Link research with the real problems we face - Dr Sania Nishtar

Link research with the real problems we face - Dr Sania Nishtar

Published on 17 September 2014

Universities must do more to link their research with the real problems confronting their country. That was the message propounded by Dr Sania Nishtar at Going Beyond 2015 in Islamabad, Pakistan, last week  – an event organised by COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) to raise awareness in Pakistan of the role that higher education plays in the development of societies.

Dr Nishtar, the former Federal Minister of Education & Training, Science & Technology, Information Technology, and Health, and the founder of NGO think-tank Heartfile, used her keynote address to inform delegates about the background to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), progress against the eight targets in Pakistan over the last 15 years, and to present an overview of the consultation process for the Sustainable Development Goals, the MDGs’ successor.

‘Higher education has played a critical cross-cutting role across all sectors,’ she said, adding that the importance of higher education should be reflected by the share of the national budget that it receives. ‘Pakistan should outline a research priorities plan to help researchers align their work to these needs. That way, universities can link their research with the real problems that we face.’

Her views echo those of Professor Dinesh Singh, Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University when he remarked that the university system must connect youth with the challenges of society whilst speaking at the ACU Centenary Conference in 2013.

Concluding her address, Dr Nishtar acknowledged that the MDGs were a powerful driver of change but warned that ‘the world is changing quickly, and we need to be prepared for the new era of global promises’.

The one-day conference included a series of discussion fora, and attracted delegates representing Pakistan’s leading public and private universities, UNESCO, the British Council and the ACU.

The conference was preceded by a live two-hour webchat, co-hosted by the ACU, CIIT and the Commonwealth Students’ Association (CSA), which invited followers of the ACU’s Beyond 2015 campaign, students in Pakistan, and members of the CSA to also consider the interplay between higher education and international development.

Six questions were posed to the chat room with several – including one concerning whether universities are adequately preparing their students for the transition to the job market – generating a range of opinions in the room. The salient points from the chat room will be summarised and condensed in the next Beyond 2015 newsletter, due in two weeks (subscribe here to receive it).

Some opinions expressed in the chat room were fed into the main event the following day which concluded with CIIT Rector SM Junaid Zaidi urging the delegates of the conference to carry the discussion back to their institutions with them.

‘The move to a better future is in the hands of all the institutions of higher education,’ he said.

The CIIT event was the result of initiative on the part of the Pakistan-based institution to bring the ACU’s global ‘Beyond 2015 – is higher education ready?’ campaign to their country. To find out how you or your institution can also get involved in the campaign, visit the Beyond 2015 website.

Photographs courtesy of CIIT