Since June 2015, almost one and half years, HEC has been actively promoting its US-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor PhD Scholarship Program established under the Education, Science and Technology Working Group (ESTWG), thanks to the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue.
Millions of money have been spent on the promotion of the US-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor and the linked scholarship program. Recently, the scholarship program has been launched and advertisements have made their way to the newspapers.
If you go back then, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the US and met with US officials where the proposal to “establish a US-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor” was made.
According to the government, both leaders discussed the proposal and ordered their officials to intensify cooperation in the field.
This was followed up by another ESTWG meeting in February 2016 in Washington DC to develop a joint action plan for the US-Pakistan Education Corridor. Finally, it was decided that 10,000 Pakistani scholars will go to the US in the next ten years, study select subjects and return to Pakistan to work for the government for the same period that they got the scholarship.
During the Phase-I, 1,500 scholarships will be offered through the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP).
It seems that it was just an empty claim since now that the scholarship program has been eventually launched, there is not even a trace of cooperation between the two governments and there is no relation between the PhD scholarships and the US government.
The PhD scholarship program has just been announced, it is a scholarship without any tuition fee for the expensive US universities.
HEC’s US PhD Scholarship doesn’t include tuition fee
Those Students who will get the so-called scholarship get the following support from the HEC:
- Monthly living allowances
- Health insurance
- Initial settlement allowance
- A single return ticket for a 5-year period
The newspapers ad and the information on the HEC website clearly state that “The scholarship will not cover the tuition fee”.
Not HEC’s Fault
One point that needs to be clarified here is that, HEC is not at faulty here. What can the commission do with the limited funds it gets.
This is not the HEC with its former glory, authority and active projects. Over the years, since Dr. Atta ur Rehman left HEC, the commission has lost the charm it once had.
Subsequent governments have reduced the funding by so much that HEC has had to cut down on its projects, and now it has limited ability towards the creation of new universities or the management of the current ones.
While it is all not because of the funds, and the new management is also to blame. However, the lack of funds are certainly a strong factor behind HEC’s dying performance over the years.
As we now, this scholarship is funded by the PSDP and that PSDP funds are more preferably used for infrastructure projects and not welfare ones. A World Bank report, not very long ago, mentioned how health, education and water development sectors combined received several times less funds from the PSDP as compared to infrastructure projects.
HEC does need to offer some scholarship programs. A few of them are funded by the HEC while the rest are funded by the foreign countries or UN organisations. This specific scholarship program, however, is a scholarship by name only and more of a ploy to boast of a non-existent achievement in Pakistan-US relations in the field of education.
Given the lack of seriousness in the field of education, health and water development, it is hard to see that the government will change their focus or policy towards the public’s welfare. So, we can raise our voice so that our concerns are heard by all of the leadership and the government.