analyzed in this study.

Education Reforms 1947 to 2002

The reforms such as establishment of UGC, HEC and the 18th Amendment have been discussed in relatively more detail after this section.

According to the legislative background given by Higher Education Department (HED) of Punjab, from 1947 to 1973, education was provincial subject, in 1973 constitution; education was placed in the concurrent list and federal legislative list. As per the page 2 of this background report, at national level, following ten policy documents have been framed with varying degree of consultation and involvement of the federating units:

i. Report of the Pakistan National Educational Conference1947

ii. Report of the Second Pakistan Educational Conference1951

iii. Report of the National Commission on Education1959

iv. Proposals for New Education Policy1969

v. NewEducation Policy1970

vi. Education Policy1972-78

vii. National Education Policy1979

viii. National Education Policy1992

ix. National Education Policy1998-2010

x. National Education Policy2009

Along these policies or proposed policy papers, approximately eight five year plans were also developed in Pakistan that included plans and suggestive measures for the improvement of higher education system in Pakistan, where each plan insisted in quality enhancement and the need for improvement (Khan, 2010).

Other than these education policies, Education Sector Reform (ESR) Strategy 2001-2004 was developed in 2001.Purpose of this plan was to increase enrolment and encourage the public private partnership (PPP) mode of service in education sector. The ESR also intended to encourage decentralization in school education related decision making and resolution of various operational issues (Ali and Tahir, 2009).

Prior to 2009 New Education Policy, several other higher education related actions were taken. Similarly, the National Education Policy of 2017, aimed at unifying the goals of education sector with the vision 2025 goals of the country. Focus of this policy was also not very different, it recommended the increase in PhD faculty ratio in universities, improving quality, increasing access to higher education, resource generation and allocation for HEIs, shifting the education focus from teacher dominant learning to competency based skills, faculty development, scholarships for foreign studies, expansion of the Tenure Track System, promotion of research culture, enhancement in academia industry linkage (GOP, 2017) and others which may not be much different from earlier policies and plans.

On the other hand, some of the policies or recommendations in different era were not in line with the government goals, for instance, the 2009 policy suggested development of a uniform education system, whereas in reality in 2010, the political governments came up with the idea of devolution of education to the provinces through the 18th amendment in the constitution of the country. The idea was pursued in a highly haphazard and unclear manner without considering the reform experience of this country's public sector.

It is important to mention that the National Education Policy of 1998-2010 is to a large extent being implemented in the country in line with the recommendations of SCHE and Taskforce on higher education in Pakistan, deliberations of which resulted in establishment of HEC in 2002 (Khan, 2010) and the MTDF goals of HEC also second the proposition mentioned here.

Apart from these education specific policies, the several national five year plans of the country also on and off talked about various adjustments and plans for the higher education sector. Following are the various plans as mentioned by Jahangir (2008):

i. First Five Year Plan 1950-1955

ii. Second Five Year Plan 1960-1965

iii. Third Five Year Plan 1965-1970

iv. Fourth Five Year Plan 1970-1975 (A.K.A 1972-1977 Plan)

v. Fifth Five Year 1977-1983

vi. Sixth Five Year Plan 1983-1988

vii. Seventh Five Year Plan 1988-1992

Eighth Five Year Plan 1993-1998(Last Plan till date of such nature/series, remained intact till 1995 only)

It is significant to mention that, for each plan and policy, not all recommendations or objectives either failed or succeeded, the study has not focused on analysis of each plan in particular. These were some of the reforms planned or conducted in Pakistan since its inception in 1947. The reforms in education sector like any other public sector reforms in Pakistan lacked structured implementation and therefore many changes were made every now and then and the results were never achieved. From the aforementioned discussion and highlights of the national and education plans and/or policies, it can be observed that the nation or this sector lacked a direction and vision. Analysis of the above discussion reflects that, many plans and polices had several things in common yet lacked focus and a streamlined approach. Instead of looking into implementation shortcomings of an already existing policy, a new policy was introduced every now and then in an ad hoc fashion.

Moving on to the major higher education related reforms including the establishment of UGC, HEC and the 18th Amendment discussion has been in detail in the next section.

University Grants Commission (UGC)

Over time, several variations were introduced in the Education Sector of Pakistan but University Grants Commission established in 1947 was first of its kind. It is important to mention UGC because, it was not just the first constitutionally backed body (on Higher Education), but the new Higher Education Commission (2002) that replaced UGC is its modified and improved form with a wider role and relatively solid powers. As a result of a parliamentary "Act No. XXIII of 1974", University Grant Commission (UGC) was reformed to Higher Education Commission in Pakistan as a regulatory body, responsible for looking after Higher Education in the country.

UGC existed for almost three decades but could not meet the objectives it was intended to. Absence of coordination between stakeholders, shortage of budgets, poor policy development and implementation structure were among the prime issues that led to its failure (Jahangir, 2008).

The World Bank in1992, identified some issues that were the basis of poor quality of education in Pakistan which included, lack of clarity regarding authority, lack of accountability, heavy centralism and low-quality indicators.

Some Reforms towards the Higher Education Commission (HEC)

Following the UGC studies, policies and pressures from the reforms in the public sector all over the globe, and reports such as the UNESCO's "Peril and Promise", 1992, the Ministry of Education notified a "Task Force on Improvement of Higher Education" in 2001. After this task force, a "Steering Committee on Higher Education" was formulated by the President of Pakistan in 2002 which was asked to create a roadmap for application of recommendations submitted by the earlier committees and reports.

Task Force on Improvement of Higher Education in Pakistan and the Boston Group Report

Literature suggests that UNESCO's Peril and Promise was the key factor that triggered all education related reform in Pakistan and "The Task Force on Improvement of Higher Education in Pakistan" was notified by the Ministry of Education in 2001. This task force was instructed to study the system comprehensively and come up with remedies for the improvement of higher education system in Pakistan. Various stakeholders from academia and industry were taken on board in this task force.

The Boston group, a panel of experts aided in working of this force which was assigned the task to come up with ideas to redesign the HE system in Pakistan. Apparently, most of the findings of the Boston Group or the recommendations of the TF see med to be borrowed from the UNESCO's Peril and Promise and somehow implicitly reflected the ongoing agenda or practices of NPM around developed countries. Some recommendations of the TSF were:

* Elimination of UGC

* Founding of HEC as a central body

* Standardization of syllabus and teacher selection criteria

* Regulatory and financial support role of government

* Replacing of the traditional government Pay Scale system with performance linked system

* Conversion to four years undergraduate degree system

* Development of various quality indicators, including those for research, finances and management

Based on these and several other recommendations of different bodies, the then President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf appointed a "Steering Committee" on Higher Education with an objective to develop an implementation strategy and plan for reform in HE sector of Pakistan.

Steering Committee on Higher Education (SCHE)

SCHE submitted its final suggestions to the President in August 2002, suggesting discontinuing of UGC and increase in budgetary allocation for higher education. It also recommended a "Model University Governance Ordinance" for helping universities to transform its procedures. It faced a lot of criticism but addressed areas like appointment of academic heads, syndicate, VCs and defined actual JDs of various stakeholders.

Some more recommendations of SCHE included;

* Conversion to four years undergraduate degree system

* Application of performance based incentives such as Tenure Track system

* Increased funding for scholarships

* Increased budgets for infrastructure development

* Actions for supporting research

Higher Education Commission (HEC)

Based on these several activities, through a Presidential Ordinance (No. LIII of 2002, dated September 11, 2002), Higher Education Commission was established and UGC was annulled. This new body was to be broadly responsible for steering Higher Education in Pakistan by acting in advisory as well as regulatory capacity and guiding institutions by setting up different quality and performance criteria. As per HEC's First five year plan, Commissions mission statement is:

"The Higher Education Commission will facilitate Institutions of Higher Learning to serve as Engines for the Socio-Economic Development of Pakistan."

HEC developed two frameworks or development agendas one from 2005-2010 and the second one from 2005-2010. Both of these plans focused on making institutions in Pakistan proceed towards a direction where learning and research become the focus and the institutions work in such a manner that they contribute towards the development of the state and achievement of national goals, "MTDF HE-I covering the period 2005-10 focused on the internal development of the Institutions of Higher Learning as world class centers of learning and research. MTDF HE II goes a step further to link this development to the society and industry" (MTDF HE II). Another MTDF is for 2014-2017, the details for which are not available at open resources of the HEC. To sum up, these agendas or frameworks basically focused on quality of research and teaching, enhancing coverage of the higher education system and integration of higher education system with the national goals and development agenda.

As pointed out earlier, there were approximately nine or tenpolicies and eight five year plans, that were advanced in Pakistan for the improvement of education system in the country, where each plan insisted on quality enhancement and the need for improvement (Khan, 2010). More or less, every plan or commission or taskforce pointed out similar problems and challenges in reforming higher education system and almost all of these documents over the time suggested similar recipes and solutions (Jehangir, 2008).

Followed by theseminor and major initiatives or proposal of various bodies and scholars, the most recent and important development was the devolution of higher education structure in Pakistan because of 18th Constitutional amendment which led to the establishment of provincial higher education commissions (PHECs).

18th Amendment and Establishment of Provincial HECs

One major development in Higher Education system of Pakistan was the establishment of HEC in 2002 discussed earlier. As years passed, and changes in the political set-up emerged in Pakistan, governments started implementing their manifestos of devolution and decentralization and the related reforms that curtailed powers of the president and federal governments and gave more autonomy to the provinces. The 18th amendment in the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan resulted in major changes in the structure of the state with highest possible increase in the provincial autonomy with the removal of the concurrent list (Hamid, 2010). As a result of provincial devolution,"102 Articles from a total of 280 Articles were amended resulting in the abolishment of 17 ministries/divisions" (DAP, 2015, p.3)

The main theme of this reform was decentralization and provincial autonomy. The report by Hamid (2010) prepared on the platform of PILDAT concluded that following were the main objectives of this major amendment:

i. Transparency

ii. Reduction in individual discretion

iii. Strengthening of the parliament and provincial assemblies

iv. Provincial autonomy

v. Independence of judiciary

vi. Strengthening of fundamental rights

vii. Improving merit

viii. Good governance

Strengthening of institutions

Aslam and Yilmaz (2011) concluded that the reforms as a result of decentralization with reference to the 18th amendment were supposed to bring efficiency and good governance in the country but the evidence or results do not completely comply the claims.

They claim that service delivery (including school education) increased as a result of this reform but did not necessarily improve the quality of education. The discussion before this paragraph does not cover the political aspects and implications of the 18th amendment, rather just identified the general background and its connection with the higher education scheme of Pakistan. The education sector or ministry was the first to be devolved to the provinces followed by health (Mazhar and Shaikh, 2016).

As mentioned earlier, according to the legislative background given by Higher Education Department (HED) of Punjab, from 1947 to 1973, education was provincial subject, in 1973 Constitution; education was placed in the concurrent list and federal legislative list. Following the 2010 constitutional amendment, in 2015 Provincial HEC was established by Sindh in 2013 and provincial HEC bill was passed by the Punjab provincial assembly in 2015. "The Punjab Higher Education Commission is an autonomous body, working independently under the supervision of the Controlling Authority - the Chief Minister of Punjab". The Punjab HEC is operational, whereas Sindh HEC has been challenged in the court and the case has yet not been decided, whereas the KPK and Baluchistan governments are governing Universities through their education/higher education departments.

Osman and Subhani (2016), identified issues associated with devolution and stated that, among others, planning and governance is not structured after the 18th amendment, lack of planning and monitoring are basic issues at present which need to addressed carefully. Similarly, Nizam (2015), former Chairperson Punjab Higher Education Commission labels this devolution process in higher education as "An Unresolved Conundrum". Despite establishment of provincial bodies at some provinces, the clarity dilemma and ambiguity still exist with reference to authority of provincial and federal higher education commissions/departments which further decreases the autonomy of educational institutions practically (Nizamuddin, 2015). Moreover, it is also important to mention that due to lack of clarity in terms of mandate and domain of the two commissions several cases on various matters relating to overlap between the two regulatory bodies PHEC and HEC are under consideration at the superior courts of the country.


This conceptual paper intended to explore the governance and historical context in which the public sector in general and the higher education sector in specific operated in Pakistan covering the colonial legacy, followed by the immediate post-independence state structure and the way operations of the state evolved from the traditional administrative philosophy to the current good governance agendas and how they influenced the policies and operations in the higher education sector of Pakistan. From the text covered in this paper, it can be concluded that the reform journey in Pakistan has not been a smooth ride, several shocks and challenges have been faced by various governments over the years and hence the reforms and policies cannot be analyzed in isolation. The reason for taking context in to account is that one cannot study the repercussions of implemented reforms in effective manner by neglecting the local cultural aspects.

Pakistan, being developing country, has followed cookie-cutter approach from past few decades which has not able to reap benefits for the local problems like educational reforms under scope of this paper.

The paper further attempts to help researchers in understanding the broader context and historical perspective in which the governance systems of the state of Pakistan emerged and the higher education sector developed. It suggests more comprehensive and contextualized reform recipe for higher education, keeping in view the culture and context specific aspects of Pakistan. Pakistan has gone through various reforms as identified earlier including the devolution of education to the provincial levels. The purpose of implementing 18th amendment was to bring efficiency and effectiveness into different sectors in which education was the first service delivery unit that got devolved however; the results had been quite opposite to the claims made by the executive branch of the government as quality of education is still the big question mark.

One of the chief reasons identified behind lack of improvement in educational quality is the ambiguity in the roles of provincial and federal regulatory bodies after devolution. Moreover, Pakistan has been among the lowest in the region in spending on education and has been reported that Pakistan has spent just 2.2% of GDP in 2017 as compare to 2.3% of GDP in 2016 which somehow shows the lack of seriousness of government stakeholders as well. These identified challenges can possibly be neutralized by prioritizing the needs of the country and by giving due to credit to education specifically higher education for producing the resources equip with full of knowledge and skills who can be helpful in escalating the economy rather than being mere burden on the state.

Notes and References

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* Osman, A., andSubhani, M. I. (2016). Higher Education in Pakistan-Problems and Prospects in Post 18th Amendment. Paper presented at the Qatar Foundation Annual Research Conference Proceedings.

* Turner, M., Hulme, D., and McCourt, W. (2015). Governance, management and development: Making the state work: Palgrave Macmillan.

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* Zahra, A., andJadoon, M. Z. I. (2016). Autonomy of public agencies in Pakistan: does structure matter? International Journal of Public Sector Management, 29(6), 565-581.

* Zahra, A., andJadoon, M. Z. I. (2016). Autonomy of public agencies in Pakistan: does structure matter? International Journal of Public Sector Management, 29(6), 565-581.

* Zubair, S. S. (2013). Total quality management in public sector higher education institutions. Browser Download This Paper. Zubair, S. S., Jabeen, N., and Zahid, M. (2015). Evaluation of Tenure Track system in higher Education institutions of Pakistan: an HRM Perspective. New Horizons, 9(2), 29.
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Publication:Journal of Pakistan Vision
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jun 20, 2019
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