Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training, Shafqat Mahmood on Tuesday said universities were supposed to be the centers of quality conventional and virtual education with highly qualified faculty. Addressing the launching ceremony of Phase-II of the Digital Learning and Skills Enrichment Initiative (DLSEI), he said it was an initiative of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) Pakistan in partnership with Coursera. The ceremony was also attended by Dr. Shaista Sohail, Executive Director, HEC, Mr. Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO Coursera, Vice Chancellors, Senior faculty members and students After the successful completion of the DLSEI Phase-I project, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan has signed a contract with Coursera and officially launched the Program at a largely discounted pricing model. HEC through its initiative “Digital Learning and Skills Enrichment Initiative” (DLSEI) intended to enhance online learning and skills development among passionate students with 1000+ Courses and 28 Learning tracks, said a news release issued here. Addressing the ceremony, the Minister said Pakistan’s education system was facing a plethora of challenges, particularly lack of quality and relevance, amidst rising demand for universities. He underlined the importance of interventions like Coursera for students and faculty. “There is a massive need for skill development in the country, and the courses offered through Coursera is a remarkable intervention especially at a time when Covid-19 has greatly enhanced the importance of online learning.” He also appreciated the National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE) for offering training to university leadership, faculty, and administrative staff to enhance their capacity. Mahmood said many gaps were identified in the education system during the Covid-19 pandemic, including the digital divide in the country, faculty’s inability to teach online, and students facing difficulty understanding online classes. He hoped that the online courses under DLSEI would make a huge difference by honing in the talent of Pakistani students and improving their employbility, enabling them to contribute to the country’s socio-economic development. In her remarks, Executive Director HEC Dr. Shaista Sohail said DLSEI was launched in 2018 under an agreement between HEC and Coursera to enhance online learning and skills development among passionate students. The students, who benefit from the courses, would be able to access courses and certifications from top universities of the world and get an opportunity to enroll themselves into the highest ranked and most expensive online courses. She hoped that the initiative would help the country turn its youth bulge into an asset. She informed the audience that over 50,000 curated licenses would be issued under the phase-II of the initiative and fist year HEC would distribute 24000 licenses to all public and private sectors universities as per enrollment basis. She said two percent quota has been specified for people with special needs, in addition to formation of a subsidized model for public sector universities. Jeff Maggioncalda highlighted the significance of DLSEI for skill development in youth, stating, “investment in youth is an investment in the future.” Earlier, Mr. Nazeer Hussain, Director General IT, HEC presented the concept behind the launch of DLSEI. He said HEC joined hands with Coursera to provide students and faculty with an opportunity to acquire certifications from world-class universities.