|A two-day Vice Chancellors’ Forum on ‘Higher Education in the Islamic World: Challenges and Opportunities’ was held on 11th and 12th of June 2012, in Islamabad, Pakistan. This first of its kind event in Pakistan was co-organized by the COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT); the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan; the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of Pakistan; the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO); and the Federation of Universities of the Islamic World (FUIW). The Forum was attended by about 200 Vice Chancellors, Rectors and University Presidents from 35 Islamic countries.
The Forum was inaugurated in Islamabad by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, H.E. Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, with the objective to: establish and strengthen linkages among universities in the Islamic World; promote pooling of human and technological resources; and increase the opportunities for scholarships, as well as exchange of students and faculty among the institutions of higher learning. The forum focused on four key themes: (a) Science, Technology and Innovation, (b) Knowledge Management, (c) Quality Assurance, and (d) University Governance.
In his address at the Inauguration of the Forum, Director General ISESCO, Dr. Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, highlighted the important role of higher education in socio-economic development of the Islamic World. In this regard, Dr. Altwaijri informed that acknowledging higher education’s crucial role in the promotion of scientific research, knowledge production, economic progress, social stability and cohesion, and provision of decent living conditions, ISESCO has prepared a strategy for the development of university education in the Islamic World, which has been paid careful attention under its Medium-Term Plan for 2010-2018 and its three-year Action Plan for 2010-2012. Other addresses at the opening session of the Forum were delivered by H.E. Mr. Changez Khan Jamali, Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Government of Pakistan; Dr. Javaid Laghari, Chairperson of HEC, Pakistan; and Ambassador Moiz Bokhari, Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The inaugural ceremony was also attended by a host of ambassadors, representatives of international organizations and university professors.
The technical proceedings of the event were spread over four technical sessions including 20 invited talks. During these, speakers from the Islamic World highlighted the challenges and available opportunities in the areas related to the event’s theme, which led to fruitful discussions and knowledge sharing. The event also served as a platform to initiate collaboration among the participating universities, whereby 27 MoUs were signed for future academic and research cooperation.
The resolution adopted at the conclusion of the technical sessions of the Forum, inter alia, called for research findings of the scholars to be widely disseminated and published in important journals world-wide. Some specific points of the resolution called for:
- Institutionalizing the Forum of Vice Chancellors by convening it annually or biannually;
- Publication of a journal for disseminating research and innovation results among the scientists and scholars of the Islamic Countries and important international institutes of learning and higher education, and a Directory of Islamic Universities;
- Promoting intellectual harmony among the universities of the Islamic World for advancement of knowledge and developing understanding among scholars of all nationalities and disciplines irrespective of religion, cast or creed;
- Enhancing efforts for capacity building, exchange of scholars, academicians and researchers among these universities; creating opportunities of scholarships to students and researchers in the Universities of the Islamic World; and collaboration for undertaking joint research in areas of common interest.
The Forum concluded on June 12, 2012, with a dinner at the Presidency hosted by the President of Pakistan, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari.