Islamabad : A galaxy of vice chancellors (VCs) representing 15 partner universities of the USAID-funded Higher Education Strengthening Activity (HESSA) project being implemented by the University of Utah and its partners converged in the capital the other day for exchange of ideas on how to strengthen strategic planning in a bid to achieve higher standards of institutional performance in the country’s Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).
Titled ‘Developing Leadership for 21st Century Universities,’ the two-day dialogue marked the formal commencement of HESSA’s strategic engagement with the leadership of its partner HEIs to align the country’s higher education system with market needs.
The Executive Director of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), Dr. Shaista Sohail, was the chief guest at the event. Two international moderators steered the dialogue—Professor Dr. Keith Miller, President Emeritus, Lock Haven University, and former president of Virginia State University; and Professor Dr. Andrew Wall, an education leader and Senior Policy Fellow of CIRCLE at the University of Denver.
Explaining the two-fold objective of the dialogue, HESSA’s Chief of Party Dr. Aslam Chaudhry said, “It will set the tone for reaching a shared understanding about how HESSA will contribute towards strengthening the institutional and technical capacities of its partner universities, and what role the latter can play in achieving broader sectoral goals.” He also emphasised that in moving forward, HESSA will transition from delivering general trainings to interventions that meet university specific needs.
Speaking as chief guest, Dr. Shaista Sohail thanked USAID and the University of Utah for organising the dialogue. “I am delighted to witness this cross-provincial, cross-discipline, cross-gender confluence of vice chancellors under one roof. I am confident that the flowing together of brilliant minds and the cross-pollination of ideas will lead to blossoming of vistas leading to new knowledge frontiers,” she remarked.
Dr. Keith Miller delivered the keynote presentation in a session titled ‘The New Normal: Leading Higher Education in the 21st Century.’ Dr. Steve Burian, Professor of Hydrology and Water Resources at the University of Alabama presented framework for identifying strategic initiatives to be supported under HESSA.
Each VC identified the strategic initiatives that can improve the performance of their respective institution, with support from HESSA. Other takeaways for the VCs included lessons on how to become more successful and influential as leaders; how to develop a sound institutional vision; how to provide an enabling working environment; and how to foster eagerness to learn, among others. They were also sensitized on the importance of critical thinking, practicing theoretical processes, developing market-driven curriculum to enhance employability, and a host of other attributes that can empower the VCs to ably fit into the definition of ‘new normal leaders.’
Dr. Andrew Wall identified 10 traits as constituting ‘the new normal’ in higher education. These included creating a positive environment, setting priorities, being a model of integrity, creating positive change, being a problem-solver for subordinates, and demonstrating self-discipline, among others.
The above initiatives will be the subject of further discussions during the VC’s two-week study tour to the University of Utah and Washington DC in July this year where they interact with their US counterparts to understand best practices in higher education governance.
The event concluded with Dr. Keith Miller awarding souvenirs to the VCs on behalf of HESSA.